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A Game of Thrones has taken over the kingdom. The mainstream HBO adaptation of the award-winning fantasy novel series, A Song of Ice and Fire written by George R.R. Martin was created by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss and premiered on HBO in the United States on April 17, 2011. Martin has meticulously crafted this phenomenon with such precision that every calculated move embraces and coerces at least 3 separate emotions every 15 minutes. Coupled with this, and HBO’s casting of easy on the eyes actors and actresses it’s not hard to see why this series has been nominated for 110 Emmy Awards, and sailed away with the win on 38 of those. A beautifully done mise en scene, ingenious writing, and powerful soundtrack composed by Ramin Djawadi expertly tangle together, elevating Game of Thrones to the top 5 of the most popular television shows to date.
Although it is primarily filmed at Titanic Studios in Belfast Ireland, it is the on location shots that catapults the series to the forefront of the line. Medieval scenes are constructed as the show’s creators brilliantly tease the eyes meandering the viewer through centuries old architecture and landscapes. The pilot episode begins setting the tone for much of the entire 6 seasons. Soft white snow falls from bleak skies painted in dull grays and blacks. As the audience anxiously awaits the rising of the iron gate, low rumblings and chains clink in an otherwise silent setting. The camera shot is low and angled up, depicting to the audience that at least one of the three faces on the other side of the gate is of some importance. Once the gate raises, we see three men on horseback. The outer two are holding torches and dressed in chainmail, one man’s head is covered with a dark hood, the other wearing what appears to be a knight’s coif. The middle man is draped in a heavy cloak, with fur wrapping his shoulders and neck. His head is bare. Immediately the audience is aware of the fact that he must be royalty. In the next scene, a high wide angled shot captures the vastness of the frozen scenery, as the men leave the sanctuary of the castle walls. Throughout the series, Game of Thrones establishes who’s who by the use of very distinct camera angles. Low, narrow angle shots establish the presence of small children and lower birthright. While the high, wide angle shots give the appearance of power.
The two main ingredients that makes Game of Thrones so enticing? Great characters and great stakes. The series writers showcase both beautifully. Each scene is tainted with the characters of that scenes own agendas, some of them unknowingly becoming sacrificial lambs at their own hand. As the scene ends in Season 1 Episode 7 Ned Stark, who in the previous episodes has proven himself to be a man full of honor and honesty, confronts Cersei Lannister about the inappropriate relationship she has with her brother, she tells him “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” The audience finds Ned to be the hero once again, while simultaneously a chilling fear grows of Cersei. In the following two episodes, the writers brilliantly weave through mounting betrayals, and the only thing that becomes clear is that the lines dangerously blur between right and wrong. At the end of episode 9, a now imprisoned Ned battles with his self but believes he is saving his daughters, so he gives a false “confession” of treason. Instead of being spared, he is beheaded in front of his family. For the first time, the HBO audience is forced to come to terms with the fact that no character, no matter how important is indestructible.
The main title sequence of Game of Thrones is beautifully Powerful scores comprised of a sweet soft piano accompanied by the rhythmatic pounding of drums, deep cellos and haunting violins composed by Ramin Djawadi for Game of Thrones complete the element of this series that you can hear, but cannot see. Djawadi has taken such pride in crafting the ambiance for Game of Thrones, each of the main houses have their own unique sequence.
Just when we think all is lost, and we’re not sure how we’ll go on, a short-lived redeeming moment is hand fed to us and we nuzzle up once again to have our soul crushed. It’s easy to become invested in the characters you have seen outsmart and outlive ruthless opponents. Gross curiosity and hope are our constant companions, but more often than not we’re left with our jaw hanging open and disbelief aching in our chest. So why do the masses keep tuning in if it’s filled to the brim with betrayal, catastrophe, sex, blood, death and confusion? Because we want to believe the hero will win. The ability that this series has to not only capture its audience completely, but to rip raw emotion from them as a consumer is nothing short of magnificent and all too deserving of the numerous accolades it has received.
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