Game of Thrones

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Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones title card.jpg
FormatSerial drama
Created by
Based onA Song of Ice and Fire 
by George R. R. Martin
Starringsee List of Game of Thrones characters
Composer(s)Ramin Djawadi
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons3
No. of episodes30 (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s)
  • Oral Norrey Ottey
  • Frances Parker
  • Martin Nicholson
  • Katie Weiland
  • Northern Ireland
  • Malta
  • Croatia
  • Iceland
  • Morocco
  • Scotland
  • United States[1][2][3]
Running time51–63 minutes
Original channelHBO
Picture format
Audio formatDolby Digital 5.1
Original runApril 17, 2011 (2011-04-17) – present
External links
Production website
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Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones title card.jpg
FormatSerial drama
Created by
Based onA Song of Ice and Fire 
by George R. R. Martin
Starringsee List of Game of Thrones characters
Composer(s)Ramin Djawadi
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons3
No. of episodes30 (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s)
  • Oral Norrey Ottey
  • Frances Parker
  • Martin Nicholson
  • Katie Weiland
  • Northern Ireland
  • Malta
  • Croatia
  • Iceland
  • Morocco
  • Scotland
  • United States[1][2][3]
Running time51–63 minutes
Original channelHBO
Picture format
Audio formatDolby Digital 5.1
Original runApril 17, 2011 (2011-04-17) – present
External links
Production website

Game of Thrones is an American fantasy drama television series created for HBO by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss. It is an adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire, George R. R. Martin's series of fantasy novels, the first of which is titled A Game of Thrones. Filmed in a Belfast studio and on location elsewhere in Northern Ireland, Malta, Scotland, Croatia, Iceland and Morocco, it premiered on HBO in the United States on April 17, 2011. The series was renewed for a fourth season, to debut on April 6, 2014.[4]

The series, set on the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos at the end of a decade-long summer, interweaves several plot lines. The first follows the members of several noble houses in a civil war for the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms; the second covers the rising threat of the impending winter and the mythical creatures of the North; the third chronicles the attempts of the exiled last scion of the realm's deposed dynasty to reclaim the throne. Through its morally ambiguous characters, the series explores the issues of social hierarchy, religion, loyalty, corruption, civil war, crime, and punishment. It is the most recent big-budget work to have contributed to the popularity of the fantasy genre in mainstream media.[5]

Game of Thrones has obtained an exceptionally broad and active international fan base. It received widespread acclaim by critics, although its use of nudity and violence has caused controversy. The series has won numerous awards and nominations, including a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Drama Series in all three seasons, a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Television Series – Drama, a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation in Long Form, and a Peabody Award. Among the ensemble cast, Peter Dinklage won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series and the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film for his role as Tyrion Lannister.


Game of Thrones roughly follows the three story lines of A Song of Ice and Fire.[6] Set in the fictional Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, the series chronicles the violent dynastic struggles among the realm's noble families for control of the Iron Throne. As the series opens, additional threats begin to arise in the icy North and in the eastern continent of Essos.[2]

The novels and their adaptation derive settings, characters and plot elements from much of European history.[7] A principal inspiration for the novels were the English Wars of the Roses[8] (1455–85) between the houses of Lancaster and York, reflected in Martin's houses of Lannister and Stark. Most of Westeros, with its castles and knightly tournaments, is reminiscent of High Medieval Western Europe. The scheming Cersei, for instance, calls to mind Isabella (1295–1358), the "she-wolf of France".[7] The series also combines such varied inspirations as Hadrian's Wall (which became Martin's great Wall), the fall of Rome and the legend of Atlantis (ancient Valyria), Byzantine "Greek fire" ("wildfire"), Icelandic sagas of the Viking Age (the Ironborn) and the Mongol hordes (the Dothraki), as well as elements from the Hundred Years' War (1337–1453) and the Italian Renaissance (c. 1400–1500).[7] The series' great popularity has in part been attributed to Martin's skill at fusing these disparate elements into a seamless whole that appears credible on its own terms as an alternative history.[7]

"The Sopranos in Middle-earth" is the tagline showrunner David Benioff jokingly suggested for Game of Thrones, referring to its intrigue-filled plot and dark tone combined with a fantasy setting.[9] In a 2012 study, the series was listed second out of 40 recent U.S. TV drama series by deaths per episode, with an average of 14.[10][11]

Cast and characters[edit]

Sean Bean (Ned Stark) received top billing in the first season.
Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister) led the principal cast in seasons 2 and 3.

Like the novels it adapts, Game of Thrones has a sprawling ensemble cast, estimated to be the largest on television.[12] During the production of the third season, 257 cast names were recorded.[13] The following overview reduces the list of characters in Game of Thrones to those played by the actors credited as part of the main cast.[14]

Lord Eddard "Ned" Stark (Sean Bean) is the head of the Stark family whose members are involved in most of the series's intertwined plot lines. He and his wife Catelyn Tully (Michelle Fairley) have five children: the eldest, Robb (Richard Madden), the dainty Sansa (Sophie Turner), the tomboy Arya (Maisie Williams), the adventurous Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) and the youngest, Rickon (Art Parkinson). Ned's hostage and ward Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) used to live with the Starks. Robb's wife is the healer Talisa Maegyr (Oona Chaplin), and Arya has befriended the blacksmith's apprentice Gendry (Joe Dempsie). Ned's bastard son Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and his friend Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) serve in the Night's Watch under Lord Commander Jeor Mormont (James Cosmo). The red-haired Wildling Ygritte (Rose Leslie) is Jon Snow's romantic interest.

Ned's old friend King Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) shares a loveless marriage with Queen Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), who has taken her twin, the "Kingslayer" Ser Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) as her secret lover. She loathes her younger brother, the clever dwarf Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), who is attended by his mistress Shae (Sibel Kekilli) and the sellsword Bronn (Jerome Flynn). Cersei's father is the fabulously wealthy Lord Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance), and her oldest son, the sadistic Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), is guarded by the scar-faced warrior Sandor "the Hound" Clegane (Rory McCann).

The king's "Small Council" of advisors includes the crafty Master of Coin, Lord Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish (Aidan Gillen) and the eunuch Master of Whisperers, Lord Varys (Conleth Hill). Robert's brother Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) is advised by the foreign priestess Melisandre (Carice van Houten) and the former smuggler Ser Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham). The wealthy Tyrell family is represented at court by the ambitious Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer).

Across the Narrow Sea, siblings Viserys (Harry Lloyd) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) – the exiled children of the king overthrown by Robert Baratheon – are on the run for their lives, trying to win back the throne. Daenerys has been married to Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa), the leader of the nomadic Dothraki, and is guarded by the exiled knight Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen).


Conception and development[edit]

According to David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, the two came up with the idea of adapting George R. R. Martin's novels to the screen in 2006, after Benioff began reading the first novel, A Game of Thrones. He called Weiss to share his excitement, and Weiss finished the thousand-page book in "maybe 36 hours".[15] They successfully pitched the series to HBO, and convinced Martin – a veteran screenwriter himself – in the course of a five-hour meeting in a restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard to agree to the idea. Benioff recalled that they won Martin over with their answer to his question: "Who is Jon Snow's mother?"

The series began development in January 2007.[16] HBO, after acquiring the TV rights to the novels, hired Benioff and Weiss to write and executive produce the series, which would cover one novel's worth of material per season.[16] Initially, it was planned that Benioff and Weiss would write every episode save one per season, which author and co-executive producer George R. R. Martin was attached to write.[16][17] Jane Espenson and Bryan Cogman were later added to each write one episode of the first season.[2]

The first and second drafts of the pilot script, written by Benioff and Weiss, were submitted in August 2007[18] and June 2008,[19] respectively. While HBO found both drafts to their liking,[19][20] a pilot was not ordered until November 2008,[21] with the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike possibly delaying the process.[20]

The budget of Game of Thrones has been compared to that of the TV series Rome.[22] The pilot reportedly cost HBO between US$5 and 10 million,[23] and the total budget for the first season has been estimated at US$50–60 million.[24] In the second season, the show obtained a 15% increase in budget in order to be able to stage the most important battle in the "clash of kings," the civil war that is the season's focus.[25]

Adaptation schedule[edit]

Showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss intend to adapt the entirety of the still incomplete A Song of Ice and Fire novel series, if HBO permits it. They envision the series to have a scope of some 80 hours, about eight seasons' worth of material.[26] In 2013, producer Frank Doelger said that "we'll probably get through to seven seasons".[27]

Benioff and Weiss said that they do not want to pad Game of Thrones out so as to wait for George R. R. Martin (who has taken up to six years to write an installment of A Song of Ice and Fire) to finish writing the last two novels. Knowing the broad outlines of Martin's intended ending for A Song of Ice and Fire, and concerned that extending Game of Thrones to ten seasons would kill its sense of momentum, they consider it possible (but not preferable) that the TV series ends before the last novel is published.[28]

As of 2013, four seasons have been ordered and filmed:

SeasonOrderedFilmingPremiereNovel adapted
Season 1March 2, 2010[29]Second half of 2010April 17, 2011A Game of Thrones
Season 2April 19, 2011Second half of 2011April 1, 2012A Clash of Kings
Season 3April 10, 2012Second half of 2012March 31, 2013[30]Approx. the first half of A Storm of Swords[31]
Season 4April 2, 2013[32]Second half of 2013April 6, 2014[4]Approx. the second half of A Storm of Swords and parts from A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons[33]

Seasons 1 and 2 each adapted one novel. For the later seasons, the creators conceive of Game of Thrones as an adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire as a whole, rather than of individual novels.[34] This gives them the liberty to move events back and forth across books according to the requirements of the screen adaptation.[35]

The four seasons ordered so far each consist of ten episodes. Most episodes from the first and second season run for about 52 minutes, while many of the third season's episodes are 56 or 57 minutes long. The series' pilot and the second and third season finale run for more than an hour.

Title sequence[edit]

The series's title sequence was created by production studio Elastic for HBO. Creative director Angus Wall and his collaborators received the 2011 Emmy Award for Main Title Design for their work on the sequence.[36] It depicts a three-dimensional map of the series's fictional world, projected onto the inside of a sphere, which is centrally lit by a small sun contained within an armilla.[37] As the camera swoops across the map and focuses on the locations in which the episode's events take place, complicated clockwork mechanisms let buildings and other structures emerge from the map and unfold. Meanwhile, accompanied by the title music, the names of the principal cast and creative staff are displayed. The sequence concludes after about one and a half minutes with the title card and brief opening credits indicating the episode's writer(s) and director.


The walled city of Dubrovnik stands in for King's Landing from season 2 onwards
Ballintoy Harbour was redressed as Lordsport on the Iron Islands
The Azure Window in Malta was the site of the Dothraki wedding in season 1

Principal photography for the first season was scheduled to begin on July 26, 2010.[2] The primary location was the Paint Hall Studios in Belfast, Northern Ireland.[38] Exterior scenes in Northern Ireland were filmed at Sandy Brae in the Mourne Mountains (standing in for Vaes Dothrak), Castle Ward (Winterfell), Saintfield Estates (the Winterfell godswood), Tollymore Forest (outdoor scenes), Cairncastle (the execution site), Magheramorne quarry (Castle Black) and at Shane's Castle (the tourney grounds).[1] Doune Castle in Stirling, Scotland, was also used in the original pilot episode for exterior and interior scenes at Winterfell.[39] The producers initially considered shooting the whole series in Scotland, but eventually chose Northern Ireland because of the availability of studio space.[40]

The first season's southern scenes were filmed in Malta, a change in location from the sets in Morocco used for the pilot episode.[2] The city of Mdina was used for scenes in King's Landing, and filming also took place at Fort Manoel (representing the Sept of Baelor), at the Azure Window on the island of Gozo (the Dothraki wedding site), and at San Anton Palace, Fort Ricasoli, Fort St Angelo and St. Dominic monastery (all used for scenes in the Red Keep).[1]

For the second season, shooting of the Southern scenes shifted from Malta to Croatia, where the city of Dubrovnik and nearby locations allowed exterior shots of a seaside walled medieval city. The Walls of Dubrovnik and of Fort Lovrijenac and Trsteno Arboretum were used for scenes in King's Landing and the Red Keep. The island of Lokrum, the St. Dominic monastery on the island of Trogir, the Rector's Palace in Dubrovnik and the Dubac quarry a few kilometers to the east were used for scenes set in Qarth. Scenes set north of the Wall, in the Frostfangs and at the Fist of the First Men, were filmed in Iceland in November 2011, on the Svínafellsjökull glacier and near Smyrlabjörg and Vík on Höfðabrekkuheiði.[1]

The third season returned to Morocco, including the city of Essaouira,[41] to film Daenerys's scenes in Essos. The production employed three units ("Dragon", "Wolf" and "Raven") filming in parallel, six directing teams, 257 cast members and 703 crew members.[13] One scene featuring a live bear, Little Bart, was filmed in Los Angeles.[3]

The fourth season returned to Dubrovnik, and also included new locations in Croatia. Diocletian's Palace in Split, Klis Fortress north of Split, Perun quarry east of Split, Mosor mountain and Baška Voda further down to the south.[42] The fourth season took 136 days to film and completed filming on November 21, 2013.[43]

Effect on location[edit]

Game of Thrones receives funding from Northern Ireland Screen, a government agency financed by Invest NI and the European Regional Development Fund.[44] As of April 2013, Northern Ireland Screen has awarded the show £9.25 million and according to government estimates, benefited the Northern Ireland economy by £65 million.[45]

Invest NI and the Tourist Board[45] also expect the series to generate tourism revenue. According to a government minister, the series has given Northern Ireland the most publicity in its history outside politics and the Troubles.[46]

Tourism organizations in other filming locations also reported notable increases in bookings after their locations appeared in Game of Thrones. Bookings through one web portal in 2012 increased by 13% in Iceland and by 28% in Dubrovnik, Croatia. In 2013, bookings increased by 100% in Ouarzazate, Morocco, where Daenerys's season 3 scenes were filmed.[47]


The show's costumes are inspired by many cultures, such as Japanese and Persian. Dothraki outfits resemble that of the Bedouins (one was made out of fish skins to resemble dragon scales), and the Wildlings wear fur side in and skin side out like the Inuit.[48] Wildling bone armor is made of molds taken of real bones and assembled with string and latex resembling catgut.[49] While extras who portray Wildlings and the Night's Watch wear hats as would be normal in a cold climate, main actors usually do not so viewers can identify the characters. Björk's Alexander McQueen high-neckline dresses inspired Dormer's unusual funnel-neck outfit, and prostitute costumes are designed to be quickly removed.[48] All clothing, whether for Wildlings or for women at the royal court, is aged for two weeks to improve realism on high-definition television.[49]

About two dozen wigs are used for the actresses. Made of human hair and up to 2 feet (61 cm) in length, they cost up to $7,000 each and are washed and styled like real hair. Applying the wigs is a lengthy process; Clarke, for example, requires about two hours to style her brunette hair with a platinum-blonde wig and braids. Other actors such as Gleeson and Turner receive frequent haircoloring. For characters such as Clarke and her Dothrakis, hair, wigs, and costumes are processed so they appear as if they have not been washed for weeks.[48]


The Westerosi characters of Game of Thrones speak British English, often (but not consistently) with the accent of the region in England whose geographic location corresponds to that of the character's home region in Westeros. For instance, Eddard Stark, as Warden of the North, speaks in actor Sean Bean's native Northern English, while the southern lord Tywin Lannister is heard speaking with a southern accent. Characters foreign to Westeros are often (although not always) played with a foreign-sounding accent.[50]

While English is used to convey the common language of Westeros, the producers charged linguist David J. Peterson with developing the Dothraki and Valyrian languages as constructed languages, based on the few words used in Martin's novels.[51] Dothraki or Valyrian dialogue is subtitled in English. The BBC estimated that, through the series, these fictional languages are heard by more people than the Welsh, Irish and Scots Gaelic languages combined.[52]



The first season of Game of Thrones premiered on HBO in the United States on April 17, 2011,[53] and the second season on April 1, 2012. On the same day or in the subsequent weeks or months, the series also began airing in several other countries.

International broadcasters carrying Game of Thrones include:[54]

Arab LeagueOSN, MBC4
AustriaSky Atlantic HD, TNT Serie, RTL II
Belgium2BE, beTV, Prime, La Deux
Bosnia and HerzegovinaHBO
BrazilHBO Brazil
CanadaHBO Canada, Super Écran, Showcase
CroatiaHBO, HRT
Czech RepublicHBO, ČT2
DenmarkHBO Nordic, C More, TV3
EstoniaFox Life, ETV2
FinlandHBO Nordic, C More, Yle TV2
FranceOCS Choc, Canal+
GermanySky Atlantic HD, TNT Serie, RTL II
GreeceNovaCinema 1, NovaCinemaHD, Skai TV
IcelandStöð 2
IrelandSky Atlantic
IsraelYes Oh
ItalySky Cinema 1, Rai 4
JapanStar Channel (Japan)
LatviaFox Life
NetherlandsHBO Netherlands, RTL 4
New ZealandSoHo, Prime
NorwayHBO Nordic, C More, NRK
PakistanHBO Pakistan
RussiaFox Life, Ren-TV
SloveniaKanal A, HBO
South AfricaM-Net
South KoreaSCREEN
SpainCanal+, Antena 3, laSexta
SwedenHBO Nordic, C More, SVT1
SwitzerlandTNT Serie, Radio Télévision Suisse
TurkeyCNBC-e, e2, STAR, tvyo
UkraineTET, 1+1
United KingdomSky Atlantic, Sky1

Home video[edit]

The ten episodes of the first season of Game of Thrones were published as a DVD and Blu-ray box set on March 6, 2012. The set includes extra background and behind-the-scenes material, but no deleted scenes, because almost all footage shot for the first season was used in the show.[55] The box set sold 350,000 units in the first seven days of its release, the largest first-week DVD sales ever for an HBO series. The series also set an HBO series record for digital download sales.[56] A "collector's edition" of the box set combining the DVD and Blu-ray versions, a dragon's egg paperweight and the first episode of season two was released in November 2012.

DVD/Blu-ray box sets and digital downloads of the second season were made available on February 19, 2013.[57] First-day sales again broke HBO records, with 241,000 box sets sold and 355,000 episodes downloaded.[58]

The third season was made available for purchase as a digital download on the iTunes Store, in Australia only, in parallel to the US premiere.[59]


At the time new seasons are broadcast, they are available only through HBO or its affiliates, not through third-party video on demand services, and in many countries not at all. This delay in availability has contributed to the series being widely pirated.[60] The file-sharing news website TorrentFreak estimated it to be the most-pirated TV series of 2012[61] and 2013.[62] One episode was downloaded about 4,280,000 times through public BitTorrent trackers in 2012, about equal to the number of broadcast viewers.[63][64] Piracy rates were particularly high in Australia, due to the delay of international airings.[65] This led US Ambassador to Australia Jeff Bleich to issue a public statement[66] condemning Australian piracy of the series in 2013.[67] One copy of the third season's premiere was the most simultaneously shared file in the history of the BitTorrent filesharing network, with over 160,000 sharers and more than a million downloads.[68]

In 2013, series director David Petrarca remarked that illegal downloads did not hurt the series' prospects, as it benefited from the resulting "buzz" and social commentary.[69] He later clarified that he was against illegally downloading copyrighted works.[70] To counteract piracy, HBO announced in 2013 that it intends to make its content more widely available worldwide within the week of the US premiere, including through its digital service HBO GO.[71]

Other media and products[edit]


The music for the series is composed by Ramin Djawadi. The first season's soundtrack, written in about ten weeks before the show's premiere,[72] was published by Varèse Sarabande in June 2011.[73] Soundtrack albums for the subsequent seasons have also been published, featuring tracks performed by the indie bands The National in season 2 and The Hold Steady in season 3. The series's instrumental title music has been much covered.

Accompanying material[edit]

Thronecast: The Official Guide to Game of Thrones, a series of podcasts presented by Geoff Lloyd and produced by Koink, was available on the Sky Atlantic website and the UK iTunes store.[74] In 2014, HBO commissioned a free album of rap songs about the series, Catch the Throne.[75]

A companion book, Inside HBO's Game of Thrones by series writer Bryan Cogman (ISBN 978-1-4521-1010-3), was published on September 27, 2012. On 192 pages, illustrated with concept art and behind-the-scenes photographs, the book covers the creation of the series's first two seasons, as well as its principal characters and families.[76]

Merchandise and exhibition[edit]

A selection of Game of Thrones merchandise sold in HBO's New York City store

HBO has issued licenses for a broad range of merchandise based on Game of Thrones. These include various games, replica weapons and armor, jewellery, bobblehead dolls by Funko, beer by Ommegang, and various items and apparel.[77] Top-end merchandise includes Ulysse Nardin wristwatches for $10,500[78] and resin replicas of the Iron Throne for $30,000.[79]

In 2013, a traveling exhibition of costumes, props, armor and weapons from the series visited Toronto, New York City, São Paulo, Amsterdam and Belfast.[80]

Other works based on the series[edit]

The series has also inspired other works. For instance, four video games that are based on the TV series and the novels have been published or are in development. The strategy game Game of Thrones Ascent ties in particularly closely with the series, making characters and settings available to players as soon as they appear on air.[81]

The fall 2012 ready-to-wear collection by the fashion brand Helmut Lang was inspired by Game of Thrones.[82][83] In March 2012, Wiley-Blackwell published Game of Thrones and Philosophy: Logic Cuts Deeper than the Sword (ISBN 978-1-118-16199-9). This entry in Blackwell's Pop Culture and Philosophy series, edited by Henry Jacoby and William Irwin, aims to highlight and discuss philosophical issues raised by the show and its source material.[84]

In 2013, Game of Thrones was notably parodied on the cover of Mad on April 30,[85] as well as by a web series, School of Thrones, which set the story in a high school whose students vie for the title of prom king and queen.[86] Two pornographic parodies of the series were also announced in 2013.[87]


Game of Thrones was highly anticipated by fans before its premiere.[88][89] It has since become a critical and commercial success.

Cultural influence[edit]

Game of Thrones has been credited with an increased popularity of fantasy themes and mainstream acceptance of the fantasy fandom. "After this weekend", wrote on the eve of the second season's premiere, "you may be hard pressed to find someone who isn't a fan of some form of epic fantasy". According to Ian Bogost, Game of Thrones continues a trend of successful screen adaptations, beginning with Peter Jackson's 2001 The Lord of the Rings film trilogy and continuing with the Harry Potter films, that have established fantasy as a lucrative mass market genre and serve as "gateway drugs to fantasy fan culture".[90]

The series' popularity greatly boosted sales of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, soon republished as tie-in editions, which remained at the top of bestseller lists for months on end. The Daily Beast wrote that Game of Thrones was a particular favorite of many sitcom writers, and consequently the series has been referenced in many other TV series.[91] Together with other fantasy series, Game of Thrones has been deemed responsible for a substantial increase in purchases (and abandonments) of huskies and other wolf-like dogs.[92]

Game of Thrones has also been the basis of additions to the popular vocabulary. The first season's frequent scenes in which characters explain their motives or background while having sex with prostitutes gave rise to the term "sexposition" to describe the practice of providing exposition against a backdrop of sex and nudity.[93] "Dothraki", the name of the nomadic horsemen appearing in the series, was listed fourth in a list of words from television most used on the Internet, compiled in September 2012 by Global Language Monitor.[94] After the second season, the media began using "Game of Thrones" as a figure of speech or as a comparison for situations of intense conflict and deceit, e.g., the court battles about US healthcare legislation,[95] the Syrian civil war[96] or power struggles in the Chinese government.[97]

Critical response[edit]

Metacritic ratings per season
Season 1Season 2Season 3

The critical response to the three aired seasons of Game of Thrones has been very positive. All seasons were listed on several yearly "best of" lists published by US media, such as the Washington Post (2011), TIME (2011 and 2012) and The Hollywood Reporter (2012).[101][102][103] Seasons 2 and 3 obtained a Metacritic rating of more than 80, which the website rates "universal acclaim". In 2013, the Writers Guild of America placed Game of Thrones in the fortieth place on the list of the 101 best-written TV series.[104]

The performance of the very large, predominantly British and Irish cast was widely praised. American Peter Dinklage's "charming, morally ambiguous, and self-aware"[105] portrayal of Tyrion, which won him an Emmy and a Golden Globe award, among others, was particularly noted. "In many ways, "Game of Thrones" belongs to Dinklage", wrote the L.A. Times[106] even before, in season 2, the "scene-stealing actor's"[107] character became the series' most central figure.[107] Several critics highlighted the performances of the women[106] and child actors.[108] 14-year-old Maisie Williams, already noted in the first season for her debut performance as Arya Stark, received particular praise for her work opposite veteran actor Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister) in season 2.[109]

Reviewing the first season, critics noted the high production values, the well-realized world and compelling characters.[110] Variety wrote that "there may be no show more profitable to its network than 'Game of Thrones' is to HBO. Fully produced by the pay cabler and already a global phenomenon after only one season, the fantasy skein was a gamble that has paid off handsomely."[111]

The second season was also very well received by critics. Entertainment Weekly praised the "vivid, vital, and just plain fun" storytelling,[112] and The Hollywood Reporter wrote that the show made a "strong case for being one of TV's best series", its gravitas making it the only genre show dramatically comparable to shows such as Mad Men or Breaking Bad.[113] The New York Times published a mixed review, disapproving of the characters' lack of complexity and their confusing multitude, as well as the meandering plot.[114]

The amount of sex and nudity shown on Game of Thrones, especially in scenes that are incidental to the plot, has been the focus of much of the criticism aimed at the series. Actor Stephen Dillane, who portrays Stannis Baratheon, likened the series's frequent explicit scenes to "German porn from the 1970s".[115] Charlie Anders wrote in io9 that while the first season was replete with light-hearted "sexposition", the second season appeared to focus on distasteful, exploitative and dehumanizing sex with little informational content.[116] According to the Washington Post's Anna Holmes, the nude scenes appeared to be aimed mainly at titillating heterosexual men, right down to the Brazilian waxes sported by the women in the series's faux-medieval setting, which made these scenes alienating to other viewers.[117] And in the Huffington Post, Maureen Ryan likewise noted that Game of Thrones mostly presented women naked, rather than men, and added that the excess of "random boobage" undercut any aspirations the series might have to address the oppression of women in a feudal society.[118] Saturday Night Live parodied this aspect of the adaptation in a sketch that portrayed the series as having a thirteen-year-old boy as a consultant whose main concern was showing as many breasts per scene as possible.[116][119]

The series was also criticized for its torture scenes.[120] Madeleine Davies wrote in Jezebel that "it's not uncommon that Game of Thrones gets accused of being torture porn — senseless, objectifying violence combined with senseless, objectifying sexual imagery", but she noted that, except for the titillation and torture of Theon Greyjoy in season 3, the series's use of violence did tend to serve a narrative purpose.[121] Alyssa Rosenberg, writing in ThinkProgress, found a purpose even in Theon's "grotesque and emotionally agonizing" mutilation, in that it efficiently illustrated torture's nature: "not an intelligence-gathering technique, not a tool that must only be used occasionally with great regret, but the process of turning someone into something else, and often something less."[122]


Two fans costumed as Khal Drogo and Daenerys Targaryen. Cosplay is a popular activity at fan conventions.

The novel series A Song of Ice and Fire and its TV adaptation Game of Thrones have an exceptionally broad and active international fan base. In 2012, Vulture ranked the series's fandom as the most devoted in popular culture, ahead of that of Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Harry Potter or Star Wars.[123] Fans include political leaders such as U.S. President Barack Obama,[124][125] former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard,[126] and Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans, who, in a 2013 speech, framed challenges of European politics in terms of quotes from Martin's novels.[127]

In 2013, BBC News wrote that the "passion and the extreme devotion of fans" had brought about a phenomenon unlike anything related to other popular TV series, manifesting itself in a very broad range of fan labor, such as fan fiction,[128] but also Game of Thrones-themed burlesque routines, or people naming their children after characters from the series:[129] "Arya" was the girl's name rising the fastest in popularity in the US in 2012, from 711th to 413th position.[130] Writers cited by the BBC attributed this success to the rich detail, moral ambiguity, sexual explicitness and epic scale of the series and novels.[129]

58 percent of viewers were reported to be male as of 2013, and on average 41 years old.[131] According to the marketing director of SBS, Game of Thrones has the highest fan engagement rate of any TV series known to her: 5.5% of the series's 2.9 million Facebook fans were talking online about the series in 2012, compared to 1.8% of the more than ten million fans of HBO's other fantasy series True Blood.[132]

Among the many fan sites dedicated to the TV and novel series, Vulture noted in particular and, which provide news reports and discussion forums,, which organizes communal readings of the novels, and[123] There are also many podcasts covering the series.[133]

Viewer numbers[edit]

According to HBO, the second season of Game of Thrones had an average gross audience (including all repeats and on-demand viewings) of 11.6 million viewers.[134] The third season saw that number rise to 14.2 million, making the season the second-most viewed of any HBO series,[135] after the fifth season of The Sopranos, which obtained 14.4 million viewers in 2004.[136] Contrary to assumptions by journalists that Game of Thrones has a predominantly male audience, Nielsen Media Research data indicated in 2013 that the series's viewership is less divided by gender than that of many other comparable programs, with women making up about 42% of viewers.[137]

The following graph shows viewer numbers for the first airings:

Game of Thrones: Viewers per episode (in millions)
  • Season 1 (2011): Viewers of the first airing on HBO in the US on Sundays 9:00 pm.
  • Season 2 (2012): Viewers of the first airing on HBO in the US on Sundays 9:00 pm.
  • Season 3 (2013): Viewers of the first airing on HBO in the US on Sundays 9:00 pm.
Ep. 1Ep. 2Ep. 3Ep. 4Ep. 5Ep. 6Ep. 7Ep. 8Ep. 9Ep. 10
Season 23.863.763.773.653.903.883.693.863.384.20
Season 34.374.274.724.875.355.504.845.135.225.39


The first season of Game of Thrones was nominated for thirteen of the 2011 Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Drama Series. It won two, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series and Outstanding Main Title Design. Peter Dinklage, who plays Tyrion Lannister, was named best supporting actor by the Emmys, the Golden Globes, the Scream Awards and the Satellite Awards. In 2012, the second season won six of the Creative Arts Emmy Awards.

2011Emmy AwardsOutstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama SeriesPeter Dinklage (as Tyrion Lannister)
Outstanding Main Title DesignAngus Wall, Hameed Shaukat, Kirk Shintani and Robert Feng
Scream AwardsBest TV ShowGame of Thrones[138]
Best Supporting ActorPeter Dinklage
Breakout Performance – FemaleEmilia Clarke
Television Critics Association AwardsOutstanding New ProgramGame of Thrones
Satellite AwardsBest Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television FilmPeter Dinklage
Screen Actors Guild AwardsOutstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Television SeriesGame of Thrones
Golden Globe AwardsBest Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television FilmPeter Dinklage
George Foster Peabody AwardGame of Thrones[139]
2012Television Critics Association AwardsProgram of the YearGame of Thrones
Screen Actors Guild AwardsOutstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Television SeriesGame of Thrones
Creative Arts Emmy AwardsOutstanding Sound Mixing For A Comedy Or Drama Series (One Hour)Matthew Waters, Onnalee Blank, Ronan Hill and Mervyn Moore for the episode "Blackwater"[140]
Outstanding Sound Editing For A SeriesPeter Brown, Kira Roessler, Tim Hands, Paul Aulicino, Stephen P. Robinson, Vanessa Lapato, Brett Voss, James Moriana, Jeffrey Wilhoit and David Klotz for the episode "Blackwater"
Outstanding Special Visual EffectsRainer Gombos, Juri Stanossek, Sven Martin, Steve Kullback, Jan Fiedler, Chris Stenner, Tobias Mannewitz, Thilo Ewers and Adam Chazen for the episode "Valar Morghulis"
Outstanding Costumes For A SeriesMichele Clapton, Alexander Fordham and Chloe Aubry for the episode "The Prince of Winterfell"
Outstanding Makeup For A Single-Camera Series (Non-Prosthetic)Paul Engelen and Melissa Lackersteen for the episode "The Old Gods and the New"
Outstanding Art Direction for a Single-Camera SeriesGemma Jackson, Frank Walsh and Tina Jones for the episodes "Garden of Bones", "The Ghost of Harrenhal" and "A Man Without Honor" (tied with Boardwalk Empire)
2013British Academy Television AwardsRadio Times Audience AwardGame of Thrones[141]
Critics' Choice Television AwardBest Drama SeriesGame of Thrones (tied with Breaking Bad)
Television Critics Association AwardsOutstanding Achievement in DramaGame of Thrones[142]
Creative Arts Emmy AwardsOutstanding Make-up for a Single-Camera Series (Non-Prosthetic)Paul Engelen and Melissa Lackersteen for the episode "Kissed by Fire"
Outstanding Special Visual EffectsRainer Gombos, Juri Stanossek, Sven Martin, Steve Kullback, Jan Fiedler, Chris Stenner, Tobias Mannewitz, Thilo Ewers, and Adam Chazen for the episode "Valar Dohaeris"
Screen Actors Guild AwardsOutstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Television SeriesGame of Thrones[143]


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External links[edit]