On Friday evening I arrived at BAFTA HQ amongst an audience buzzing with lukewarm anticipation for a double billed preview of HBO’s latest sensational offering, Game of Thrones… but when I left they were absolutely beside themselves. If our screening was any sort of indicator as to how the general public will react when the show premiere’s on Sky Atlantic tonight (at 9pm) then I think it really is a case of tipping our hats and raising our glasses to all involved because HBO have done it again: instantly hypnotic and shamefully addictive viewing. Game of Thrones looks set to join Boardwalk Empire, True Blood, Rome, The Wire, Band of Brothers, The Pacific  and multiple other original programming greats in the HBO Hall of Fame. Let me tell you why…..


The show is based relatively accurately upon the medieval fantasy book series A Song of Ice and Fire. The action is set in the Seven Kingdoms where the nobility struggle over power, against supernatural forces and through an enthralling and dangerous series of adventures. Sean Bean stars as Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North alongside his wife, Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) and his six children including his illegitimate son Jon Snow they form an intriguing dynasty and a spider’s web of rich character background and potential story lines. Then we have the King of the Seven Kingdoms Robert Baratheon who is wonderfully embodied by Mark Addy who fittingly pointed out in the Q&A his character’s resemblance to Henry VIII in both gregariousness and excess. King Baratheon is married to his beautiful and disquietingly shrewd queen Cersei, played by a blonde but still stunning Lena Headey, who has a disturbing and perverse secret that she’s keeping from her husband (no, not giving that one away, watch the first episode for yourself and have your own jaw drop to the floor). Harry Lloyd and Emilia Clarke are also introduced in the first episodes as the flaxen Targaryen siblings and they’re all golden beauty, treacherous ideas and distracting charm.

At first glance the cast is quite a motley crew of young and old as well as familiar and unknown acting talent but the final effect is convincing as well as carefully executed. But whose side are we on in a drama that true to medieval fantasy form sits on a vast greyscale between good and evil? Sean Bean jokingly told me I should really be rooting for Lord Stark before explaining that all the characters have their own stories to tell. Personally I’m quite looking forward to all the trouble that the Targaryens are going to bring with them but even from the first episode it’s clear that Sean has a point. Most probably owing to their literary origins, the characters are all surprisingly three dimensional; even the family pets have an interesting back story!

The title sequence alone is utterly captivating with lots of multidirectional zooms and dives over a clockwork map of the Seven Kingdoms whilst the show itself is awesomely cinematic. I briefly caught a word with the extremely amiable and patently talented production designer Gemma Jackson after the screening and we both lamented the fact that neither of us had a 12ft HD television screen at home to fully appreciate the show’s impressive aesthetics. The scenery is just opulence galore! From maggot infested carcasses and dismembered bodies to decadent banquet tables and sunbathed stone. The locations during filming are all noticeably breathtaking stretching from the timeless rolling scenery in Northern Ireland to glittering Maltese beaches and once combined with some deft and persuasive cinematography the effect is incredibly satisfying.

Without spoiling any of the sumptuously moreish plot lines I must admit, I was more than a little swept away by Game of Thrones. Some people may feel a little dubious about the fantasy style and throwback to Medieval Europe but Mark Addy was quick to highlight that this is fantasy for people who don’t do fantasy, and I can sincerely vouch for that fact. You’d be hard pushed to find Game of Throne boring: fantasy has never been this dark, sexy and surprisingly imaginative.


Game of Thrones begins on Sky Atlantic tonight at 9pm and we highly recommend you tune in!