Culture Re-View: The five best things 'Game of Thrones' gave the world

Emilia Clarke in 'Game of Thrones'
Emilia Clarke in 'Game of Thrones' Copyright HBO
Copyright HBO
By Jonny Walfisz
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On the anniversary of its broadcast, why is 'Game of Thrones' still one of the greatest shows of all time?


17 April 2011: The first verse of the Song of Ice and Fire comes to the screen

As ‘Succession’ makes waves with its impressive final season, it’s easy to believe we’re in a golden era for television. Since HBO debuted revolutionary series like ‘The Wire’, ‘Sex and the City’ and ‘The Sopranos’ in the early 00s, the quality of TV shows has gone through the roof.

One of the biggest shows to really raise the bar for television in the last decade though was the adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s epic book series ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’. Named after the first book in the series, ‘Game of Thrones’ set records for being one of the most expensive shows ever made at the time.

The first episode of the first series was broadcast today in 2011. While the final season of the show left many viewers disappointed, ‘Game of Thrones’ was a game changer for big fantasy TV projects. To celebrate its release, let’s look back at five of the best things to come from it.

Pedro Pascal

Our leading Latino of the year, Pedro Pascal seems to be the hottest property in Hollywood these days. But that wasn’t always so. The 48-year-old Chilean-American actor had appeared in a large number of TV shows and films, but hadn’t really made his mark before ‘Game of Thrones’.

Cast as Oberyn Martell for the fourth season of the show, his Westeros debut in 2014 changed the course of his career. The charming and deadly fighter Oberyn immediately became a fan favourite, particularly for his valiant defence of his family’s honour.

AP Photo
Pedro Pascal in 2023... DaddyAP Photo

When Oberyn faced the Mountain in trial by combat on behalf of Tyrion Lannister, everyone’s eyes were glued to the screen. The result may not have been as happy for Oberyn’s eyes, but it sealed Pascal’s status as an on-screen presence. Since, he’s been cast in lead roles for ‘Narcos’, ‘The Mandalorian’ and ‘The Last of Us’.

Event television

Streaming is now the predominant form that we enjoy TV but when ‘Game of Thrones’ premiered, most people were still watching the traditional way. By the time the eighth and final season aired in 2019, everything had changed.

But with scenes like Pedro Pascal’s Oberyn Martell facing the Mountain providing scintillating TV moments to the ‘Game of Thrones’ audience, it never lost the fight to the binge-watching movement. ‘Game of Thrones’ was a show you tuned into every week so you could be up to date for the water-cooler chat the next day. With other shows like ‘Succession’ continuing in the tradition, HBO proved that even in the era of streaming, event television isn’t dead yet.

Terrible weddings

Before last week’s dramatic ‘Succession’ episode Connor’s Wedding, there were the ‘Game of Thrones’ weddings. There must be something about HBO contracts that require at least one disastrous wedding episode per show.

Disastrous weddings never got better than in ‘Game of Thrones’. The Purple Wedding in series four gave audiences the much awaited comeuppance for perpetual terror King Joffrey, but it was series three’s Red Wedding that truly titillated fans. The surprise marital attack that killed nearly every member of the Stark family in a matter of minutes that the term “Red Wedding” is basically shorthand for shocking TV moments now.

The infamous Purple WeddingHBO

House of the Dragon

It’s no radical thing to say that ‘Game of Thrones’ didn’t have the best ending. When showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss ran out of original Martin material for the final two series, their improvisations were less than lauded by viewers.

It’s a joyous miracle that prequel show ‘House of the Dragon’ is such a hit. Starting off with a huge budget and a stacked cast including ex-Doctor Who Matt Smith doesn’t hurt. Released almost the exact same time as Lord of the Ring’s prequel ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’ on Amazon Prime, the return to Westeros blew the even more expensive Tolkein-verse show out of the water. For fans of ‘House of the Dragon’, series two is in production.

Peter Dinklage


The finest thing to come out of ‘Game of Thrones’ has to be that it afforded a role suitable for a star the level of Peter Dinklage. The American actor was the first cast in the show and routinely upstaged every single other member of its star-studded cast.

Peter DinklageHBO

Born with dwarfism, Dinklage had struggled with film and TV producers only seeking to portray people based on stereotypes of dwarfism. With his ‘Game of Thrones’ character Tyrion Lannister, Dinklage had a character that fit his requirements. “No beard, no pointy shoes, a romantic, real human being”.

Tyrion was everything an actor would dream of. Intelligent, belligerent, and a raving drunk. Dinklage won the Emmy for Outstanding Actor in a Drama series four times for playing Tyrion.

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