Game of Thrones’ Secret to Success

Photo Courtesy of HBO

There are a lot of good TV shows out there. I’ll spare you a list of examples since picking a few seems like a daunting task. However, I think most people would agree that no TV show right now has the same buzz and fan following as Game of Thrones.

If you’re reading this article and you’re contemplating watching, don’t even finish reading my article. Go watch and come back to thank me later.

I’ve noticed that most TV shows follow a certain trend. The first season is great, it’s original and the story is well thought out. People fall in love with it and it’s trending on Twitter after every episode and everyone’s talking about it. Unfortunately, every season gets progressively worse. They try reusing the parts that made the first season such a hit and make up for more superficial stories with bigger action scenes to compensate. Who remembers how big The Walking Dead used to be? Arrow? American Horror Story? How to Get Away with Murder? You get my point.

Slowly they get lamer and lamer. Not Game of Thrones. We’re now on season 7 and I’ve yet to hear anyone say they used to watch but lost interest. Granted I’m sure those people exist, there aren’t many of them. Why is that? Sure, it’s got a lot of suspense, plot twists and WTF!? moments but I’d argue the secret behind it’s success is its character development.

The one thing that George R.R. Martin seems to do better than anyone else is make his characters realistic. Think about it for a second. In most TV shows, you know who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. They operate on a binary basis (sorry I’m a software engineer). You’re either good or you’re bad. White or black. Game of Thrones has very little of that. Most characters are just different shades of gray. They aren’t trying to destroy the world and in each of their hearts, they believe they are the good guys. This realistic depiction of human beings allows viewers to understand and relate to the characters, even if they don’t like them. Even the shows that do depict their characters as good and bad don’t do it on the same scale.

“ The greatest monsters in history, as we look back on them, thought they were the heroes of the story ” — George R.R. Martin

I remember a few seasons back complaining about how Arya’s backstory was dragging on when she was training to be a faceless man but now I think it was totally worth it! You wouldn’t appreciate her as a character and what she’s become if we weren’t there to see everything she’s been through to get here. All those back stories and moments we spent with characters on all sides of the war give us some context for why they are the way they are. In no way do I think Cercei is “good” but her love for her family and willingness to do anything for them is something I can understand and I actually felt bad when I saw each of her children die.

Jamie Lannister, Bronn, and The Hound are great examples of the mixture of good and bad in each of these intricate and complex characters. The layers that have been added to each character makes us feel a certain way because there are no good guys and bad guys, just different people with different ideologies trying to do what they think is right.

Game of Thrones isn’t the first show to do this and not even the only one on TV right now. But it’s certainly a big reason why it’s become so popular throughout the world. Dragons, zombies and knights are nice but it’s really the bond we’ve created with the characters on the show that has us still watching.