HBO say that Game of Thrones is their most-watched series ever, and it’s not hard to see why. From the opening scenes of the very first episode, the tone is set: Brutal, dark and addictively watchable. It’s best described as a sort of Medieval-inspired fantasy world with great outfits, compelling performances and some eye-popping moments of “Did they really just do that?” Also, dragons.
*WARNING – spoilers ahead!
Game of Thrones is a complicated tale of intrigue between rival noble houses to gain the Iron Throne and rule the Seven Kingdoms. The action is concentrated in a country called Westeros, whose capital city is the sprawling King’s Landing. Across the Narrow Sea is another country called Essos. Then we have The Wall, beyond which is the Haunted Forest, a place you definitely don’t want to hang around in.
The rival factions consist of the Lannisters, the Starks, and Daenerys Targaryen. There are also The Others, who aren’t really looking for the throne but are busy being vaguely scary beyond the Wall.
There are countless characters in the series, and even some of the key ones don’t feature in every single episode or sometimes disappear for an entire series at a time. But here are some of the main ones you’ve been hearing a buzz about:
Daenerys is an incredibly popular character in the series. Striking looking, with her long, ice white hair and strong eyebrows, she is played by the powerful Emilia Clarke, who has won numerous well-deserved awards for her portrayal of the determined woman who grows from a frightened teen forced into marriage into a strong warrior and mother of dragons.
Eddard Stark, to give him his full name, is played by Sean Bean. He is head of the Stark family, and married to Lady Catelyn of the House of Tully. He has five legitimate children, and one illegitimate (Jon Snow, below), all of whom he cares about and loves. He is close to the King and has a high position in society.
Cersei Lannister is portrayed in the series by Lena Headey, and is a scheming Queen Mother. However, she is nothing like the Queen Mum you might be thinking of—she successfully put her son Joffrey Baratheon on the Iron Throne with the claim that he was the son of her husband, the deceased King, Robert Baratheon. In fact, he was the son of her twin brother and herself.
Jon Snow, played by Kit Harington, is the illegitimate son of Ned Stark. He was bound to serve in the Night’s Watch, the black-clad military order of sentries which guards the Wall to keep an eye on The Others, and have sworn to forsake family, wives and crowns to do so. However, he left them to serve on the Wall, and undertook missions which led to him falling in love with a girl from the enemy Wildings. Jon also has a pet Direwolf—a giant canine not to be messed with, who always seems to show up just in the nick of time.
Why you must watch it
If you like the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Merlin or The Hunger Games, Game of Thrones is for you, albeit with a certain amount of incest, scenes of a sexual nature which are less than romantic, and blood, lots of blood. It features strong female characters, some of whom have a to die-for fashion sense, and let’s face it, the dragons are super-cute. Since it’s already on Season Five, there’s a lot of catching up to do!