Swords just got sexier

Florence Smith Nicholls 14 May 2012

Florence Smith Nicholls considers how Game of Thrones has made fantasy fashionable

Game of Thrones – heard of it? If you think I might be talking about a rather regal version of musical chairs, it’s probably time you left the rock you’re living under. Its HBO’s stellar fantasy television show, adapted from the cult fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R.Martin, and now in its second season. Following the intricate tale of seven feuding families all vying for the one Iron Throne, Game of Thrones is less Lord of the Rings, more ‘Sopranos with swords.’ With more smut, gore and political intrigue than you can shake a grimy medieval weapon at; this programme has set an unlikely precedent: it’s made fantasy cool.

With the original books also functional as door-stops, it’s highly impressive how David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who executively produced and wrote the series, were able to handle the heavy-weight plot. And the estimated US$ 50-60 million budget for the first series clearly played its part. The investment can be seen in the huge attention to detail: lavish costumes, sumptuous sets and a fully formed Dothraki language, thanks to the proficiency of a hired expert language creator. That’s not even mentioning the iconic opening sequence (a Simpsons parody marks it as part of television history) which is better demonstrated than described, resembling a clockwork map coming to life.

The real merits of GOT are two-fold: brilliant casting and canny writing. Sean Bean plays Lord Eddard Stark in the first series. He’s joined by a multitude of talented British and Irish actors, including Lena Headey as the poisonous Cersei, and Aidan Gillen of The Wire. “A very small man can cast a very large shadow”- truer words could not be said of the brother of the Queen, Tyrion Lanister, played by Peter Dinklage. Tyrion may be similar to a hobbit in stature, but the similarities end there. He’s a wine-swilling, silver-tongued survivor who steals every scene he’s in, as Emmy and Golden Globe awards attest to. Plus, he’s a gift for the writers with terrific one-liners.

No summary can do this juggernaut justice. The first series ended with a game-changing climax. With a second series currently airing on Sky Atlantic and a third in the pipeline, this looks like a trend which will demand more than just a shallow interest. In Britain, summer may be on its way, but in Westeros “winter is coming.” Be prepared.

Florence Smith Nicholls