Surprise of the Year: Game of Thrones

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With 2012 drawing to a close, now seems like an appropriate time to make a special mention of my pick for Surprise Show of the Year That I Didn't Expect to Like and Then Did Like: Game of Thrones.

A few notes regarding this hit:

  1. I had never heard of the George R. R. Martin book series prior to the program landing on HBO.
  2. I did not watch the show live, catching up later On Demand, already aware of Eddard Stark's fate long before the ninth episode aired.
  3. I still can't name all the main characters.

I'm not a fantasy guy (Lord of the Rings? More like Bored by the Rings!), but Game of Thrones roped even the most skeptical viewers in via story storytelling that focused on the characters above all else.

I struggled along with Eddard to understand his place in the royal world; I laughed along with Tyrion and his drunken adventures; I marveled over the transformation of Daenerys from passive, reluctant wife to powerful, head-strong dragon mother. I pretty much want to murder Joffrey Baratheon.

The unusual circumstances surrounding these individuals - the season did end with this image, after all - became secondary to the people themselves, something often lacking in similar fare that tries to blow the audience away with special effects and imagery.

That said... damn, the special effects and imagery are awesome! Game of Thrones is visually stunning. Each episode feels like a movie. With so many new characters on the way, the assurance that the series clearly knows where it's going (based on the books that preceded it) and performances such as the one given each week by Peter Dinklage, I can safely say that Game of Thrones has made me a fan of a genre at which I previously scoffed.

I mean, the cold winds are coming, as teased in the video above?!? What will that mean for battle over the Iron Throne? I legitimately can't wait to find out.

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Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.

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