How Game of Thrones Changed the TV Landscape Forever

How Game Of Thrones Changed The TV Landscape Forever

This is a guest post contribution by Advait Joshi.

101 Winter Is Coming

HBO

Game of Thrones.

It’s less a TV show and more a cultural phenomenon.

When dark fantasy was but a nascent genre with merely a sparse collection of titles to its name, George R.R. Martin penned the first book in his ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series: A Game of Thrones.

Game of Thrones has come a long way from that beginning.

It has spread over the entire world like a virus, completely disregarding geographical and cultural barriers.

From Iceland (where a lot of GoT scenes are filmed) to South Africa, millions of discrete individuals have metamorphosed into a single entity united by the pain, sadness, and brief moments of joy evoked by the heartbreaking series.

A New Format

With a few exceptions, most television series before Game of Thrones followed a simple and fixed format. One-hour shows broken into chunks separated by advertising.

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There were a few variations here and there, but by and large, this was the accepted format for television shows.

Emphasis was placed on a single character. Sometimes you’d see two protagonists, and sometimes you’d see a protagonist family.

Character development was practically non-existent for minor characters. They were doomed to an eternity of stagnation until the plot needed them to change…and then they changed.

However, Game of Thrones decided to go a different route.

If you’ve watched it, you’ll realize that the series is packaged less like a traditional television show and more like a feature film.

While the success of the Sopranos was the main reason that Game of Thrones went this way, the point remains. This style of filming was previously unheard of – especially when it came to television shows.

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HBO

And the beautiful thing is that it worked.

Character Development

As I already said earlier, Game of Thrones took a very holistic approach to character development.

Let’s take a look at another television show which falls loosely into the dark fantasy genre: Supernatural. Of course, both are very different series, and it’s next to stupid to compare them. In the context of this one example, however, I think that a valid comparison can be made.

Game of Thrones has dozens of major characters, and the audience has absolutely no idea which one of them is the protagonist (except perhaps long-term ASOIAF zealots).

This means that the show has to focus on all of the actors since even the most minor actor could find themselves in the limelight at any moment (case in point: Olly).

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HBO

Supernatural, on the other hand, focuses only on two brothers. Some time is devoted to their father and to other, minor characters, but the focus remains on the two main characters.

Not a perfect comparison, I know, but it does get the point across.

Scale

How many television shows with sprawling worlds and epic storylines had succeeded before Game of Thrones burst onto the scene?

Almost none.

You can point to shows like True Blood or The Vampire Diaries, but those two aren’t even close in scope to GoT.

In fact, there are a couple dozen series of that type that actually failed.

Spartacus and Rome are two examples that gained massive niche followings but were forced to shut down due to several complications.

GoT decided to ramp up the scale, and they continued doing so as the show progressed. Escalation followed escalation – with civilization-threatening monsters featuring as a counterpoint to petty power struggles.

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Morality

Game of Thrones and morality?

No way in hell those two go together, right?

Wrong!

George R.R. Martin brings together a set of individuals who do things differently, for different reasons.

He covers how right alone is not enough to bring about victory.

He asks philosophical questions about whether the end justifies the means. About whether madness is truly an excuse. About whether anyone is truly good.

He makes a point of commenting on the imperfection of humanity. Everyone, literally everyone, has their flaws.

Parallels

And above all, he draws parallels with the real world.

It’s easy for us, seated on our couches in our homes to scream with frustration at the ignorance of the feuding lords and ladies of Westeros.

They’re ignoring the greater threat while focusing on the petty things – pride, land, vengeance, etc.

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But isn’t that exactly what we are doing?

Climate change is wreaking havoc on our planet. We are devastating our planet.

And while we’re ignoring the greater threat, we’re focusing on the petty things – pride, land, vengeance, etc.

Come to think of it, we aren’t so different from the lords and ladies of Westeros.

And the one thing that we need to understand, the one question that we need to ask, is this.

What use is power when the world itself comes to an end?

Conclusion

Game of Thrones is the epitome of a new breed of television shows: huge budgets, complex story arcs, and elaborate storytelling.

This is a TV show that doesn’t pull any punches. It comes at you with fists flying from the moment you start watching it, and it continues attacking you mercilessly throughout the series.

From death to rape to torture, GoT covers all the darkest parts of human nature.

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And from literal resurrection to happiness to deliverance, GoT also covers all the brightest parts of human nature.

At its core, Game of Thrones is not only entertaining – although it definitely is – it’s also a thought-provoking and accurate portrayal of some of the deepest issues affecting human society today.

When you see something that you can relate to, you feel attached to it – even if it’s on a subconscious level.

And this attachment, this parallelism, is what has made GoT such a global phenomenon.

We all see ourselves in the characters on the show.

We all see our actions in the shades of gray portrayed on the show.

We see ourselves, stripped bare of pretense and ego, on that show.

And that is why the Game of Thrones evokes such poignancy.

Advait Joshi Writer

Advait Joshi is a freelance writer who loves anything to do with technology. If you don't find him working on his blog at rainthoughts.com, you'll probably find him wrapped up in his sheets reading a good, long novel.

(Last Updated On: August 28, 2017)
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