The new face of fantasy

Game of Thrones wins its viewers over with character development.

Maximilian Christensen, Writer

What are the two things everybody knows about “Game of Thrones?” It kills off characters more liberally than the end of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” and it is filled with rampant nudity. Both facts sound like gimmicks to reel in sensational viewers and are typical of HBO, a channel known for its violence, nudity and profanity.

However, HBO is also known for taking risks on expensive shows with daring storytelling. If you ask a fan why they watch “Game of Thrones,” they will list off the brilliant writing, impressively realized world, thrilling action, political intrigue and complicated morality. These are the reasons I watch “Game of Thrones” and why I would recommend it to anyone interested in good television.


If you have ever seen an image or clip from “Game of Thrones,” you will likely notice it looks like a fantasy show. From the grand castles to the exquisitely detailed costumes, it is a show that embraces its medieval setting. Aside from the sets and costumes, the show is shot in various locations to portray the vast world author George R.R. Martin created. Adding in special effects for dragons and vertigo-inducing mountain trails makes for one of the most expensive shows ever made. Each episode costs between six and 10 million dollars, which makes it the third most expensive show on television after “Rome” and, surprisingly, “Friends.”

Adapting an enormous fantasy world to television is a daunting task made harder by the series’ expansive roster of characters. Even if you know nothing about Jon Snow, you will likely recognize the blonde dragon queen or curly haired dwarf. These three characters are a small part of a cast of hundreds. Fortunately, that cast diminishes with each inevitable betrayal and war.

Realistic Fantasy

The fantasy genre is easily defined by swords, magic and a great evil. Although “Game of Thrones” has all of these elements, they are subverted or inverted. For example, the great evil is the threat of White Walkers descending on the land during winter. The show has continued for five seasons and winter is still coming. The biggest inversion of the fantasy genre is Martin’s brutal deconstruction of the idealistic fantasy hero. I am still bitter about that one.

The last time I saw a brilliantly realized fantasy world on television was when “Fellowship of the Ring” played on AMC. “Game of Thrones” is a rare example of a fantasy series on television that not only has the budget to portray its fantastic world, but the imagination to set it apart from Tolkien’s magnum opus. Martin borrows heavily from history, so the show focuses more on political intrigue than its supernatural elements. A king has more power than a magician in Martin’s world, but a clever man is more dangerous than either.


The reason I watch television shows is for the stories and characters. I love fantasy, but I do not watch “Game of Thrones” because I like its world. A show needs good characters to propel its story and it needs a good story to keep its characters busy. The story of “Game of Thrones” is the most ambitious story in television. It is astonishingly intricate. Power dynamics shift, rise, tumble and clash as each season introduces a new status quo. It is frustrating to watch beloved characters die, but their deaths are realistic and keep the show tense and engaging.

This is a story that spawned hundreds of fan theories about a single character’s death, let alone the series’ distant ending. Who will win the “game” and end up on the Iron Throne? Probably not the character you would expect. I watch this show because it surprises me, I watch it because its characters are realistic and its setting is fascinating, and I watch because it is the most unique series on television.

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