A beginner's guide to Game of Thrones

Westeros? Khaleesi? Dragons? Don't worry — we're explaining everything you need to know about the hit fantasy drama

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A beginner's guide to Game of Thrones
Written By
Craig McLean

Game of Thrones — is that the plot to have Prince William leapfrog his dad and succeed the Queen as monarch?

No, but the “plot” bit is right… Game of Thrones is a fantasy series peopled by kings, princesses, sons, bastard sons, noblemen, ignoble men, prostitutes and the occasional dragon. And many a dirty peasant. In each thrilling episode, there will be blood. And buckets of mud. Nudity, too. 

And this happens in Wester Ross, in the Highlands?

No, it happens in Westeros: a mythical land comprising seven kingdoms. Said kingdoms and their dominant families don’t really get on. Each is vying for overall power and ownership of the Iron Throne. Hence the title. (But a lot of it does look like Scotland. Or, in fact, Northern Ireland, where much of the show is filmed, with a largely British cast.) 

So just another geek-friendly, sub-Tolkien fairy tale, offering tons of kit-off action?

Off with your cynical head! GoT layers deftly woven narratives aplenty, and is peopled with a host of strong female characters. On account of the scheming and backstabbing set against a rugged fantastical backdrop, it has been described as “The Sopranos in Middle Earth.” Which is pretty much spot-on.

Who’s the hero?

You might say it’s George RR Martin, the American author who wrote — and is still writing — the blockbuster source novels. The series has sold 20 million copies. Such is the monumental scope of his work, the three seasons broadcast so far have barely scratched the surface. Or, you could say the hero is Ned Stark (Sean Bean), the noble Lord of Winterfell. Ah, but — spoiler alert — he was dispatched at the end of season one. GoT doesn’t mind killing off characters — season three is the bloodiest yet — even ones played by well-known actors.

The heroine?

Take your pick. Plucky Arya, Ned’s sword-wielding adolescent daughter, on the run in the wilds of Westeros? Cersei, a widowed queen trying to manage her psychopathic teen-tyrant son Joffrey, the Iron Throne’s current inhabitant (never mind her incestuous relationship with her twin brother Jaime)? Brienne of Tarth, a giant, armour-plated bodyguard? Or you could plump for Ygritte, a fur-clad “Wildling” last seen scaling the gigantic Wall that protects Westeros from the frozen northern wastelands and the abominations therein — before that, she was seen in Downton Abbey.

What about the dragons?

They’re the pets and protectors of Khaleesi Daenerys Targaryen, an exiled princess making her way through distant deserts to reclaim the Iron Throne. She also has an army of super-soldiers at her back. When she finally crosses the Narrow Sea, the fun will really begin.

I like Call the Midwife. Will I like Game of Thrones?

Miranda Hart could totally be in GoT. As, say, a pithy but wily courtier. So, yes. Go Westeros! 

To catch up before season four begins on 7 April on Sky Atlantic, seasons one to three Box Sets are available On Demand from 10 March


 


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