Game of Thrones
|Game of Thrones|
|Based on||A Song of Ice and Fire
by George R. R. Martin
|Starring||see List of Game of Thrones characters|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||6|
|No. of episodes||60 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||50–69 minutes|
|Picture format||1080i (16:9 HDTV)|
|Audio format||Dolby Digital 5.1|
|Original release||April 17, 2011– present|
|Related shows||After the Thrones
Game of Thrones is an American fantasy drama television series created 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. It is filmed at Titanic Studios in Belfast and on location elsewhere in Northern Ireland, as well as in Croatia, Iceland, Malta, Morocco, Spain, Scotland, and the United States. The series premiered on HBO in the United States on April 17, 2011, and its sixth season concluded on June 26, 2016. The series was renewed for a seventh season, which is scheduled to premiere in mid-2017 with a total of seven episodes.
The series is set on the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos and interweaves several plot lines with a large ensemble cast. The first narrative arc follows a dynastic conflict among competing claimants for succession to the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms, with other noble families fighting for independence from it; the second covers the attempts to reclaim the throne by the exiled last scion of the realm's deposed ruling dynasty; the third chronicles the rising threat of the impending winter and the legendary creatures and fierce peoples of the North.
Game of Thrones has attracted record numbers of viewers on HBO and attained an exceptionally broad and active international fan base. It has received widespread acclaim by critics, particularly for its acting, complex characters, story, scope, and production values, although its frequent use of nudity, violence, and sexual violence has attracted criticism. The series has won 26 Primetime Emmy Awards, including the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series in 2015—when it set a record for most wins for a series in a single year—and numerous other awards and nominations, including three Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, a Peabody Award, and three Golden Globe Award nominations. From among the ensemble cast, Peter Dinklage won two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series and a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film for his performance as Tyrion Lannister. Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Maisie Williams, Diana Rigg, and Max von Sydow also received Emmy nominations for their performances in the series.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Cast and characters
- 3 Production
- 4 Availability
- 5 Reception and achievements
- 6 Other media and products
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Game of Thrones roughly follows the storylines set out in A Song of Ice and Fire, set in the fictional Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. The series chronicles the violent dynastic struggles among the realm's noble families for the Iron Throne, while other families are fighting for independence from it. As the series opens, additional threats emerge in the icy North and in the eastern continent of Essos.
"The Sopranos in Middle-earth" is the tagline that showrunner David Benioff jokingly suggested for Game of Thrones, referring to its intrigue-filled plot and dark tone combined with a fantasy setting that incorporates some magic and dragons. In a 2012 study of deaths per episode, the series was listed second out of 40 recent U.S. TV drama series, with an average of 14 deaths per episode.
Inspirations and derivations
The first season is a faithful adaptation of the novel. Later seasons, however, began to diverge with significant changes. According to David Benioff, the show is "about adapting the series as a whole and following the map George laid out for us and hitting the major milestones, but not necessarily each of the stops along the way."
The novels and their adaptation derive aspects of their settings, characters and plot from various events of European history. A principal inspiration for the novels is the English Wars of the Roses (1455–85) between the houses of Lancaster and York, reflected in Martin's houses of Lannister and Stark, especially with the name similarities. Most of Westeros is reminiscent of High Medieval Western Europe, with its castles and knightly tournaments. The scheming Cersei, for instance, calls to mind Isabella, the "she-wolf of France" (1295–1358). She and her family (as depicted in Maurice Druon's historical novel series The Accursed Kings, in particular) inspired Martin. Other historical inspirations for elements of the series include Hadrian's Wall (which became Martin's great Wall), the legend of Atlantis (ancient Valyria), Byzantine "Greek fire" ("wildfire"), Icelandic sagas of the Viking Age (the Ironborn), the Mongol hordes (the Dothraki), and elements from the Hundred Years' War (1337–1453) and the Italian Renaissance (c. 1400–1500). The series' great popularity has been attributed in part to Martin's skill at fusing these disparate elements into a seamless whole that appears credible on its own terms as an alternative history.
Cast and characters
Like the novels it adapts, Game of Thrones has a sprawling ensemble cast, estimated to be the largest on television. During the production of the third season, 257 cast names were recorded. In 2014, several of the actors' contracts were renegotiated to include the option for a seventh season, and included raises that reportedly made the cast among the best-paid on cable TV. 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.
Lord Eddard "Ned" Stark (Sean Bean) is the head of House Stark, whose members are involved in most of the series' intertwined plot lines. He and his wife, Catelyn Tully (Michelle Fairley), have five children: Robb (Richard Madden) is the eldest, followed by Sansa (Sophie Turner), Arya (Maisie Williams), Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) and Rickon (Art Parkinson) who is the youngest. 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 Wildlings living north of the Wall include the warriors Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) and Ygritte (Rose Leslie), as well as the young Gilly (Hannah Murray).
People associated with House Stark include Ned's ward, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen), as well as Ned's vassal, Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton), and his bastard son, Ramsay Snow (Iwan Rheon). Robb falls in love with the healer Talisa Maegyr (Oona Chaplin), and Arya befriends blacksmith's apprentice Gendry (Joe Dempsie) and the assassin Jaqen H'ghar (Tom Wlaschiha). The tall warrior Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) serves Catelyn and, later, Sansa.
In the capital of King's Landing, Ned's old friend, King Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy), shares a loveless marriage with 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 dwarf Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), who is attended by his mistress, Shae (Sibel Kekilli), and the sellsword Bronn (Jerome Flynn). Cersei's father is Lord Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance). Cersei also has two young sons: Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) and Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman). Joffrey 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 Lord Varys (Conleth Hill), the eunuch spymaster. 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 primarily represented at court by Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer). Also present in King's Landing is the religious leader the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce). In the southern principality of Dorne, Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma) seeks vengeance against the Lannisters.
Across the Narrow Sea, siblings Viserys (Harry Lloyd) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) – the exiled children of the last king from the original ruling dynasty that was 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. Her retinue includes the exiled knight Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen); her aide, Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel); and the sellsword Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman).
Conception and development
In January 2006, George R. R. Martin's literary agent sent the first four books of A Song of Ice and Fire to David Benioff after a phone conversation between Benioff and the agent about the books he represented. Benioff read a few hundred pages of the first novel, A Game of Thrones, and shared his excitement with D. B. Weiss, suggesting that they adapt Martin's novels into a television series, and Weiss finished the thousand-page novel in "maybe 36 hours". They successfully pitched the series to HBO after persuading 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 they won Martin over with their answer to his question, "Who is Jon Snow's mother?"
The series began development in January 2007. HBO acquired the TV rights to the novels, with Benioff and Weiss acting as the executive producers of the series. The intention for the series was that each novel would cover a season's worth of episodes. Initially, Benioff and Weiss were to write every episode, save one per season, which Martin (who also joined as a co-executive producer) would write. Jane Espenson and Bryan Cogman were later added to each write one episode of the first season.
The first and second drafts of the pilot script, written by Benioff and Weiss, were submitted in August 2007, and June 2008, respectively. While HBO found both drafts to their liking, a pilot was not ordered until November 2008, with the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike possibly delaying the process. The pilot episode was first shot in 2009, however, it was poorly received in a private viewing, and HBO also demanded extensive re-shoot. About 90 percent of the pilot had to be re-shot, which involved some cast changes and a different director.
The pilot reportedly cost HBO between US$5 and 10 million, and the total budget for the first season had been estimated at US$50–60 million. In the second season, the show obtained a 15% budget increase to depict the climactic battle in the episode "Blackwater", which had a budget of US$8 million. Between 2012 and 2015, the average episode's budget grew from US$6 million to "at least" 8 million. The budget for the sixth season was over $10 million per episode, totaling over $100 million for the full season and setting a new high for the series.
The main cast was put together through a process of auditions and readings. The only exceptions to this were Peter Dinklage and Sean Bean, whom the writers wanted from the start and were announced to join the pilot in 2009. Other actors signed on for the pilot were Kit Harington in the role of Jon Snow, Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon, Harry Lloyd as Viserys Targaryen, and Mark Addy as Robert Baratheon. At the beginning of August 2009, it was revealed that Catelyn Stark would be portrayed by Jennifer Ehle, but was later recast, with Michelle Fairley replacing her. Later, it was also confirmed that Emilia Clarke would replace Tamzin Merchant as Daenerys Targaryen. The rest of the cast was filled out in the second half of the year, and included Charles Dance as Tywin Lannister, Aidan Gillen as Petyr 'Littlefinger' Baelish, and Conleth Hill as Varys.
Although a large portion of the first season cast were set to return, the producers were still faced with a huge number of new characters to be cast for the second season. Because of this, Benioff and Weiss not only postponed the introduction of several key characters, but they also merged some into one, or certain plot-functions were given to different characters. Regardless of these changes, the cast of Game of Thrones is estimated to be the largest on television.
A Song of Ice and Fire author George R. R. Martin wrote one episode in each of the first four seasons, but has not written an episode for the fifth or sixth seasons, as Martin wants to focus on completing the sixth novel, The Winds of Winter. Jane Espenson co-wrote one episode for the first season as a freelance writer.
Bryan Cogman, who initially was a script coordinator for the series, was promoted to a producer beginning with the fifth season. Cogman wrote at least one episode for the first five seasons, and is currently the only other writer to be in the writers' room with Benioff and Weiss. Before Cogman's promotion, Vanessa Taylor, who was a writer during the second and third seasons, worked closely with Benioff and Weiss. Dave Hill joined the writing staff for the fifth season, having previously worked as an assistant to Benioff and Weiss. Martin is not in the writers' room, but reads the script outlines and gives notes.
Benioff and Weiss sometimes assign various characters to each writer. For example, Cogman was assigned to Arya Stark for the fourth season. From there, the writers spend a few weeks writing a character outline, including what material from the novels to use and what the overarching themes are. After these individual outlines are complete, the writers spend another two to three weeks discussing each main character's individual arc and arranging them episode-by-episode.
From there, a detailed outline is created, with each of the writers working on a portion in order to create a script for each episode. Cogman, who wrote two episodes for the fifth season, took a month and a half to complete both scripts. The scripts are then read by Benioff and Weiss, who give notes, and then parts of script are rewritten. All ten episodes are written before filming begins, as all the episodes are filmed simultaneously, out of order, and using two separate units in different countries.
Benioff and Weiss intend to adapt the entirety of the still-incomplete A Song of Ice and Fire novel series to TV. After Game of Thrones began outpacing the published novels in the sixth season, the series was based on an outline of the plot of the future novels provided by Martin, in addition to original content. In April 2016, the showrunners' plan was to shoot 13 more episodes after the sixth season: seven episodes in the seventh season and six episodes in the eighth. Later in April 2016, the series was renewed for a seventh season with a seven episode order.
As of 2016, seven seasons have been ordered and six have been filmed, adapting the novels at a rate of about 0.8 minutes per page for the first three seasons.
|Season||Ordered||Filming||First aired||Last aired||Novel(s) adapted|
|Season 1||March 2, 2010||Second half of 2010||April 17, 2011||June 19, 2011||A Game of Thrones|
|Season 2||April 19, 2011||Second half of 2011||April 1, 2012||June 3, 2012||A Clash of Kings and some early chapters from A Storm of Swords|
|Season 3||April 10, 2012||Second half of 2012||March 31, 2013||June 9, 2013||About the first two-thirds of A Storm of Swords|
|Season 4||April 2, 2013||Second half of 2013||April 6, 2014||June 15, 2014||The remaining one-third of A Storm of Swords and some elements from A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons|
|Season 5||April 8, 2014||Second half of 2014||April 12, 2015||June 14, 2015||A Feast for Crows, A Dance with Dragons and original content, with some late chapters from A Storm of Swords and elements from The Winds of Winter|
|Season 6||April 8, 2014||Second half of 2015||April 24, 2016||June 26, 2016||Original content and outlined from The Winds of Winter, with some late elements from A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons|
|Season 7||April 21, 2016||Second half of 2016||Mid-2017||Mid-2017||Original content and outlined from The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring|
Seasons 1 and 2 each adapted one novel. For the later seasons, the creators see Game of Thrones as an adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire as a whole, rather than of the individual novels. This gives them the liberty to move events back and forth across novels according to the requirements of the screen adaptation.
The six seasons filmed so far each consist of ten episodes, with an average runtime of 55 minutes per episode. The series' pilot and every season finale, bar the first, run for more than an hour apiece.
Principal photography for the first season was scheduled to begin on July 26, 2010. The primary location was the Paint Hall Studios in Belfast, Northern Ireland. 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). Doune Castle in Stirling, Scotland, was also used in the original pilot episode for exterior and interior scenes at Winterfell. The producers initially considered shooting the whole series in Scotland, but eventually chose Northern Ireland because of the availability of studio space.
The first season's southern scenes were filmed in Malta, a change in location from the sets in Morocco used for the pilot episode. The city of Mdina was used for scenes in King's Landing. 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).
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 walled medieval city on the coast. The Walls of Dubrovnik and of Fort Lovrijenac were used for scenes in King's Landing and the Red Keep. The island of Lokrum, the St. Dominic monastery in the coastal town 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 Vatnajökull glacier near Smyrlabjörg, the Svínafellsjökull glacier near Skaftafell, and the Mýrdalsjökull glacier near Vik on Höfðabrekkuheiði.
For the third season, the production returned to Dubrovnik, Croatia. The Walls of Dubrovnik, Fort Lovrijenac, and nearby locations were used for scenes in King's Landing and the Red Keep. One new location, Trsteno Arboretum, is the garden of the Tyrells in King's Landing. The third season also returned to Morocco (previously used in the pilot episode), including the city of Essaouira, to film Daenerys' scenes in Essos. Dimmuborgir and the Grjótagjá cave in Iceland were used. One scene featuring a live bear was filmed in Los Angeles. The production employed three units ("Dragon", "Wolf", and "Raven") filming in parallel, six directing teams, 257 cast members, and 703 crew members.
The fourth season returned to Dubrovnik and included new locations in Croatia, such as 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. Thingvellir National Park in Iceland was used as the location for the fight between Brienne and The Hound. Filming took 136 days and ended on November 21, 2013.
Each 10-episode season of Game of Thrones employs between four and six directors, of which usually direct back-to-back episodes. Alex Graves, David Nutter, and Alan Taylor have directed the most episodes of the series, with six each. Daniel Minahan has directed five episodes, while Michelle MacLaren, Mark Mylod, Jeremy Podeswa, Alik Sakharov, and Miguel Sapochnik have directed four each. Brian Kirk directed three episodes for the first season and Tim Van Patten directed the first two episodes of the series. Neil Marshall has directed two episodes, both of which are episodes featuring large battle sequences: "Blackwater" and "The Watchers on the Wall". Other directors have been Jack Bender, David Petrarca, Daniel Sackheim, and Michael Slovis. Matt Shakman will direct at least one episode of the upcoming seventh season. Series creators and showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss have also directed an episode each.
Alik Sakharov was the cinematographer for the pilot. The series has had multiple cinematographers over the course of the series. The series has received seven Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series nominations.
Oral Norrey Ottey, Frances Parker, Martin Nicholson, Crispin Green, Tim Porter, and Katie Weiland are the six editors that have worked on the series, each for a various number of episodes. Weiland received a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Drama Series in 2015.
The costumes are inspired by many cultures, such as Japanese and Persian. Dothraki outfits resemble the Bedouin's (one was made out of fish skins to resemble dragon scales), while the Wildlings wear animal skins inside out like the Inuit. Wildling bone armor is made of molds taken of real bones and assembled with string and latex resembling catgut. While extras who portray Wildlings and the Night's Watch often wear hats, as would be normal in a cold climate, main actors usually do not do so. This allows viewers to identify the characters. Björk's Alexander McQueen high-neckline dresses inspired Margaery Tyrell's funnel-neck outfit, while costumes of prostitutes are designed to be quickly and easily removed. All clothing, whether for Wildlings or for women at the royal court, is aged for two weeks to improve realism on high-definition television.
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 $7000 each, and are washed and styled like real hair. Applying the wigs is a lengthy process; Emilia Clarke, for example, requires about two hours to style her brunette hair with a platinum-blonde wig and braids. Other actors, such as Jack Gleeson and Sophie Turner, receive frequent hair coloring. For characters such as Daenerys (Clarke) and her Dothraki, hair, wigs, and costumes are processed so they appear as if they have not been washed for weeks.
Michele Clapton served as the costume designer for the first five seasons before being replaced by April Ferry. Michele Clapton will return to the show as costume designer for the seventh season, after spending some time away from the show in the sixth season.
For the first three seasons, Paul Engelen was the main makeup designer and prosthetic makeup artist on Game of Thrones, alongside Melissa Lackersteen, Conor O'Sullivan, and Rob Trenton. At the onset of the fourth season, Engelen's team was replaced by Jane Walker and her crew, which is composed of Ann McEwan and Barrie and Sarah Gower.
For the large amount of visual effects in the series, HBO hired Britain-based BlueBolt and Ireland-based Screen Scene for season one. Most of the environment builds were done as 2.5D projections. This was done to give the viewer a good sense of perspective while also keeping the amount of programming from becoming overwhelming. In 2011, the season one finale, "Fire and Blood", was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Visual Effects.
Because the effects became more complex in the subsequent seasons, including CGI creatures, fire, and water, Germany-based Pixomondo was recruited to take over visual effects. Starting with the second season, Pixomondo served as lead VFX producer. For season two, nine of its twelve facilities contributed to the project, with Stuttgart serving as the lead. Additionally, some scenes were produced by Britain-based Peanut FX, Canada-based Spin VFX, and U.S.-based Gradient Effects. The episodes "Valar Morghulis" and "Valar Dohaeris" earned Pixomondo the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Visual Effects in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
For season four, HBO added Mackevision, also based in Germany, to the project. The season four finale "The Children" won the Emmy Award for Visual Effects in 2014. Additional producers for season four included Canada-based Rodeo FX, Germany-based Scanline VFX, and U.S.-based BAKED FX. The muscle and wing movements of the adolescent dragons in seasons 4 and 5 were based largely on those of a chicken. Pixomondo retained a team of 22 to 30 people that focused solely on the visualization of Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons, with the average production time per season ranging between 20 and 22 weeks. For the fifth season, HBO also added Canada-based Image Engine and U.S.-based Crazy Horse Effects to its list of main VFX producers.
In a method that is unorthodox for a television series, the sound team receives a rough-cut of a full season to work on, and they approach it like a ten-hour feature film. Seasons 1 and 2 each had a different sound team, but for the subsequent seasons, the same team has been in charge of sound. For the show's blood and gore sounds, the sound team often uses a shammy. For dragon screams, they have used the sounds of two tortoises mating, as well as dolphin, seal, lion, and bird sounds.
The series' title sequence was created by production studio Elastic for HBO. Creative director Angus Wall and his collaborators received the 2011 Primetime Emmy Award for Main Title Design for their work on the sequence. It depicts a three-dimensional map of the series' fictional world. The map is projected onto the inside of a sphere, which is centrally lit by a small sun that is contained within an armilla. As the camera moves across the map and focuses on locations in which the episode's events take place, clockwork mechanisms intertwine and allow buildings and other structures to emerge from the map. 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 composition of the title sequence changes as the story progresses; as new locations are introduced, they replace others that no longer feature as prominently or at all.
The Westerosi characters of Game of Thrones speak British English, often (but not consistently) with the accent of the English region whose geographic location corresponds to the character's Westerosi region. For instance, Eddard Stark, as Warden of the North, speaks in actor Sean Bean's native northern accent, while the southern lord Tywin Lannister speaks with a southern accent. Characters foreign to Westeros are often, but not always, played with a non-British accent.
While English is used to convey the common language of Westeros, the producers charged linguist David J. Peterson with constructing the Dothraki and Valyrian languages based on the few words used in the novels. All Dothraki or Valyrian dialogue is subtitled in English. The BBC estimated that, throughout the series, these fictional languages were heard by more people than the Welsh, Irish and Scots Gaelic languages combined.
Effect on location
Game of Thrones receives funding from Northern Ireland Screen, a UK government agency financed by Invest NI and the European Regional Development Fund. As of April 2013, Northern Ireland Screen has awarded the show £9.25 million ($14.37 million), which, according to government estimates, has benefited the Northern Ireland economy by £65 million ($100.95 million).
Tourism Ireland has a Game of Thrones-themed marketing campaign, similar to New Zealand's Tolkien-related advertising. Invest NI and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board also expect the series to generate tourism revenue. According to Arlene Foster, the series has given Northern Ireland the most publicity in its history, outside of politics and the Troubles. The production of Game of Thrones and other TV series also provided a boost to the creative industry in Northern Ireland, contributing to an estimated growth of 12.4% in arts, entertainment, and recreation jobs between 2008 and 2013, as opposed to 4.3% in the whole of the UK in the same timespan.
Tourism organizations in other filming locations reported notable increases in bookings after their locations appeared in Game of Thrones. In 2012, bookings through LateRooms.com increased by 28% in Dubrovnik, Croatia, and by 13% in Iceland. In 2013, bookings increased by 100% in Ouarzazate, Morocco, the filming location of Daenerys' season 3 scenes.
Game of Thrones is broadcast by HBO in the United States, and through its local subsidiaries or other pay TV services in other countries, either at the same time as in the U.S., or some weeks or months later. The series' broadcast in China on CCTV began in 2014 and was heavily edited to remove scenes of sex and violence. This is in accordance with a Chinese practice of censoring western TV series in order to prevent what the People's Daily refers to as "negative effects and hidden security dangers". This resulted in viewer complaints about the incoherence of what remained of the series.
Broadcasters carrying Game of Thrones include Showcase in Australia; HBO Canada, Super Écran, and Showcase in Canada; SoHo and Prime in New Zealand; and Sky Atlantic in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
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 box set also includes extra background and behind-the-scenes material, but no deleted scenes, as nearly all the footage shot for the first season was used in the show. The box set sold over 350,000 units within 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. A "collector's edition" of the box set was released in November 2012. It combined the DVD and Blu-ray versions of the first season and also included the first episode of season two. A paperweight in the mold of a dragon egg is also included in the set.
DVD/Blu-ray box sets and digital downloads of the second season were made available on February 19, 2013. First-day sales again broke HBO records, with 241,000 box sets sold and 355,000 episodes downloaded.
The third season was made available for purchase as a digital download on the Australian iTunes Store parallel to the U.S. premiere. The third season was released on DVD and Blu-ray in region 1 on February 18, 2014.
The fourth season was released on DVD and Blu-ray on February 17, 2015.
The fifth season was released on Blu-ray and DVD on March 15, 2016.
Game of Thrones is notorious for being widely pirated, mainly outside the U.S. File-sharing news website TorrentFreak estimated Game of Thrones to be the most-pirated TV series every year since 2012. Illegal downloads grew to about 7 million in the first quarter of 2015, up 45% from 2014. One unnamed episode was downloaded about 4,280,000 times through public BitTorrent trackers in 2012, about equal to the number of broadcast viewers. Piracy rates were particularly high in Australia. This led Jeff Bleich, U.S. Ambassador to Australia, to issue a public statement condemning Australian piracy of the series in 2013.
The delays in availability outside of HBO or its affiliates encountered prior to 2015 and the cost of subscriptions to these services have been pointed to as causes of the series' widespread illegal distribution. According to TorrentFreak, if somebody were to subscribe to a service exclusively for Game of Thrones, the cost ranges up to 25 dollars per month in the United States, up to 26 pounds per episode in the UK, and up to 52 dollars per episode in Australia.
Viewing it as essential for "combating piracy", in 2013, HBO said it intended to make its content more widely available within a week of the U.S. premiere, including through HBO Go. In 2015, the fifth season was simulcast to 170 countries, as well as HBO Now users. However, on April 11, 2015, the day before the season premiere, screener copies of the first four episodes of the fifth season leaked to numerous file-sharing websites. Within the first day after the leak, the files had been downloaded over 800,000 times, and in just one week the figure reached a total of 32 million in illegal downloads, with the season five premiere, "The Wars to Come", pirated 13 million times alone. The season five finale, "Mother's Mercy", was the most simultaneously shared file in the history of the BitTorrent filesharing protocol, with over 250,000 simultaneous sharers and over 1.5 million downloads within 8 hours. For the sixth season, HBO did not send out screeners to the press in order to prevent the spread of unlicensed copies and possible spoilers.
Observers, including series director David Petrarca and Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes, said illegal downloads did not hurt the series' prospects, as it benefited from the resulting "buzz" and social commentary, while the high rates of piracy did not significantly translate to lost subscriptions. According to Polygon, HBO's relatively relaxed attitude towards piracy and sharing login credentials amounted to a "free-to-play" model for premium television. At a debate at the Oxford Union in 2015, series co-creator David Benioff stated he was just glad people watch the show. He claimed that the illegally downloaded copies of the show sometimes captivate viewers enough to make them buy a copy of the show later on, especially in countries where the show does not officially air on television. His co-creator D. B. Weiss responded with more mixed feelings, saying the show costs a lot of money to produce and "if it doesn't make the money back, then it ceases to exist". He did, however, note his pleasure that so many people "enjoy the show so much they can't wait to get their hands on it." In 2015, Guinness World Records named Game of Thrones the most pirated television program.
Beginning January 23, 2015, the last two episodes of season four were shown in 205 IMAX theaters across the United States. Game of Thrones is the first TV series released in this format. The show earned $686,000 in its opening day at the box office, and $1.5 million during its opening weekend. The one-week release grossed $1,896,092.
Reception and achievements
Game of Thrones was highly anticipated by fans before its premiere. It has since become a critical and commercial success. According to The Guardian, by 2014 it had become both "the biggest drama" and "the most talked about show" on television.
Although the series was dismissed by some critics prior to being aired on account of its genre trappings, its subsequent success has been credited with an increased popularity of fantasy themes and mainstream acceptance of the fantasy fandom. On the eve of the second season's premiere, CNN.com wrote, "After this weekend, 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 the Harry Potter films, that have established fantasy as a lucrative mass market genre and serve as "gateway drugs to fantasy fan culture". The series' success in overcoming prejudices against fantasy was attributed by writers to a general longing for escapism in popular culture, the series' frequent use of female nudity, and its skill in balancing light-hearted and serious topics – for example, dragons and politics – that allowed it to claim the sort of prestige enjoyed by conventional top-tier drama series.
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. 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. 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.
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. "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. 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. Some examples include the court battles about U.S. healthcare legislation, the Syrian civil war, and power struggles in the Chinese government.
Khaleesi has become a popular name for baby girls in the United States. In the books and the TV series, the word means "queen" in Dothraki, and is a title held by the character Daenerys Targaryen.
Game of Thrones has received widespread critical acclaim, though its frequent use of nudity and violence has garnered criticism. All seasons were listed on several yearly "best of" lists published by U.S. media, such as the Washington Post (2011), TIME (2011 and 2012) and The Hollywood Reporter (2012). Seasons 2 through 5 obtained a Metacritic rating of 90 or more, which the website rates "universal acclaim". It has a 94% "Fresh" rating on average for all six seasons on Rotten Tomatoes, with the first season receiving 90%, the second season receiving 96%, the third season receiving 97%, the fourth season receiving 96%, the fifth season receiving 95% and the sixth season receiving 94%. 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.
The performances of the large and predominantly British and Irish cast have been widely praised. American actor Peter Dinklage's "charming, morally ambiguous, and self-aware" 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 Mary McNamara of the L.A. Times, even before his character became the series' most central figure in season two. Several critics highlighted the performances of the women and child actors. 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.
Reviewing the first season, critics noted the high production values, the well-realized world, and the compelling characters. Variety wrote "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."
The second season was also well received by critics. Entertainment Weekly praised the "vivid, vital, and just plain fun" storytelling, and The Hollywood Reporter said the show made a "strong case for being one of TV's best series", its seriousness making it the only drama comparable to shows such as Mad Men or Breaking Bad. 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.
The third season was very well received by critics. Metacritic gave the season a score of 91 out of 100, indicating "universal acclaim". On Rotten Tomatoes, it has a rating of 97% with an average score of 8.4 out of 10 based on 44 reviews.
The fourth season was very well received by critics. Metacritic gave the season a score of 94 out of 100 based on 29 reviews, signifying "universal acclaim". On Rotten Tomatoes, all episodes obtained 91% or more positive reviews. It has a 97% rating based on 50 reviews for the season as a whole.
The fifth season was also very well received by critics. On Metacritic, the season has a score of 91 out of 100 based on 29 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim". On Rotten Tomatoes, it has a rating of 95% with an average score of 8.7 out of 10 based on 52 reviews.
The sixth season (based on the first episode) was also very well received by critics. On Metacritic, the season has a score of 73 out of 100 based on 9 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews". On Rotten Tomatoes, it has a rating of 94% with an average score of 8.4 out of 10 based on 30 reviews.
Use of sex and violence
Despite its otherwise enthusiastic reception by critics, Game of Thrones has been criticized for the amount of female nudity, violence, and sexual violence against women it depicts, and for the manner in which it depicts these themes. The Atlantic called the series' "tendency to ramp up the sex, violence, and—especially—sexual violence" of the source material "the defining weakness" of the adaptation.
The amount of sex and nudity in the series, especially in scenes that are incidental to the plot, was the focus of much of the criticism aimed at the series in its first and second seasons. Stephen Dillane, who portrays Stannis Baratheon, likened the series' frequent explicit scenes to "German porn from the 1970s". 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. 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' faux-medieval setting, which made these scenes alienating to other viewers. The Huffington Post's Maureen Ryan likewise noted that Game of Thrones mostly presented women naked, rather than men, and that the excess of "random boobage" undercut any aspirations the series might have to address the oppression of women in a feudal society. Saturday Night Live parodied this aspect of the adaptation in a sketch that portrayed the series as retaining a thirteen-year-old boy as a consultant whose main concern was showing as many breasts as possible.
In the third season, which saw Theon Greyjoy lengthily tortured and eventually emasculated, the series was also criticized for its use of torture. New York magazine called the scene "torture porn." Madeleine Davies of Jezebel agreed, saying, "it's not uncommon that Game of Thrones gets accused of being torture porn — senseless, objectifying violence combined with senseless, objectifying sexual imagery." According to Davies, although the series' violence tended to serve a narrative purpose, Theon's torture in "The Bear and the Maiden Fair" was excessive.
A scene in the fourth season's episode "Breaker of Chains", in which Jaime Lannister rapes his sister and lover Cersei, triggered a broad public discussion about the series' depiction of sexual violence against women. According to Dave Itzkoff of the New York Times, the scene caused outrage, in part because of comments by director Alex Graves that the scene became "consensual by the end". Itzkoff also wrote that critics fear that "rape has become so pervasive in the drama that it is almost background noise: a routine and unshocking occurrence". Sonia Saraiya of The A.V. Club wrote that the series' choice to portray this sexual act, and a similar one between Daenerys Targaryen and Khal Drogo in the first season – both described as consensual in the source novels – as a rape appeared to be an act of "exploitation for shock value". George R. R. Martin responded that rape and sexual violence are common in war, and that omitting them from the narrative would have undermined one of his novels' themes: that "the true horrors of human history derive not from orcs and Dark Lords, but from ourselves."
In the fifth season's episode "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken", Sansa Stark is raped by Ramsay Bolton. Most reviewers, including those from Vanity Fair, Salon, The Atlantic, and The Daily Beast, found the scene gratuitous and artistically unnecessary. For example, Joanna Robinson, writing for Vanity Fair, said that the scene "undercuts all the agency that’s been growing in Sansa since the end of last season." In contrast, Sara Stewart of The New York Post wondered why viewers were not similarly upset about the many background and minor characters who'd undergone similar or worse treatment. In response to the scene, pop culture website The Mary Sue announced that it would cease coverage of the series because of the repeated use of rape as a plot device. Some prominent viewers, including U.S. senator Claire McCaskill, also announced that they would stop watching the series.
A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones have an exceptionally broad and active international fan base. In 2012, Vulture ranked the series' fandom as the most devoted in popular culture, ahead of Lady Gaga's, Justin Bieber's, Harry Potter's or Star Wars'. Fans include political leaders such as U.S. President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, and Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans, who, in a 2013 speech, framed challenges of European politics in terms of quotes from Martin's novels.
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, Game of Thrones-themed burlesque routines, or people naming their children after characters from the series: In 2012, "Arya" was the fastest-rising girl's name in popularity in the U.S., jumping from 711th to 413th position. Writers cited by the BBC attributed this success to the rich detail, moral ambiguity, sexual explicitness, and epic scale of the series and novels.
As of 2013, about 58 percent of viewers were male and 42 percent were female, and the average male viewer was 41 years old. 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' 2.9 million Facebook fans were talking online about the series in 2012, compared to 1.8% of the ten million-plus fans of HBO's other fantasy series, True Blood.
Among the many fan sites dedicated to the TV and novel series, Vulture noted in particular Westeros.org and WinterIsComing.net (which provide news reports and discussion forums), ToweroftheHand.com (which organizes communal readings of the novels), and Podcastoficeandfire.com. There are also many podcasts covering the series.
Awards and accolades
The first season of Game of Thrones was nominated for thirteen awards at the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Drama Series. It won two: Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, given to Peter Dinklage for his portrayal of Tyrion Lannister, and Outstanding Main Title Design. Other notable nominations included Outstanding Writing ("Baelor") and Outstanding Directing ("Winter Is Coming"). Dinklage was also named Best Supporting Actor by the Golden Globes, the Scream Awards, and the Satellite Awards.
In 2012, the second season won six Creative Arts Emmy Awards with 11 total nominations, including Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Supporting Actor (Dinklage). The third season received 16 Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Supporting Actor (Dinklage), Outstanding Supporting Actress (Emilia Clarke), Outstanding Guest Actress (Diana Rigg) and Outstanding Writing ("The Rains of Castamere"). The fourth season won a total of four Creative Arts Emmy Awards, with a total of 19 nominations, including Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Supporting Actor (Dinklage), Outstanding Supporting Actress (Lena Headey), Outstanding Guest Actress (Rigg), Outstanding Writing ("The Children") and Outstanding Directing ("The Watchers on the Wall").
In 2015, it set a record for winning the most Emmy Awards for a series in a single year, with the fifth season winning 12 out of 24 nominations, including Outstanding Drama Series; nominations included Outstanding Supporting Actor (Dinklage), Outstanding Supporting Actress (Clarke and Headey), Outstanding Guest Actress (Rigg), Outstanding Writing ("Mother's Mercy") and Outstanding Directing ("Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken" and "Mother's Mercy").
In 2016, the series received the most nominations for the 68th Primetime Emmy Awards, with 23 nominations. Among the nominations, include Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Supporting Actor (Dinklage and Kit Harington), Outstanding Supporting Actress (Clarke, Headey and Maisie Williams), Outstanding Guest Actor (Max von Sydow), Outstanding Writing ("Battle of the Bastards") and Outstanding Directing ("The Door" and "Battle of the Bastards").
Overall, Game of Thrones has won 193 industry awards and has been nominated for 538.
The first season of Game of Thrones had an average of 2.5 million viewers for its first Sunday night screenings and an average gross audience of 9.3 million viewers per episode, including all repeats and on-demand viewings. For its second season, the series had an average gross audience of 11.6 million viewers. The third season was watched by 14.2 million, making Game of Thrones the second most-viewed HBO series after The Sopranos. In the fourth season, HBO said that its average gross audience of 18.4 million viewers, later adjusted to 18.6 million, had beaten The Sopranos for the record. By the sixth season, the average gross viewing figure per episode had grown to over 25 million, with nearly 40% of viewers watching this season on HBO digital platforms. Similarly, the show broke records on pay television channels in the United Kingdom with an average audience of more than 5 million across all platforms in 2016, and in Australia with a cumulative average audience of 1.2 million viewers.
The following graph shows viewer numbers for the first airings:
|Ep. 1||Ep. 2||Ep. 3||Ep. 4||Ep. 5||Ep. 6||Ep. 7||Ep. 8||Ep. 9||Ep. 10||Average|
Other media and products
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, was published by Varèse Sarabande in June 2011. Soundtrack albums for the subsequent seasons have also been published, featuring tracks performed by the bands The National, The Hold Steady, and Sigur Rós.
The series' instrumental title music has been covered numerous times. Lyrics were added for the first time in 2014, when "Weird Al" Yankovic performed a parody version during the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards. In March 2015, FORTE added lyrics based on High Valyrian text for an operatic performance and music video.
Thronecast: The Official Guide to Game of Thrones, a series of podcasts presented by Geoff Lloyd and produced by Koink, has been released on the Sky Atlantic website and the UK iTunes store during the series' run. A new podcast is released after each episode, featuring analysis and cast interviews. In 2014 and 2015, HBO commissioned two rap albums about the series, called Catch the Throne.
A companion book, Inside HBO's Game of Thrones (ISBN 978-1-4521-1010-3), written by series writer Bryan Cogman, was published on September 27, 2012. Over 192 pages, illustrated with concept art and behind-the-scenes photographs, the book covers the creation of the series' first two seasons, as well as its principal characters and families.
After the Thrones is a live aftershow in which hosts Andy Greenwald and Chris Ryan discuss episodes of the series. It airs on HBO Now on the Monday following each episode of the show's sixth season.
Merchandise and exhibition
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. Top-end merchandise includes Ulysse Nardin wristwatches for $10,500 and resin replicas of the Iron Throne for $30,000.
In 2013 and 2014, a traveling exhibition of costumes, props, armor and weapons from the series visited several major cities in Europe and the Americas.
The series has also inspired other works, including four video games based on the TV series and novels. 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.
Other works based on the series
The fall 2012 ready-to-wear collection by the fashion brand Helmut Lang was inspired by Game of Thrones. 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.
In 2013, Game of Thrones was notably parodied on the cover of Mad on April 30, 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. Two pornographic parodies of the series were also announced in 2013. The "One World Symphony" company announced, in 2014, a musical production based on television series including Game of Thrones. In 2015, the Under the Gun Theater of Chicago premiered Swarm of Spoilers, a parody show recapitulating the first four seasons of the TV series.
As of 2015, Sony Entertainment and Sony Max India were reported to develop a series inspired by Game of Thrones. Titled Rani Mahal (Queen's Paradise), it is to be set in the real-world British India of 1857 and will focus on the story of Daenerys Targaryen, played by Sakshi Tanwar.
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