Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Game of Thrones Reigns Supreme in Telly Drama; outside the Box GARETH LIGHTFOOT

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Game of Thrones Reigns Supreme in Telly Drama; outside the Box GARETH LIGHTFOOT

Article excerpt

VALAR morghulis. Hodor. Winter is coming. You know nothing, Jon Snow... Sorry, I'm rambling.

It's Game of Thrones (Sky Atlantic), see. I've been mainlining box sets for the last few weeks and it's taken root in my brain.

After the sprint to get up to date, settling for mere weekly instalments of series four feels laboriously slow. Come on HBO. Just bang 'em all on Netflix.

It's hard to know where to start with Game of Thrones. Its scope is so vast, so global, it makes other sprawling dramas look like quaint little chamber pieces.

The easiest shorthand employed to describe the show is an X-rated Lord Of The Rings, which is laughable when you watch it.

Game of Thrones possesses none of that saga's vague cuddliness nor sense of justice.

Could Mister Frodo hack it in Westeros? Not a warg in Winterfell's chance. He'd be slain by The Hound and his charming shire sacked and burned in minutes.

Game of Thrones is effectively an alternate history of the world.

Different geography, families, names and religions, with some fantastical and magical elements tossed in. Same war, politics, intrigue, power struggles, torture and beheadings with semi-medieval trappings.

Ah yes, torture and beheadings. If anything, having your head lopped off is the kindest way to go in the savage Seven Kingdoms.

So far, we've seen death by dragonfire, death by molten gold, and lots of knifings and swordings. It's very stabby, Game of Thrones. Witness the last few minutes of the latest episode for eye-watering proof.

The show is merciless. It doesn't care who it kills or maims.

One notorious episode made it vividly clear that you're gone once you've outlived your usefulness, or whenever the writers feel like it.

Many of the usual rules of safety in TV drama are switched off in Game of Thrones, making for thrilling, shockingly unpredictable viewing.

Its bloodlust is infectious too. Once you're sucked in, it feels perfectly natural to curse a sadistic teenage boy with demands for brutal comeuppance. Death to King Joffrey! It may be a super-slick US production with a bulging budget, but it's packed with British actors and assorted English accents.

This fits somehow, exploding the north-south divide to epic scale.

Broadly speaking, the northern folk are blunt, decent and doomed, the southern lot conniving, ruling and ruthless, led by the formidable, brilliantly diabolical patriarch Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance).

In the weirdest, most warped of ways, this is England, as the world.

The narrative easily juggles several complex cross-continent storylines.

None fails to hold the attention, though I could happily lose Stannis and his pouting sorceress. He hasn't earned the Twitter account @Boring-Stannis for nothing.

My current favourites are Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) - still the funniest, most likeable character - fledgling femme fatale Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) and brave young Sam Tarly (John Bradley).

I must admit, I don't understand it all. …

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