Looking back on the journey

Game of Thrones debuted a decade ago this month, and it arrived at a pivotal point in television history. Now that it's over, it's worth revisiting with fresh eyes.

Looking back on the journey

A decade ago, HBO debuted what is probably the most influential television series in recent memory: Game of Thrones, adapted from George R.R. Martin's sprawling, incomplete epic fantasy, A Song of Ice and Fire.

The series arrived at a pivotal point in the history of television; video streaming had begun to take off because of platforms like Netflix and Hulu. They prompted changes in how we watched television: it was now easy to take in an entire television season in one or two sittings, rather than waiting week to week for new episodes.

That, combined with the success of more serialized dramas like Lost and Battlestar Galactica, meant that television would slowly pick up a new model: one where studios and writers didn't need to adhere to an episodic format: they could tell a larger story, with each episode serving as a sort of chapter that pulled the viewer along a much more complicated arc.

The adaptation of Martin's series came at just the right time: the books were full of twisting plots and complicated characters, and treated its subject matter seriously: while they contained magic and dragons, they were treated as relatable, rather than escapist. The result was a complicated television series that rewarded patient viewers.

When the series came to a close in 2019, much of that goodwill had evaporated as the series overtook Martin's novels, and made decisions that frustrated viewers and critics alike. Despite that sputtering end, the series was a landmark in the history of television, and it carries with it an intriguing story about fandom, adapting the unadaptable, criticism, and the future of entertainment.