“Game of Thrones” returns with its fourth season Sunday (April 6), and if you’re not watching the HBO drama already, you’re doing yourself a disservice. In Season 4, “Game of Thrones” reaches the planned midpoint in its run, which means now is the time to catch up on one of the best shows on TV.
Still not convinced? Here are 10 spoiler-free reasons why “Game of Thrones” is a show you should be watching:
1. It’s not just for nerds who like fantasy.
Yes, there are dragons. Yes, there are ice zombie creatures. Yes, there are gods who may or may not influence over the occurrences in “Game of Thrones.” But those elements are not what this series is about. Instead it’s about richly developed characters and intricate politics — the title “game of thrones” gives away the premise of the entire series. If you liked “The Sopranos” and “Rome,” then chances are you’ll be surprised by how much you relate to “Game of Thrones” as well.
2. There are dragons and ice zombies and influential gods.
OK, yes, we did just say that these are all factors that shouldn’t turn you off of “Game of Thrones.” But really, they are pretty major reasons you should be turned onto it. The fantasy elements of the series are all surprisingly believable and affecting, down to the return of dragons and the reappearance of a centuries-old threat. “Game of Thrones” does such a good job introducing the fantasy portion of its story that before you know it you’re completely invested in this world. Even better, the fact that characters get so focused on their own individual storylines and lose perspective on the greater supernatural threats is one of the most engaging and dread-inducing elements of the series.
3. It’s event television.
As we head into Season 4 of “Game of Thrones,” you’ve likely heard about Season 1’s surprise death and the unexpected massacre in Season 3 even if you haven’t been watching the show. Season 4 will continue to deliver developments and deaths out of left field, and because of that “Game of Thrones” will continue to be the talk of the water cooler. Don’t expect people to shut up about the series on social media, so if you want to get in on the conversation, now’s the time to catch up.
4. It’s filled with fantastic performers.
Once “Game of Thrones” was announced, it was the big names like Sean Bean, Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey that drew viewers in. Now it’s the lesser-known actors who are leading the pack: From Gwendoline Christie and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau to Natalie Dormer and Maisie Williams to Rory McCann and Iwan Rheon. There isn’t a weak player in the bunch, and the relatively untested actors back in Season 1 like Kit Harington, Emilia Clarke and Sophie Turner have blossomed into fantastic performers in Season 4.
5. It’s progressive.
Shows like “Glee” and “Parenthood” are applauded for being forward-thinking, “Game of Thrones” should get the same sort of credit. No topics are off limits, from homosexuality and bisexuality to the difference between someone conquering and ruling. “Game of Thrones” uses its popularity with care, and raises interesting and important modern discussions within its fantastical, medieval world.
6. The writing is excellent.
“Game of Thrones” might not have won many writing awards, but that’s largely because it’s had the disadvantage of being up against “Breaking Bad” during the best parts of that series’ run. Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss run a great writers room, and the writing on “Game of Thrones” has only gotten better and better with each passing year. (We’ve even largely weeded out sexposition!) “Game of Thrones” rightly deserves its place among the greatest dramas on TV right now, and it’s only getting better with age.
7. It’s got great source material.
“Game of Thrones” is based on equally excellent source material: George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series. The TV show is an impressively faithful adaptation, and yet there is still much to be gained by consuming both series. Better yet, Martin (who hasn’t finished the books “Game of Thrones” is based on yet) has clued Benioff and Weiss into his plans for the future, so the showrunners already are implementing elements that might not be paid off in the books until farther down the road.
8. It inverts genre tropes.
Unlike many other shows of its ilk, “Game of Thrones” never falls into stereotypes of its genre. As has been proven repeatedly in the past three seasons, the bad characters often defeat the good characters because the good ones are hesitant to play dirty. Because of that, the classic “heroes” of the story are now twisting into darker versions of themselves by necessity. Alternately, characters who were initially villains gradually become viewed as likable heroes. The series is a fascinating character study at the way humans are forced to evolve in the fact of humanity’s worse sides.
9. It’s got a set end date.
It’s hard to get invested in shows that are plot- and mystery-driven that don’t already know where they’re heading. Fortunately, “Game of Thrones” has its end in sight. Benioff and Weiss are sticking fast to their seven-season plan, which means that the building tension and subsequent payoffs are all careful calculated — and, more importantly, the show won’t overstay its welcome.
10. ‘Game of Thrones’ is only getting better.
Why deny yourself the pleasure of tuning into one of the best shows on TV? We’ve already explained that the series is well written, well acted, well developed and relatable to all adult audiences, so really the only thing left to do is catch up. You won’t regret it; after seeing the first three episodes of Season 4, we can attest that “Game of Thrones” is the best it’s ever been this season.