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Everything you need to know about 'Game of Thrones' but were afraid to ask

April 14, 2011 |  3:37 pm

Of course, we couldn't tell you everything about “Game of Thrones,” even if we wanted to. The series finally premieres on HBO Sunday, after months of interviews and posters and sneak previews and food trucks.

Skeptics wonder how highbrow HBO viewers will take to a grand, faux-medieval 10-part fantasy saga -– even one with extremely high production values and showrunners who met while getting master’s degrees in Irish literature. Sure, HBO has had genre success with “True Blood,” but the no-such-thing-as-a-smart-vampire-show argument had been busted years before by “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Epic fantasy may remain a harder sell for adults who can’t imagine finding the complexity of “The Sopranos” or “The Wire” amid heraldry and swordplay.

But Sean Bean, who stars as the lordly Ned Stark in “GoT” and also played Boromir in “Lord of the Rings,” tells The Times that the HBO series is a much darker, more adult work than viewers might expect.

" 'Lord of the Rings' was more magical and ephemeral and this fantasy conflict between clear good and clear evil,” Bean said. “This is much more disturbing.” He goes on to describe “Game of Thrones” as “like a gangster movie and there’s a lot of subtle and scary language, a lot of men of power who are watching each other and plotting in this nest of vipers.”

In her review of the series, The Times' Mary McNamara suggests that we shouldn’t let the numerous beheadings and vast helpings of non-missionary position sex deter us. (As if it would?)

“Game of Thrones,” she writes, “quickly becomes a great and thundering series of political and psychological intrigue bristling with vivid characters, cross-hatched with tantalizing plotlines and seasoned with a splash of fantasy.” Although there are visual cues familiar from genre films and TV, “it is revelation of character rather than the clank of broadsword or the tumult of hooves that makes 'Game of Thrones' epic television.”

One potential problem for those who haven’t read the George R.R. Martin books on which the series is based: keeping track of the many characters and their tangled relationships. Check out this handy "Game of Thrones" Cheat Sheet, which clearly lays out the central characters and helps distinguish Lannisters from Starks. 

-- Joy Press

Twitter.com/joypress

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