By Kevin Rogers
Swordfights, sorcery, regal politics and a trio of dragons will make their return to television on Sunday evening as HBO’s fantasy drama “Game of Thrones” strikes back for its fourth season.
The series, based on George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels, details the power struggles between several noble families vying for control of the Iron Throne, the seat of power in the realm of Westeros. As would-be kings and queens battle for control of the realm, a new threat emerges from the North: a marauding horde of reanimated corpses with a goal to bring about endless winter.
Since premiering in 2011, the show has gathered a massive following. At the end of last season, HBO projected each episode had an average viewership of 13.6 million through legal means including broadcast, video on demand and DVR, according to Hollywood Reporter. On the illegal side of the coin, TorrentFreak reported “Game of Thrones” was the most-pirated show in 2012 and 2013, with the season three finale drawing 5.9 million downloads.
True to the novels it is based on, “Game of Thrones” is a brutal affair, with a main cast that changes regularly as prominent characters meet their demise. The fourth season, based on the second half of “A Storm of Swords,” the third book in the series, finds Westeros reeling from the violent “Red Wedding” that ended with the massacre of three main characters.
The show has a following among Bona’s students ready for the next round of fantasy politics and epic battles. Ben Tryon, a senior journalism and mass communication major, is a “Thrones” fan and has read all of the books. Tryon said he’s been impressed with how well the story translates to the screen.
“I like to use my own imagination more than seeing something, but the show has done a better job than any other adaptation from a novel,” he said. “It’s creating a similar world and even making some parts better. I still prefer the books, but the show’s as good as it gets.”
Senior marketing major Andy Pacheco, also a fan of the books, agreed with Tryon on the show’s quality and success at doing the novels justice. However, he argued the show surpasses the vision of the original novels.
“I’ve never seen such a good job done before,” he said. “I’ve read hundreds of books, watched the movies of the books and I’ve always said the whole ‘books are better than the movie’ (line). I don’t think I’ve ever really felt like the movie is better than the book until this.”
Having already read the books and knowing what to expect, Tryon agreed to offer a spoiler-free preview of what he’s excited to see on the screen.
“I can’t wait to see Jon Snow’s experiences at The Wall and what could possibly happen and what characters he’ll meet up with,” Tryon said. “I’m also excited to see the consolidation of power change and morph as it does in the series.”
In “Game of Thrones,” The Wall is a massive fortification at the northern part of Westeros designed to keep out invaders, be they human or undead. Jon Snow (played by Kit Harington), one of the series’ protagonists, is a member of The Night’s Watch, a band of outcasts tasked with defending The Wall.
Pacheco said he’s looking forward to the royal wedding between the malevolent King Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) and Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer). Pacheco said the “Purple Wedding” is poised to be just as memorable as the “Red Wedding” that closed out last season.
“It seems like it’s such a huge event,” he said. “A lot of producers and actors have talked about the production value. I hear they’ve done an amazing job with it, and I want to see it come to life.”
Chelsea O’Connor-Rosiek, a senior history major, hasn’t read the entire series of books, but she said she’s been able to avoid most big spoilers for the new season.
“I don’t track the ‘Game of Thrones’ tag on Tumblr. I don’t look for spoilers,” O’Connor-Rosiek said. “It’s easier to avoid them. I don’t really know what’s coming for the most part.”
O’Connor-Rosiek said she’s most looking forward to new interactions between the spunky Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) and The Hound (Rory McCann), a bitter and brutal knight.
“I’m excited to see more Arya, and I’m glad The Hound is back in action, as he kind of fell by the wayside for a little while,” she said. “I’m just excited for the action.”
O’Connor-Rosiek said she would likely watch the premiere on HBO Go, a service that posts each episode online on a one-hour delay. Tryon said he would take a more conventional route to watch “Game of Thrones,” watching it live on HBO at 9 p.m.
“I’m going to be watching it 100-percent legally, but I understand I am sort of an outlier there,” Tryon said.
Pacheco said he too will be watching the premiere during its live broadcast.
“I will be going the legal route for the first time in a while,” Pacheco. “There’s a viewing party being planned, and I will attend it.”
Pacheco also shared some of his thoughts on why “Game of Thrones” has resonated with so many readers and viewers.
“It’s unlike anything they’ve seen before. There’s no such thing as happy endings,” Pacheco said. “I think people are tired of knowing ‘alright, the good guy is going to win and the bad guy is going to lose.’ ‘Game of Thrones’ doesn’t follow the rules. If anything it follows the rules of real life, because the good guys don’t always win.”