The legendary American fantasy drama, Game of Thrones, has achieved record viewing figures on the premium cable channel, HBO, with 19.3 million people in the United States watching the grand finale on 19th May.
Launched in April 2011, the series ran for eight seasons, comprising 73 episodes, an adaption of author George RR Martin’s fantasy novels, A Song of Fire, which were first published in 1996.
Over the years, Game of Thrones has won an unprecedented total of 47 Primetime Emmy Awards – the largest number ever won by a drama series. These have included Outstanding Drama Series in 2015, 2016 and 2018 and three consecutive Hugo Awards for Best Dramatic Presentation between 2012 and 2014.
Featuring many plots and a large ensemble cast, the drama takes place in the fictional continent of Westeros and follows the alliances and conflicts in the noble dynasties of the Seven Kingdoms.
The show has spawned some iconic characters – and in many cases, the actors playing them shot to stardom as a result, as it was their first leading role. Other established actors found their careers revitalised by the series.
Among the familiar faces were English actor Sean Bean, who played Edward “Ned” Stark, described as the “moral compass” of the story. Father-of-six, Stark is an honourable man and the virtuous patriarch of House Stark. Bean described the character as a good man, who tried to do his best in the midst of corruption.
One of the most interesting relationships that developed in the series began when Jon Snow met Daenerys Targaryen. Snow became one of the series’ most popular characters. He was played by British actor Kit Harington, who was nominated for an Emmy Award for his portrayal of the bastard who was in reality the rightful heir to the Iron Throne.
Daenerys, played by Emilia Clarke, starts out as one of only two (known) surviving members of House Targaryen, who has lived her whole life in exile.
She becomes strong, courageous and confident after being forced into a marriage for political reasons. After her husband’s death, she acquires an army herself (not to mention three dragons), and conquers the cities of Yunkai, Meereen and Astapor, in a quest to end injustice and slavery there.
In terms of character interactions, the first meeting between “The King in the North” Jon Snow and “Breaker of Chains” Daenerys, ranks as the best scene in the whole series, according to a number of critics. Little do they know at the time that they are in fact aunt and nephew to each other.
It would have been easy for the long-anticipated meeting to fall short in living up to its expectations, but it was just the opposite. From the moment Jon arrived at Daenerys’ Dragonstone home, to their first tense conversation, the scenes between the two were electrically charged.
Snow won’t bow before Daenerys, making the rather lame excuse that there’s “no time for that”, but it’s Daenerys’ speech that steals the show. She tells Snow how she has spent her life in foreign lands, where so many people have tried to kill her, that she can’t remember all their names.
She says she has been chained, betrayed and defiled, but that her faith in herself has kept her going during all of her years in exile. She tells Snow, “I was born to rule the Seven Kingdoms — and I will.”
In one of the most iconic moments in any drama, despite their clash over conflicting priorities, Snow and Daenerys strike up an agreement to work together and so began the coming together of fire and ice. For many fans the relationship between Dany and Jon was the single most important plot of the series, so it was with dismay that we saw Dany descend into madness, forcing Jon to betray his beloved queen.
The final series had particularly spectacular viewing numbers. On 28th April, 17.8 million people watched The Long Night – a series high. Then, on 12th May, the record was broken again with The Bells, attracting 18.4 million viewers. They were surpassed by the 19.3 million people who tuned into the final ever episode. It truly felt like the end of an era when Game of Thrones drew to a close, after eight years on our screens.
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