On Sunday, I sat in my house staring blankly at my TV, not really sure what to watch. I was probably not alone in that, as a long-running staple of Sunday nights in the spring and summer came to a close just a week before.
“Game of Thrones” was one of the most popular shows in television history, and its conclusion wrapped up a series that has been on TV for nearly a decade. I believe I came on board around the end of the second season in 2012 when visiting a friend’s house.
I remember watching an impassioned speech by the character Catelyn Stark, and was immediately hooked. I headed home to watch the entirety of the first season and get caught up on the second before joining my friends again each Sunday for what became an ongoing pop-culture ritual for years to come.
The series first aired in April 2011, and was the adaptation of the “A Song of Ice and Fire” book series written by George R.R. Martin. The books themselves had a healthy following to begin with, and the show only increased the amount of people visiting the lands of Westeros and Essos.
“Game of Thrones” was able to attract a record viewership for HBO, and the show was widely praised for its acting, the complexity of its characters, its story and scope, as well as its production values. It would be hard to suggest a main character in the series, as the show and source material have a penchant for killing off main characters on a regular basis.
Those who had read the books saw themselves having an advantage over those who had not for the first five seasons of the show. Readers already knew which characters were going to live and which would die; they knew the big twists and tragedies before and were adequately prepared.
It was after the fifth season that the show began to forge its own path, as Martin has yet to complete the final books of the series. After that season, both book readers and fans of the show were on the same unfamiliar ground.
The series chronicles the violent struggles for power among the realm’s noble families for the Iron Throne, while other families fight for independence from it. The show begins with one family in particular, the Starks, and for the most part, follows those family members as they navigate the political intrigue involved with a disputed heir to the throne.
The show is full of characters – so many it is sometimes hard to keep track. There are so many noble houses with their own histories and motivations, and many viewers couldn’t help but gravitate toward the characters they loved the most.
On top of the political intrigue, the show featured a more than healthy dose of traditional fantasy. Throughout the entirety of the series, an ancient threat in the far north looms despite the political intrigue unfolding to the south, and yes, some dragons and magic for good measure.
As with most long-running and popular shows, audiences were split at the conclusion of the series, whose final season took on a strange format. While some felt that there should have been more time to flesh out some of the story lines, others were unhappy outright with how the series ended.
For me, I was pleasantly surprised, and I was happy with the ride that creators and showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff took everyone on since 2011. For those who were unhappy with how the show ended, they can probably find some measure of hope while waiting to see how Martin brings the series to a close in the books.
All in all, “Game of Thrones” was a great show that tackled an ambitious and intricate series of books. But beyond just being good television, the show was a good way to get together with friends each week in the spring and summer and spend time together, mutually invested in the fates of these characters and the beautifully detailed world they inhabited.
Whether or not HBO will conjure a new show to usurp “Game of Thrones” remains to be seen, although several so-called “successor shows” (HBO doesn’t want to call them prequels or spin-offs) are already in the works. A pilot for a possible series reportedly set before the events of “Game of Thrones” is expected to start shooting with Oscar-nominated actress Naomi Watts next month. Other scripts are likely to follow as well.
For me, there likely won’t be another show that captures and enthralls me in quite the same way.