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How Game of Thrones became the most important show on television | Grantland

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The main character of Game of Thrones is Westeros itself, Andy Greenwald writes:

Though the Iron Throne remains in dispute, the show itself now reigns alone; with Breaking Bad winding down and The Walking Dead still scavenging for brains, Game of Thrones is peaking at the right moment, entering its prime just as its rivals begin to fade. Thanks to its voluminous source material, the show is unique in the way each season is able to build directly on what came before. Freed from the vagaries of network meddling or showrunner waffling, the sheer weight of the story — a millstone in lesser hands — is now an anchor. Even in our current cultural hothouse, where hyperbolic tweets are loosed like flaming arrows, Game of Thrones feels like it has finally and legitimately arrived. There are no more casual fans; to commit to the show now is to care deeply about the intricacies of succession rights and the proper formation of a khalasar. It took time, like winters in Westeros, but Game of Thrones has become cable television's signature phenomenon.

Thankfully, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss — proud survivors of both studio-mandated rewrite sessions and suburban Dungeons & Dragons marathons — know that you can polish your dice for only so long before you have to cast them. And so, in "Blackwater," the penultimate episode of Season 2, hours of story and untold millions of euros finally ignited like so much wildfire. Until then, I had been watching the show like Cersei Lannister at a dinner party: a drink in my hand, a bloodless smirk on my face. But all that time I thought I was keeping my distance — not only had I avoided George R.R. Martin's books, I could barely spell Qarth — it turns out I was actually sinking deeper. In "Blackwater" I was finally flooded with big-screen bombast that merited the bluster ofbackstabbing brothers and know-it-all Martin readers alike. It was an unblinking glimpse of the savagery that had lurked beneath every alliance made and promise broken in the battle-scarred Seven Kingdoms. When Ned Stark lost his head it taught audiences that no one, not even stars, are safe. When Blackwater Bay ignited it carried a different lesson: The main character of Game of Thrones is Westeros itself. And, before all is said and done, it will suffer more than Ned's neck ever did.

For those like me who had been stuck on the wall, deeply appreciative of the show's ambition but not emotionally engaged enough to go completely Wildling, the true gift of "Blackwater" wasn't that it rewarded our considerable investment with a long-awaited exclamation point. It was the slow-dawning realization that the inferno where Stannis's fleet used to be didn't mark the end of a story, it was merely the prelude to the greater conflagrations to come.

There's a lot more great stuff in the Grantland article.

Well worth a read.

Season 3 of Game of Thrones is going to be great.

It's the story that makes Game of Thrones so compelling:

The mostly British cast is uniformly unrecognizable outside of armor and/or filth but is also uniformly excellent. What calmed network nerves during midnight bouts of agita — Benioff and Weiss had never before written for television; Game of Thrones has arguably the biggest price tag and unquestionably the most direwolves of any series ever filmed — was the knowledge that the story, usually the most unpredictable part of any endeavor, was already established.

Compare and contrast with The Walking Dead:

David Benioff's initial pitch was for "The Sopranos in Middle Earth," and that's exactly what he's delivered, a widescreen epic as unafraid of nuance and depth as it is of nudity and gore. Interestingly, it's due to a lack of interest in the former that The Walking Dead — Thrones's closest comparison in terms of attempted TV fan service and sprawling source material — fails. 

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