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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Game of Thrones: recognisable history in a fantasy setting

Game of Thrones is, without a doubt, the best written of the TV dramas covered in this blog series, sitting comfortably at the top alongside Rome. Before the disgruntled outcries of ‘it’s fantasy, not historical drama!’ here are a few reasons why it deserves inclusion on this list:

a) Game of Thrones is an example of low, rather than high, fantasy. If you go in expecting singing dwarves and ethereal elves, you’ll be disappointed. Yes, there are brief glimpses of supernatural creatures and references to dragons, but for the most part this show is grounded in the context of a realistic world.

b) There are many references to history, both British and international. The story is set within seven rival kingdoms, akin to the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy. There’s a great wall in the North, similar to Hadrian’s but on a grander scale, devoted to keeping out hostiles. Medieval jousting takes place, along with the hunting of wild boars by kings. The author, George R. R. Martin, was inspired by the Wars of the Roses for his depictions of power struggles between various houses. And one character is clearly influenced by Genghis Khan.

c) The show is brilliantly written, full of drama and plot twists, and just as intriguing during the moments of quietness as it is during the spectacle. One of my favourite scenes in the first season involves Charles Dance discussing the merits of political manoeuvering with his son, a conversation which takes place while he skins a deer. It’s just two men chatting, but I was hooked on every word.