Game of Thrones provided unforgettable moments, near-perfect episodes, and stunning seasons throughout its run, but as it continued, it also changed television in many ways, including a few more subtle changes that flew slightly under the radar.
As Game of Thrones started its run, it seemed to have a clear main character that viewers were supposed to rally behind, and that character was Ned Stark. As the honorable patriarch of the highborn Stark family, Ned, the Warden of the North, was lured away from his family and life at Winterfell to head to King’s Landing, the capital of Westeros, to become the Hand of the King. In doing so, he splinters the Stark family across the map of Westeros, leaving his wife and sons behind as he and his daughters make a new home in King’s Landing.
However, things take a turn for the worse when Ned discovers that the heirs to the throne aren’t actually the children of King Robert Baratheon, but are instead the children of Queen Cersei and her brother. In the penultimate episode of the first season, he confesses to his “crimes” in front of the entire populace of King’s Landing, ultimately losing his head anyway. Fans of the books saw this moment coming, but for those who had just started with the show, it remains one of the best moments on Thrones, perfectly setting up expectations before yanking the rug out from under the entire audience.
From older films like Ben-Hur to more recent epics like the Lord of the Rings trilogy, movies have always been afforded the budgets and scope to stage enormous action sequences, but that opportunity has largely been absent from television. Even prestige dramas like Breaking Bad and Mad Men, while beautifully shot, remained relatively modest in scope, but all of that changed with Game of Thrones.
Easily the most technically ambitious show in television history, Thrones’ filming spanned continents, shooting in exotic locales like Iceland and Croatia as it gave fans bigger and bigger sequences. Keep watching the video to see how Game of Thrones changed TV and no one noticed!
Subverting expectations | 0:15
Making TV cinematic | 1:12
Record-beaking budgets | 2:23
Moving past the source | 3:39
Shock and awe | 4:37