Why Game of Thrones is 2015’s best TV show

Maisie Williams as Arya Stark and Rory McCann as The Hound in season four of Game of Thrones
Maisie Williams as Arya Stark and Rory McCann as The Hound in season four of Game of Thrones
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WITH an all-star cast, breathtaking sets and jaw-dropping plot twists, it was no surprise when Game of Thrones won a record 12 prizes at the 67th Emmy Awards. But what makes this show stand above its competitors in a crowded TV marketplace?

Heavyweight cast

Even GoT cynics admit the quality of acting in the series is of a consistently high standard. The broad ensemble cast - estimated to be the largest on television, with more than 250 credited roles - is filled with such industry heavyweights as Charles Dance, Sean Bean and Peter Dinklage. It’s also made stars out of up-and-coming actors such as Kit Harrington and Maisie Williams. 

Big budget

A show as ambitious in scope as GoT does not come cheap. Producers HBO reportedly spent between $5-$10 million on the pilot episode, while the budget for the first season has been estimated as around $50-60 million. The cost of each episode is now around $6 million. Much of the budget is spent on filming the on-location shoots that characterise the series, with stunning backdrops in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Iceland and Morocco all being used to create the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos.

Political intrigue

Few other series lead their viewers into such a false sense of security. If you think you know a particular character, chances are they will soon do something that shatters your previous illusion. Questionable morals and unpredictable decision-making are the defining traits of GoT’s power-brokers. As the show’s title suggests, winning influence and dominating your enemies are the major motivations at work here. Politics is a messy and occasionally brutal business in the real world, which GoT gleefully reflects.

Nothing is sacred

No character is safe in Game of Thrones. There is none of the plot-armour that protects high-profile characters in other shows. Writers do not wait for season finales to bump off an individual previously considered vital. For every winner in this series, there are half a dozen losers - and not always the ones you expect. Given the immense popularity of GoT, its season finales provoke furious debate among fans. The end of season five proved particularly hard to bear for many. Without revealing any plot details, the cruel demise of a favourite character was viewed as one too many by some critics.

Nothing is hidden

GoT is written for an adult audience - extreme violence, lust and all-consuming rage are dealt with in often graphic detail. So regular are scenes of a sexual nature, a new term - sexposition - was coined by American critic Myles McNutt to define them. The show has provoked controversy over several plot lines involving sexual violence, which have been criticised by some fans and critics as gratuitous and lacking in appropriate sensitivity.