arts   |   pop culture

'Game of Thrones' became an entertainment juggernaut. But why?



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“Game of Thrones” has dominated popular culture since its release eight years ago, introducing viewers to a heart-pounding, hair-raising world of mythical beasts and political machinations.

It won 47 Emmy Awards so far has been nominated 128 times. It averaged 30.6 million viewers per episode in its seventh season, up from 2.5 million in season one, according to Variety.

“Game of Thrones” had the vision and the budget to bring dragons and White Walkers to life. But for all the show’s flashier fantasy elements, it remains rooted in strong emotional storytelling. Viewers became devoted to their favorite characters’ journeys and personal growth.

In the original “A Song of Ice and Fire” series and other supplemental books, George R.R. Martin wrote a sprawling history going back thousands of years for a fictional universe and created a tumultuous web of royal houses and personal relationships. History is an important part of “Game of Thrones.” The past affects the future and influences how characters think and interact.

Learning history takes time. The format of a television show lets “Game of Thrones” deliver important information at the show’s own pace, dropping shocking details such as Jon Snow’s parentage at the exact right moment.

That careful plotting is important to “Game of Thrones.” The show contains some of most impressive action scenes ever made, but it really thrives when it spends its time chronicling the characters’ political schemes and changing dynamics.

The show developed a reputation early on in its run for not being afraid to pull the rug out from under its characters. For viewers who had never read the book, Ned Stark seemed like the obvious protagonist of the series. His beheading in the penultimate episode of season one was shocking and raised the stakes of the show to a new level. In “Game of Thrones,” no one is safe.

For all of the fantasy elements of “Game of Thrones,” the actual story was always rooted in real emotion and believable character growth. Never knowing if their favorite character was going to survive the next episode excited viewers in a way few shows ever did. Dragons and gigantic battles will always draw people in, but the characters and the storytelling are what caused people to stay and become invested.

The precarious nature of the show also made fans bond together. “Game of Thrones” fan podcasts and YouTube channels poured over Martin’s books to find clues about Jon’s parents or the Night King’s origins. Each episode became a subject of intense online discussion, causing Twitter to compile data on users’ reactions to each episode including most mentioned characters and plot lines as well as most used emoji.

It also spawned dozens of memes.

“Game of Thrones” is a titan of pop culture. It elevated the television medium and fantasy genre to new heights. And while fans will be sad to see it go, they’ll still have the incredible community the show fostered. The watch of “Game of Thrones” has ended, but its impressive legacy is just getting started.

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