Magazine article The Spectator

Game of Thrones? It's Just like the Tory Party

Magazine article The Spectator

Game of Thrones? It's Just like the Tory Party

Article excerpt

On the face of it, Game of Thrones doesn't look very good. The HBO television series, based on a sequence of fantasy novels by George R.R. Martin, is set in a fictional, medieval kingdom called Westeros where various ambitious men do battle for the Iron Throne. It features dragons, zombies and dwarves, and has a cult following among the sort of people who think The Lord of the Rings is a great work of literature. One to be avoided, yes?

Well, no, actually. The dialogue leaves a lot to be desired and the supernatural hocus-pocus wears a bit thin after a while, but those caveats aside it's the best thing on television at the moment. Better even than Breaking Bad - and that's saying something.

Why is it so good? There's the cast, for one thing. Game of Thrones may be an American import, but the actors are predominantly British. Not just any Brits, either, but the creme de la creme of the RSC. It's like one of those lavish costume dramas that we do so well, except the actors are covered in blood rather than powder. Think Downton Abbey, but with X-rated levels of sex and violence. (It has been described as a glimpse inside the head of every teenage boy. ) Then there are the production values. Filmed in Northern Ireland and Malta, it's a lavish, authentic affair with a Hollywood special effects budget. HBO spent $60 million on the first season alone - and that was just the haircuts. OK, I made the haircut bit up, but the sets and costumes are spectacularly good. Even the matchstick model of Westeros that features in the opening credits of each episode looks like it took the entire population of HM Prison Wandsworth to assemble.

But the reason I like it so much is because it's so political. Most great modern sagas are described as 'Shakespearean', and that's a term frequently bandied about by fans of Game of Thrones. In this case, though, it's accurate. The main drama pivots around the competing royal ambitions of two powerful dynasties, the Lannisters and the Starks - instantly recognisable as the Lancasters and the Yorks. Martin's inspiration for Game of Thrones is clearly Shakespeare's Wars of the Roses.

The Richard III figure is a Machiavellian dwarf called Tyrion Lannister.

The story unfolds from the viewpoint of seven different characters, but Tyrion dominates, if only because he has all the best lines. …

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