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Game of Thrones - unpredictable fantasy tries to have its cake and eat it

As the fifth series of Game of Thrones hits our screens, Ken Olende looks at how the brutal world it depicts has attracted such a widespread following

Issue No. 2449

A scene from Game of Thrones

A scene from Game of Thrones (Pic: Flickr)


Game of Thrones has many fans who normally hate fantasies that are set in pseudo medieval worlds with dragons. 

Its fifth season begins this week, and the relationships between the characters promise to remain complex and subtle.

The world of the Seven Kingdoms has collapsed into civil war. Farms and forests are torn up by passing armies and raided by bandits.

This is an ancient society where the people appear insignificant in the ruins of a semi mythical past.

They assume that the wall in the north was built to keep out “wildling” raiders, not much greater threats they can barely imagine.

The vast cast allows it to concentrate on different people.

So at the end of the last series, the house of Lannister’s sympathetic dwarf son, Tyrion, killed his heartless father with a crossbow as he sat on the toilet. 

Meanwhile, Arya, the teenage daughter from the defeated house of Stark, has spent the past few seasons crossing a warzone to find her family. 

She finally gave up and set sail for a new life, possibly as an assassin.

Violence

This is a society defined by its violence and unpredictability.

Any character who looks set to come out on top is more likely to be betrayed and poisoned.

The violence for which the series is renowned is not simply gratuitous.

However, it does try to have its cake and eat it, particularly over sex. 

It rejoices in a range of strong female characters, but most end up naked at some point.

The TV series has expanded the use of sexual violence from the books it’s based on. This can be in quite unpleasant ways, even implying that rape can be acceptable.

It has a multiracial cast. But a plot line that sees a particularly Aryan princess conquer kingdoms and free the helpless and grateful slaves is uncomfortable.

Despite these faults it is better than most dramas without dragons. 

But it would be difficult for anyone who hasn’t followed the plot’s intricate tapestry to pick it up at this stage.

With the whole world in decline a neat ending seems ever more unlikely—no matter how long the series continues.

Game of Thrones—Season Five 
Sundays, 9pm 
Sky Atlantic
Out now

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Tue 14 Apr 2015, 16:52 BST
Issue No. 2449
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