2 Beautiful Beheadings in 15 Minutes: The Allure of “Game of Thrones”

The following article was originally published on Patheos entertainment blog The Rogue on July 10, 2013.

From Geek Goes Rogue TV Editor Zach Lorton, who still thought Dragonheart was a pretty decent film:
“All right, you primitive screwheads, listen up.”
There are certain television shows that I stumble upon as they premier, and I enjoy way more than anyone else — “FlashForward” was a prime example.  Then there are those series that I just can’t get into.  I saw a few episodes of “Lost”, but it didn’t take.  I saw the first episode of “Glee”, said “I get it,” yet immediately knew I would never have to watch another episode.  Then there are other series that I discover after everyone else.  For instance, I never saw the reboot of “Battlestar Galactica” until earlier this year (for the record, it was one of the best series ever broadcast in the history of television, science fiction or not).  And I actually saw Serenity before I ever watched a single episode of “Firefly”.
I didn’t have cable until a few years ago.  I don’t subscribe to HBO or Showtime.  I don’t have a subscription to Hulu Plus, Netflix, or Redbox.  And there aren’t many series that I’ll buy or rent on DVD unless I know how compelling they are.

So… “Game of Thrones”.
I’ve always loved the King Arthur legend and stories that take place during medieval times.  There’s a draw to the stories of nobility, courage, bravery and savagery, especially for men.  They’re compelling to the point of wistfulness. But television could never capture the feel of the time nearly as realistically as film did.  For me and my friends, the wonderful nerds who listened to music filled with references of the time, many of whom played tabletop RPGs and read countless fantasy novels, the only place we could find that kind of quality was in the movies.
Until recently, everything I’ve heard about “Game of Thrones” was incidental — the violence, the nudity, Peter Dinklage.  I haven’t heard much about its starkness, its beauty, its pacing, or its production values.

A few days ago, I watched the first episode of the series online, and wow, what a beautiful show.  Seriously, that’s the one word that kept coming up with every new scene: “Beautiful.”

Isn’t this what television is supposed to do — fill us with awe through spectacle?  Dazzle our eyes and our senses?  It’s a fact that we are drawn to that which is pleasing to the eye, and beauty holds our attention more than almost anything else.  Consider the visuals in otherwise lacking television and movies:
The world of Pandora in Avatar…
The world of The Grid in Tron: Legacy
…and its superior counterpart, “Tron: Uprising”.
And every once in a while, SyFy fails to disappoint.
And from what I can gather after having seen only one episode, I completely understand the draw.  One gets the sense there is more beyond the initial story, and things can only get more and more complicated as the series progresses.  But aside from the spectacle, one thing stands out as the high point of quality that all television must aspire to — human interaction.
Like “Battlestar Galactica”, this is a human drama.  The interplay among characters is filled with all things that make us human — rage, fear, lust, hope, loyalty, betrayal.  For this reason above all others, “Game of Thrones” succeeds in ways that lesser series do not.  We feel the struggles of the characters, their desires, insecurities, and needs, and even through we live in different times, even different worlds, we can see how the events might play out in our own lives.
Is this what makes television so magnetic?  Does great escapism reflect our realism, or does realism give our escapism the power it needs to draw us in?
One thing’s for sure — I’ll be watching more of “Game of Thrones”.  No spoilers, please.
I would love to hear from you readers out there — what television shows have drawn you in?  What about them hooked you?  Leave a comment, let me know.
There Is No Box.