This article is written for those who haven’t seen Seasons 1 and 2 of HBO’s Game of Thrones. It contains no plot details beyond Episode 1 of Season 1.
If you haven’t watched the HBO series Game of Thrones yet, you probably fall into one of two categories: people who don’t own a television and people who avoid anything with the faintest whiff of Fantasy to it. If you fall into the second category, we’re talking to you! Season 3 is coming to blinkbox on the 15th July, so here’s why you have to catch up with the first 20 episodes IMMEDIATELY!
Based on the books by writer George R.R. Martin, Game of Thrones is an epic saga that dispenses with tired Fantasy tropes like elves, mystical hammers and magic potions, instead presenting an expansive power struggle between the warring houses of an island not dissimilar to medieval Britain. Featuring a tangled web of political intrigue and backstabbing that could easily rival the history of the Roman Empire, this is one show whose ambition is matched only by its tremendous execution. Only those titans of quality programming at HBO would dare make a show as expensive and intelligent as Game of Thrones.
Sharpe star Sean Bean plays Ned Stark, a feudal lord of the North who, years previously, helped his friend Robert to usurp the Iron Throne (throne picture above). When the Hand of the King (his Chief of Staff, essentially) dies in mysterious circumstances, Ned is summoned to the capital as his replacement. Once he’s down in King’s Landing, Ned finds himself mired in a quagmire court intrigue. There are other characters with their own plot lines including one that follows a monastic order of soldiers tasked with guarding the northern walls of the kingdom and another that concerns a deposed prince in exile across the ocean. The world of Game of Thrones is so rich in detail that it surpasses even The Lord of the Rings in terms of scale. The story spreads itself over so many locations, that you’ll definitely want to refer to this MAP OF WESTEROS between episodes.
So, why should you watch it?
The CastGame of Thrones boasts the best ensemble of actors on television. In the first season alone, Bean is joined by a murderer’s row of thespians: Mark Addy, The Station Agent’s Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Charles Dance, Jerome Flynn (yes, from Robson and Jerome) and The Wire’s Aiden Gillan. This doesn’t even take into account great young actors like Maisie Williams who plays Ned Stark’s tomboy daughter. As the cast expands in the years to come, expect every British actor of note to eventually appear in an awesome recurring part.
The ProductionOn top of that, you’re unlikely to find a more luxurious production anywhere else on television. Shot on location in Northern Ireland, Morocco, Malta, Iceland, Scotland and Croatia, Game of Thrones looks as impressive as any feature film. On top of that, it features some of the most epic battles ever created for a television programme.
The Story The show is mostly written by creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, with episodes contributed by George R.R. Martin. Deftly handling concurrent plot lines while maintaining break-neck momentum, they’re able to craft episodes that are thrilling from start to end. On top of that, they’ve constructed some of the most intriguing and fully fleshed characters on television. Whether it’s the wickedly sharp imp Tyrion, the cruel Queen Cersei or the greasy eunuch Varys, Game of Thrones has the most deliciously-drawn villains on TV.
The Sex FactorThis show isn’t for kids. This is HBO, which means you’re assured a healthy dose of nudity. We’re not saying you should watch Game of Thrones just for the nudie ladies, but be assured that there are plenty of scenes that take place in bordellos.
Assuming you are over 18, there’s something for everyone in this show: if you like the withering put-downs of Downton Abbey, the complex characters of Mad Men, the labyrinthine mysteries of The Killing or the gratuitous nudity of True Blood, then like millions of fans already you’re going to bloody LOVE Game of Thrones.
As we mentioned, the third season starts airing on British TV next week but you still have time to catch up with the first twenty episodes. You will have to dedicate a good portion of this Easter weekend to a box-set marathon but trust us, it will be a weekend well spent!
One of the concerns many newbies have towards a show of this scale is the sheer wealth of characters involved. We completely understand: with so many different houses and political alliances, it can sometimes be hard to keep track of everybody. To help you get started, we’ve put together a helpful guide to the major families in Game of Thrones. We don’t give away any plot details that aren’t revealed in the first episode, so feel free to print out this guide and have it by your side as you navigate through the first few episodes of this amazing series.
“Winter is Coming”
- Eddard “Ned” Stark (Sean Bean), Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North. A childhood friend of Robert Baratheon, Ned was a key player in Robert’s rebellion, helping to win the throne from the Targaryens.
- His wife, Lady Catelyn (Michelle Fairley), the eldest child of Lord Hoster Tully. She was betrothed to marry Ned’s older brother Brandon until he was murdered by The Mad King.
- Their eldest son, Robb Stark (Richard Madden), heir to Winterfell. Trained from a young age to wield a sword and wear armour, he is a proficient warrior for his young age.
- Their eldest daughter, Sansa (Sophie Turner). She is good at sewing and embroidering and dreams of being a queen.
- Their youngest daughter, Arya (Maisie Williams). She rejects the notion that she must become a lady and marry for influence and power, feeling she can forge her own destiny.
- Their second son, Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright). He dreams of being a knight of the Kingsguard and one day becoming a bannnerman for his brother, Robb. His favourite hobby is climbing the walls of Winterfell and using its old rooftops and passages to get around.
- Ned’s bastard son, Jon Snow (Kit Harington). Conceived out of wedlock whilst Ned was fighting a rebellion on behalf of the king, his presence at Winterfell is a constant source of friction between Ned and Lady Stark.
- His ward and hostage, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen). Son of Lord Balon Greyjoy of the Iron Islands, Theon was forced to remain at Winterfell after his father’s failed rebellion against the crown. Despite his status as a glorified hostage, he has effectively been raised as one of the Starks.
“Ours is the Fury”
Seat: Storm’s End
The House of Baratheon was founded centuries ago by a general of Aegon Targaryen after his conquest of Westeros. During his rebellion, Robert Baratheon seized the Iron Throne from the Mad King Aerys Targaryen and has ruled the Seven Kingdoms since.
- Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy): King of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros and longtime friend of Ned Stark. Robert was engaged to Ned’s sister, Lyanna, whose abduction by Prince Rhaegar Targaryen incited Robert’s uprising against the throne. When Lyanna died during the war, Robert married Cersei Lannister.
- His wife, Queen Cersei (Lena Headey). The daughter of Tywin Lannister, she was married to King Robert in order to unite the houses of Baratheon and Lannister. As cunning as Lady Macbeth and as beautiful as Helen of Troy. But hands off, gentlemen: this one’s taken (but not by who you think)!
- Their son, Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson), Crown Prince of the Seven Kingdoms and a deeply unlikable young boy. He may look small and feeble, but he’s actually a grade-A twerp who possesses Westeros’ most eminently punchable face
“Hear Me Roar”
Seat: Casterly Rock
The wealthiest house in all of Westeros, the Lannisters ruled as kings in their realm until the Targaryens conquered the continent, placing the lords of Westeros under control of the Iron Throne. Their most common family saying: “A Lannister always pays his debts.”
- Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance), hard-case patriarch of the Lannister clan. He is the wealthiest man in all the Seven Kingdoms and, arguably, the most powerful.
- His firstborn son, Jamie Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), the youngest member of the Kingsguard. It was he who slew the Mad King in violation of his oath to protect the royal family. He is one of Westeros’ most formidable swordsmen.
- Jamie’s twin sister, Cersei Baratheon (Lena Headey), Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.
- Tywin’s youngest son, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), called ‘The Imp’: a dwarf. What Tyrion lacks in size and strength, he makes up for with his unrivalled intelligence and mastery of catty put-downs.
- Tywin’s grandson, Joffrey Baratheon.
“Fire and Blood”
Seat: Dragonstone (former)
Sigil: Three-Headed Dragon
The Targaryens came from the ancient civilization of Valyria, supposedly bringing dragons from the eastern continent to conquer Westeros. Ruling for almost 300 years, their dynasty thrived until the actions of the Mad King Aerys II drove Robert Baratheon to usurp the Iron Throne. The surviving children of Aerys Targaryen now live penniless in exile across the Narrow Sea.
- Viserys Targaryen (Harry Lloyd), Prince of House Targaryen, whose father, the “Mad” King Aerys was usurped by King Robert. Viserys has an unreasonable estimation of his own worth and is obsessed with regaining his family’s throne… by any means necessary.
- His younger sister, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke). She is married to the Dothraki warlord Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa) with the promise that his armies will deliver the Iron Throne to her brother.
Catch up on Game of Thrones Seasons 1 & 2 on blinkbox right now!
See Season 3 first on blinkbox starting 15th July!
(Resources: HBO.com, gameofthrones.wikia.com)