You win, or you die: ‘Game of Thrones’ turns 10

HBO

Game of Thrones is now a decade old.

The fantasy epic, perhaps the definitive YV show of the 2010s, first premiered on HBO April 17, 2011, 10 years ago this Saturday.

Based on the A Song of Ice and Fire book series written by George R.R. MartinGoT told the story of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, which are ruled by whomever sits upon the coveted Iron Throne. A world of dragons, ice zombies and seemingly endless war served as a backdrop to an increasingly complicated familial and political drama that would rival any soap opera.

Fans quickly became attached to characters such as Emilia Clarke‘s Mother of Dragons, Daenerys Targaryen, Kit Harrington‘s noble bastard, Jon Snow, and Peter Dinklage‘s hard-drinking, smooth-talking Tyrion Lannister. That love was matched by utter hatred for characters including Lena Headey‘s conniving Cersei Lannister and her sadistic son, Jack Gleeson‘s Joffrey Baratheon.

GoT launched the careers of actors including Clarke and Harrington, as well as Sophie TurnerMaisie WilliamsJason MomoaNikolaj Coster-WaldauGwendoline Christie and Pedro Pascal, among many others.

As its popularity grew, GoT exploded into a social media phenomenon, with Twitter becoming a spoiler landmine on Sunday nights, especially when yet another beloved character would suddenly be killed off. 

GoT was not without controversy. It was criticized for its excessive gore, which ranged from beheading to eye-gouging, as well as its use of nudity and its depiction of sexual violence. The term “sexposition” was even coined to describe the show’s frequent habit of delivering heavy backstory with naked women onscreen.

Still, GoT was critically adored, and won the most Emmys of any drama in TV history.

Controversially, the TV series ultimately moved beyond the story in Martin’s books, culminating in the show’s much-maligned eighth and final season in 2019.  Many fans felt it didn’t deliver a satisfying conclusion, despite show producers’ claims that the action had Martin’s blessing.

But while Game of Thrones may be over, its watch hasn’t ended quite yet. Multiple spin-off series are in the works at HBO, as is a GoT-inspired Broadway play.

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