• MESSAGE: Game of Thrones takes place in a patriarchal medieval inspired fantasy universe where the monarchy is supreme, noblemen rule over peasants and men are depicted in more prominent positions of power than women. The Game of Thrones universe is often bleak and gruesome, filled with morally ambiguous and deeply flawed characters. Manipulative characters are shown to get away with their misdeeds with little consequence while more honourable characters often suffer fatally. However, the show tends to depict all the positives and flaws of humanity in general. The show tends to convey the dangers of too much power and self-interest, highlighting the importance of fairness and honour although the show is largely cynical about human nature, particularly in relation to power.
• ROLE MODELS: The show has a number of morally complex characters with both positives and negatives. The Stark family are depicted as a good, honourable, fair and loving family although not without their flaws. Ned Stark has an illegitimate son, Jon Snow, who is despised by Ned's wife Catelyn. Ned and Catelyn's daughter, Sansa, as well as Jon, are often portrayed as spoiled and entitled while characters such as the Baratheons, Lannisters, Greyjoys and a large majority of supporting characters are depicted as often being cruel or highly manipulative although there is a complexity behind their darker moments. Characters like Joffrey, Viserys and Gregor Clegane are portrayed as being almost unrelentingly cruel with barely any positive or sympathetic traits. The characters also tend to look down upon women, dwarves (people with the genetic condition, not the fantasy creature), castrated males (termed exclusively as eunuchs), homosexuals, children born out of wedlock (termed exclusively in the show as "b*****ds"), disabled people (termed as cripples) and characters who do not fit into assigned gender roles. However, a diverse number of main female characters are depicted and well developed in the series including Brienne, who is often insulted due to her masculine stature and personality. Tyrion, a dwarf, is one of the show's breakout characters. There is a disabled character (played by an able bodied actor) and two supporting male homosexual characters that are reasonably well developed. The fictional Dothraki race are depicted as a Mongol/North African style race and are shown to be more savage than the more civilised white characters although they are portrayed as being characters with both good and bad points. The main cast is exclusively white with one mixed race cast member receiving an "Also Starring" credit. However, the supporting cast does contain a number of non-white or mixed races. The main cast of actors are an international group comprised mostly of Brits but also contain Irish, American, Danish and Dutch cast members.
• VIOLENCE AND HORROR: Game of Thrones is a HBO television show and so is willing to push the envelope on violence. Hack and slash battles are depicted on the show with blood and gory violence, including graphic scenes such as a head been beaten in with a shield. One Season 2 episode contains a large battle sequence where a ship explodes and kills a number of people. Many characters die on the show, including some of its most prominent characters. Sexual violence is shown or implied towards women and violence is used, implied or attempted on children, sometimes verbally and sometimes physically. One scene in Season 2 depicts the murder of a baby. While the actual killing is depicted off-screen, the baby's cry can be heard. An animal killing is also depicted similarly in an early Season 1 episode. Open misogyny towards women is also present. Horror elements are also contained within the show with antagonistic demon like creatures known as White Walkers being a threat that looms over the show and dark magical elements. There are some scenes that are tense and frightening.
• SEX AND NUDITY: HBO is also known for its television shows with high nudity and Game of Thrones is no exception. Both heterosexual and homosexual sex is implied or shown onscreen with kissing, touching, sexual acts and penetration shown. Female nudity is highly frequent and much more so than male nudity. Full frontal nudity appears less frequently but has been shown onscreen occasionally on both women and men. Two characters are engaged in a consensual incestuous relationship. Sexism and sexual violence are depicted in the show. One scene shows a husband and wife engaged in a sex act which the wife does not approve of. There is some debate over the two characters relationship as the wife comes to love the husband over time and learns to take agency for herself and earns respect from her husband but she is essentially sold into the marriage and is not respected until she takes charge. Another scene depicts a teenage girl who is almost raped. Prostitution also features heavily in the show.
• LANGUAGE: The show contains strong language such as "f**k" and "c**t" among most other swear words.
• CONSUMERISM: There is no consumerism within the show itself but the series is based off the bestselling fantasy novel series A Song of Ice and Fire and the series has inspired merchandise such as the Game of Thrones video games.
• DRINKING, DRUGS AND SMOKING: Alcohol is depicted in the show frequently although characters are infrequently shown as drunk. Characters like Tyrion and Robert are shown to be heavy drinkers.
• REVIEW: Game of Thrones is a fantastic television series with beautiful production values, incredible sets and visual effects and a very talented cast of international actors. The series honours the source material, bestselling book series A Song of Ice and Fire, by depicting it with a large degree of faithfulness. The show also presents viewers with a number of shocking twists, complex storytelling, an intriguing world, engaging and complicated, well-acted characters and interesting themes of morality, power, familial dysfunction and politics. Although the show is fantasy, the fantasy elements are only a component of the show with the majority of the series being one of politics and societal problems which despite its fantasy, medieval setting bears many parallels with the real, modern world. The show is must see and exciting television which in terms of production is really pushing what a television series can do. Despite my overall enjoyment of the show, it's not perfect. The nudity aspects of the show are highly sensationalised or contrived particularly around Season 2 and certain characters who proved popular in Season 1 have been given increased prominence in Season 2 which at times feels like pandering to me although this is not a major problem. The writing occasionally feels a little clunky and cheesy to me although this was more notable on a second viewing than the first time round. Despite this, however, the writing is mostly solid and even thought provoking. If I had to pick the three best things about the show, I would say the following:
1. An interesting cast of characters
2. An outstanding cast (there are no weak links in my opinion and that includes the three main child actors who are all incredibly talented)
3. Beautiful production values with filming taking place in incredible locations around the world including Northern Ireland, Croatia, Malta, Morocco and Iceland.
• FINAL VERDICT: Probably one of the best fantasy television shows to come around. Containing intricate storytelling, amazing production values, engrossing characters and wonderful acting; it's a great show to immerse yourself in. Some people may be put off by the overuse of sex and gory violence or find the sheer number of characters and storylines overwhelming but if you can get past these barriers, then you're in for a great ride!