Game of Thrones has risen through the television ranks since it first aired back in 2011. Nowadays, it’s made itself into one of the most popular and most anticipated shows out there, netting fans from all ends of the spectrum. The people who read the books years ago are excited to see it adapted to the screen, while the show itself has led to many going back and reading them for the first time.
But what is it exactly that keeps bringing us back to show that in a lot of ways tortures us with suspense? Game of Thrones has always managed to be equal parts frustrating and addictive, making for a tenuous balance that never seems to tip in the wrong direction. Nailing down how it does that though is really what matters.
1. The emotional investment in every story
Both author George R.R. Martin and showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss have crafted a story that gives us strong feelings toward just about every single character. Whether it’s the white hot hatred we all feel for Joffrey, or the unadulterated devotion to Tyrion Lannister, each individual story gives us a reason to care. That emotional investment is what brings us back on a weekly basis and is the core factor behind why we can’t help but count down the days until April each year.
2. Death. So much death.
It’s our most and least favorite part of the entire show: the rampant death. Anyone is fair game, from Sean Bean in Season 1, to the aforementioned Joffrey Baratheon. Sometimes we’re rooting for the demise of hated characters, while other times we’re shocked to tears when the ones we’ve grown attached to meet their respective makers. What makes Game of Thrones unique though is that half the audience knows these deaths are about to happen, giving them the added pleasure of watching non-readers react once it happens on-screen. That recently came to an end though, with Season 6 outpacing the books. Which brings us to our next point…
3. This show is near-impossible to predict
Book readers can attest, trying to predict what’s going to happen in Game of Thrones is folly. People have their various theories, but in the end it always seems to surprise us. With so many stories, characters, and plotlines up in the air, nailing down the fate of anyone can prove to be more than a little difficult. The twists and turns though manage to never feel too forced (a la latter-years M. Night Shyamalan), with satisfying, if sometimes horrifying, conclusions. Each season has had this happen with the penultimate episode, featuring mass death and carnage that leaves audiences with their jaws on the floor by the time the credits roll.
4. Characters. So many characters.
Game of Thrones has always thrived on its multitude of characters across the realms of the Seven Kingdoms. Checking in on one location often involves digging into the complex motivations and workings of at least four to five people, each with a compelling story to tell. What’s even more impressive though is that even with this many characters to handle, each plot ties into the main story in some way, shape, or form. Oftentimes we don’t realize that until later on down the line, but the people within this universe all serve the greater plot, in a beautifully unique and elegant way. There’s rarely a dull moment, helped along by an ensemble cast that it’s impossible to not enjoy.
5. The crossover appeal
You don’t have to love dragons, medieval weaponry, or wizards to enjoy Game of Thrones. With its complex political drama and skilled writing staff, it truly has something for everyone. Really the only prerequisite for enjoying this show is possessing a love for a well-told story. Its similarities to less fantastical politically inclined shows like House of Cards are easy to pick out, demonstrating its penchant for focusing on storytelling over unnecessary clutter. In a world of Damon Lindelofs, it’s more than a little refreshing to see a wildly popular show doubled down on that philosophy, making Game of Thrones a standalone crossover dream.