Game of Thrones is an American fantasy drama television series created by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss for HBO. It is an adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire, George R. R. Martin’s series of fantasy novels, the first of which is A Game of Thrones. The show was both produced and filmed in Belfast and elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Filming locations also included Canada, Croatia, Iceland, Malta, Morocco, and Spain. The series premiered on HBO in the United States on April 17, 2011, and concluded on May 19, 2019, with 73 episodes broadcast over eight seasons.
Set on the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos, Game of Thrones has several plots and a large ensemble cast and follows several story arcs. One arc is about the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms and follows a web of alliances and conflicts among the noble dynasties either vying to claim the throne or fighting for independence from it. Another focuses on the last descendant of the realm’s deposed ruling dynasty, who has been exiled and is plotting a return to the throne, while another story arc follows the Night’s Watch, a brotherhood defending the realm against the fierce peoples and legendary creatures of the North.
Cast and characters
Game of Thrones has an ensemble cast estimated to be the largest on television. In 2014, several actor contracts were renegotiated to include a seventh-season option, with raises which reportedly made them among the highest-paid performers on cable television. In 2016, several actor contracts were again renegotiated, reportedly increasing the salary of five of the main cast members to $1 million per episode for the last two seasons, which would make them the highest paid actors on television. The main cast is listed below.
Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark (Sean Bean) is the head of House Stark, whose members are involved in plotlines throughout most of the series. He and his wife, Catelyn Tully (Michelle Fairley), have five children: Robb (Richard Madden), the eldest; followed by Sansa (Sophie Turner), Arya (Maisie Williams), Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), and Rickon (Art Parkinson). Ned’s illegitimate son Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and his friend Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) serve in the Night’s Watch under Lord Commander Jeor Mormont (James Cosmo). The Wildlings living north of the Wall include the young Gilly (Hannah Murray), and the warriors Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) and Ygritte (Rose Leslie).
Others associated with House Stark include Ned’s ward Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen), his vassal Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton), and Bolton’s bastard son Ramsay Snow (Iwan Rheon). Robb falls in love with the healer Talisa Maegyr (Oona Chaplin), and Arya befriends the blacksmith’s apprentice Gendry (Joe Dempsie) and the assassin Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha). The tall warrior Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) serves Renly and, later, Catelyn.
In King’s Landing, the capital, Ned’s friend King Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy), shares a loveless marriage with Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), who has taken her twin brother, the “Kingslayer” Ser Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), as her lover. She loathes her younger brother, the dwarf Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), who is attended by his mistress Shae (Sibel Kekilli) and the sellsword Bronn (Jerome Flynn). Cersei’s father is Lord Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance), and she also has two young sons: Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) and Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman). Joffrey is guarded by the scar-faced warrior Sandor “the Hound” Clegane (Rory McCann).
The king’s Small Council of advisors includes the crafty Master of Coin Lord Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (Aidan Gillen) and the eunuch spymaster Lord Varys (Conleth Hill). Robert’s brother Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) is advised by foreign priestess Melisandre (Carice van Houten) and former smuggler Ser Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham). The wealthy Tyrell family is represented at court by Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer). The High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) is the capital’s religious leader. In the southern principality of Dorne, Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma) seeks vengeance against the Lannisters.
Across the Narrow Sea, siblings Viserys (Harry Lloyd) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) – the exiled children of the last king of the original ruling dynasty, who was overthrown by Robert Baratheon – are running for their lives and trying to win back the throne. Daenerys marries Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa), the leader of the nomadic Dothraki. Her retinue includes the exiled knight Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen), her aide Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel), the sellsword Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman), and Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson), who leads Daenerys’ army of elite eunuch-warriors, the Unsullied.
Game of Thrones is broadcast by HBO in the United States and by its local subsidiaries or other pay television services in other countries, at the same time as in the US or weeks (or months) later. The series’ broadcast in China on CCTV, begun in 2014, was heavily edited to remove scenes of sex and violence, in accordance with a Chinese practice of censoring Western television series to prevent what the People’s Daily called “negative effects and hidden security dangers”. This resulted in viewer complaints about the incoherence of what remained. Broadcasters carrying Game of Thrones include Showcase in Australia; HBO Canada, Super Écran, and Showcase in Canada; HBO Latin America in Latin America; SoHo and Prime in New Zealand, and Sky Atlantic in the United Kingdom and Ireland.