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Monday, August 02, 2021
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‘Game of Thrones’ is 10 years old and still worth watching despite its flaws

Looking back on the highs and lows of the award-winning series

Emilia Clarke played Daenerys Targaryen on 'Game of Thrones,' which celebrates its 10th anniversary today.
Emilia Clarke played Daenerys Targaryen on 'Game of Thrones,' which celebrates its 10th anniversary today.

This story does not contain spoilers.

Exactly one decade ago, the world was blessed with the release of the first episode of “Game of Thrones.”

The fantasy series told the story of the fictional continent Westeros and its seven kingdoms, which brewed with an assortment of  unforgettable characters, schemes and mythical creatures. Elevating HBO and even television itself to new heights, the show took full advantage of its TV-MA rating and premium cable home, featuring enough violence and sex to shock even the film director Martin Scorsese.

The series featured an ensemble cast that included Kit Harrington, Sophie Turner, Maisie Willaims, Leane Headey, Sean Bean, Peter Dinklage and Emilia Clarke. The show was so successful that it won 59 Emmys during its eight season run.

The series opens up in Winterfell, the ancestral castle of the Stark family, who preside over the Northern region of the continent. Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell (Sean Bean) is asked to become the King’s Hand, or advisor, following the sudden death of his predecessor, Jon Arryn. With this new position, he must leave his family and travel with his two daughters to Kings Landing — the central hub of royalty in Westeros — a city ripe with evil schemes and corrupt power.

But the true threat lies even further north than Winterfell, where a military order  known as the Night’s Watch guards “the wall” against  the Wildings –– the ‘free folk,’ who  don’t abide by the seven kingdoms  — and human ice monsters known as the White Walkers.

East of the continent lies Essos, where Daenerys Targaryen — the exiled daughter of the former “Mad King” —endures an arduous struggle to reclaim Westeros for her family, where she gets entangled with violent Dothraki nomads, massive armies and slave masters.

The show has some of the best acting , featuring an incredibly heartfelt performance from Peter Dinklage, as Tyrion Lannister. Lannister is the only semblance of good in his corrupt and powerful family; his massive character development and maintenance of his witty devil-may-care charm makes him a fan favorite.

The show contains some of the most expensive production ever brought to the small screen over eight seasons. It features elaborate battle scenes and cinematic shots filmed across Croatia, Spain and Iceland.

The show’s masterpiece of a soundtrack beautifully exemplifies how HBO pulled out all stops for the show, enlisting composer Ramin Djawadi to create an assortment of sounds that perfectly complement the series’ dialogue and visual aspects.

But of course, a show this successful was bound to fall into inconsistencies. The first four seasons were undoubtedly tremendous, but things changed at the end of season four, when the many storylines shifted aggressively and began to drag down the series. Even with some terrific character arcs through the first 10 episodes of the fourth season (and arguably the best sequence in the series’ history), it is not until the sixth season before the show begins to return to form, building on plot threads from the beginning of the series.  

But that success didn’t last.

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Once the series passed its subpar-by “Game of Thrones” standards- but a very watchable seventh season, it began to fizzle. After an extended wait for a six-episode final season, the show collapsed, failing to do its characters — many of whom had been around since the first episode — justice. Potential character meetings that fans had discussed for years fell short, and people were left scratching their heads, wondering what had happened to their favorite show.

But despite the flaws that fill its latter half, there are still plenty of fun moments throughout, including some excellent battles, surprising twists and riveting performances.

No matter what season the viewer watches, one thing is clear: no one is safe. It doesn’t matter how crucial to the plot or how young and innocent a character is; anyone can die at any moment. 

That leads to terrific shock value across the series’ 73 episodes.

While the show’s terrible ending was a disappointing capper, anyone who hasn't dived into this addicting series is missing out.

Alex Falter is the assistant arts editor and can be reached at alex.falter@ubspectrum.com

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