‘Game of Thrones’ Viewers Guide: 5 Tips for Watching This Show

Published 2 years ago by , Updated June 11th, 2013 at 8:08 am, This is a list post.

Game of Thrones Character Houses Episode Viewing GuideGame of Thrones fans are waiting for the season 3 finale to air, and are still in shock from the horrific events of the third season's penultimate episode, "The Rains of Castamere" (read our review).With some fans literally pledging to abandon the show due to the twists and turns of the storyline - and just as many others confused about what is actually happening - we decided this was as good a time as any to offer some helpful tips on how to watch this show with maximum comprehension and enjoyment.Check out our Tips for watching Game of Thrones from the end of season 3 until the proposed season 7 series finale. NOTE: This article is SPOILER-FREE, so read at your leisure, lords and ladies.

5. Recognize the Story

The House Stark Children in 'Game of Thrones'One of the most surprising things about Game of Thrones is how people interpret the story. After "Rains of Castamere" it's become clear that there is a division amongst fans: those who still expected a traditional heroes vs. villains fantasy tale, and those who embrace the show as a deviation away from traditional fantasy.Having read all five completed volumes of George R.R. Martin's seven-part saga, let me tell you in SPOILER-FREE terms: Game of Thrones is a fantasy world reflection of modern times and concerns (from politics to gender roles to religion, etc...). It is also a story whose focus is clearly set on misfit characters rising to greater heights.TIP: Forget about traditional happy endings; the real world is messy and complicated  and so is this story. If you're flailing right now because you can't identify a "main character," maybe you need to keep your eyes on those "misfits" I mentioned. (Say, the bastards, the cripples, the loners, pariahs and imps...)Image Credit: Sarah Connors Society

4. Treat Small Matters With Great Concern

Game of Thrones Season 3 -Theon TorturedWhen re-watching this show, one the greatest enjoyments is picking up on all the little matters you now realize yielded major developments for the larger storyline. That is because Game of Thrones is the type of story where seemingly "boring" or "pointless" scenes and/or moments often foreshadow great (or horrible) things to come.Every big "twist" in the show was foretold and foreshadowed by prior events  - and many seemingly "throwaway" conversations have actually been the biggest clues as to who is who, and what is what. After "Rains of Castamere," Roose Bolton's diplomacy towards Jaime Lannister takes on a whole new meaning - and I'll bet you'll never watch Robb Stark's season 1 trip to the House of Frey the same way again.TIP: Make note of all the small things and have a patient ear for dialogue - for in the game of thrones, the devil is truly in the details. Example:  If you are still confused about who is torturing poor Theon, you literally haven't been paying attention to the pictures in front of your face all season long.

3. Use the Study Guides

Game of Thrones House GuidesGame of Thrones is a sprawling epic storyline with a lot of wonderful, colorful characters - which makes it damn hard to follow! Even reading the books (which offer much greater detail on the characters, history, and locations of Westeros - and the benefit of word/name repetition) can be a daunting challenge for your memory. Keeping up with it all in the condensed form of a TV show is pretty much impossible....However, as stated on the last page, this is a story in which the smallest things often turn out to have the most importance. In that sense, the tradition of ignoring supporting or bit characters and investing only in perceived "main" characters can often lead to frustration in the world of GoT. You need to keep your eye on the larger picture (read: list of characters) at all times.TIP: Don't be too proud - find a helpful GoT Guide online and bookmark that sucker. Two of the best are the GoT Wiki for complete insight or the more SPOILER-CONTROLLED guide over at HBO.com; for the visually-inclined, check out infographics like this. Bottom line: Study your notes. It'll end up being much more worthwhile than those years you spent researching Lost theories...

2. Have Faith in a Larger Plan

Game of Thrones Season 3 Daenerys Targaryen and Unsullied ArmySome Game of Thrones fans are beginning to feel a sense of nihilism towards the show - or at the very least, they are interpreting author George R.R. Martin's (and subsequently the showrunners') view as nihilistic in nature. However, this is not at all the case.Faith, love, destiny, courage, triumph - these classic nourishments of fantasy adventure are still present in the 7-course meal that is Game of Thrones - they're just not served in the exact way that you might expect, or at the exact moments you anticipate them. Even fans of the books have encountered this "test of faith": After a jarring detour in book 4, many felt themselves losing touch with the story and had to wait until they were deep into book 5 to watch things finally tie together again.TIP: Stick with it, kids. Could be that some of the payoff you've been waiting for is just around the next turn in this long road...

1. Read the Books

Game of Thrones Books Series Novels - A Song Of Ice and FireI'm not here to promote George R.R. Martin as being the best writer ever, or his "Song of Ice and Fire" book saga as being the best thing ever written: those critiques could fill an entire article on their own. Lord knows I'm also one to enjoy a good movie or TV show without going back and pawing my way through the source material - so no judgements there.However, I do recognize the need for exception - and Game of Thrones is that. People who watch the show in anticipation of that 'next big event' to happen are understandably frustrated by having to wait for every ninth (and penultimate) episode each season to get their payoff. For them, it's hard to delight in the journey toward that payoff - but inevitably that's a lot of what GoT is about.TIP: If you're invested in this show's characters and storyline (not just the big events or twists) then read the books. Sure, you'll be covering ground the TV show already has, but the details and depth offered by the novels - and differences between books and TV show - will enrich the experience of both in ways you probably didn't expect. Plus, it's a great way to fill the gap between seasons of the show...

The Road Ahead...

Game of Thrones Season 3 PosterThough Game of Thrones is nearing the end of another season, there are more questions than ever as to where the fanbase stands in regards to the series - and wether they're still invested in the future chapters of the saga. Perhaps we'll have a better sense of things when "Rains of Castamere" is behind us, and the season 3 finale offers new developments and perspective on where season 4 will lead us.Check out these other posts: ________Game of Thrones season 3 finale "Mhysa" airs Sunday, June 9th @9pm on HBO.
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  1. I actually enjoy the show more than the books. I think the creative leader of the TV series Angus Wall, deserves a lot of credit. I got through the first three books (barely) and crashed in the fourth one…… this was long before the show came out. Angus Wall and company, were able to make me care about the characters. When reading the books I didn’t care what happened to any of the characters very much…… Take the Tyrion Lannister for instance. Totally left me cold in the books….. Peter Dinklage’s portrayal of Tyrion on the other hand is amazing! He deserves a lot of credit too.

    I rarely read fantasy any more these days. BUT I have a recommendation if any are interested…. Steven Erikson’s series called “Malazan Book of the Fallen.” Ten big fat novels. The word epic doesn’t even cover it. Erikson is a master at world building…. character building. This is amazing stuff. Miles above George Martin’s writing IMO. Erikson has a degree in archeology FYI.

    • A Song Of Ice and Fire is a genre-redefining work, Malazan Book of the Fallen is basically a convoluted Dungeons and Dragons novel that runs on for thousands and thousands of pages. I threw my copy of Gardens of the Moon into the trash when I got to that deus ex machina Erikson tried to pass for an ending.

      • No. I have to disagree. Did you read the entire series? Gardens of the Moon is the tip of the iceberg. By the third or fourth book of the Malazan series, I was hooked. Waiting for the last one to come out “Crippled God” was an agony.

        The George RR Martin series was dull reading for me. Like I said above…. I just didn’t care about any of the characters, and that’s Martin’s fault. The only one who I could almost give a s*** about was Arya Stark. Every time the POV went to her I found myself slightly interested….. Otherwise….. yawn.

        The TV series is excellent.

        • Gardens of the Moon was ok, many of the books unfortunately are pretty boring.

          • I am still struggling through Gardens of the Moon, its great stuff, the formatting is horrible for me though.

            I have to agree with you though, the show is better than the books, its more coherent and doesn’t feel like a rambling mess that has escaped the authors grasp ( I’m looking at you book 4 ). George RR Martin deserves a lot of credit for creating great character and a compelling setting but as an author I think he’s a little… Well… Bad. Please don’t flame me out here I just think that he cannot write good drama when he’s not killing off major characters. Don’t even get me started on decompressed story telling.

    • in book 5 Tyrion is finally as likable as he is on TV. I havent finished the book but I assume, as with all the other characters, that means he will soon be dead

  2. Almost 48hrs later and I’m still shocked, floored, amazed and gut-punched after this last episode.
    I’ve only recently started reading the books. I read book 1 then rewatched season 1, I’m now reading book 2 and will then rewatch season 2 and will continue with each book and season. Even though there have been moments where I’ve had to force myself to keep reading and not to skip ahead I actually appreciate the show more now than before. Having a better understanding of the characters, their motivations and the history brings a better understanding of why things have happened on the show.
    I still didn’t see the events of this last episode coming though. What we’ve seen so far told us repeatedly that no one is safe so I guess shame on me. ;)
    Oh, and I still have no idea who’s torturing Theon. I think it might be …. but I’m still not sure and I’m guessing when it is revealed I’ll being saying to myself “duh!!!”
    I left the name of my guess out because I don’t want to spoil something for someone else who’s still not sure.

    • A great way to read books 4&5 is using the chapter list on entertaining.com. great website.It combines books 4&5 and keeps the continuity where books 1-3 were. To compare Steven Erickson With George Martin is…. Well each to his own.

      • Entertaining.com is a redirect to a damn spam site.

    • I don’t know who has Theon, but we have of course seen many times a character wearing that creepy X crucifix thing on their collars. I forget who those folks are! But as for reasons to hate Theon, first might be the Starks (who are all rather busy), and next might be anybody who cares about him murdering those kids and that old man. The kids were supposedly nobodies from a farm, but the old man? I should look him up somewhere and see if it makes sense to think he had family who would be in the X wearing crowd…

  3. Yes, for everything that is holy, if you are sick of people talking about that they have read the books, GO AND START READING THEM NOW!!! You have until late March to early April to get through two probably three books. Hell maybe even all of them. Just do it, do it now.

  4. I usually dont post here, but after what I witnessed, I was shocked to my core. I was like WTF for about 30 mins.

  5. I remember when I first read this in the book. I sat there for about 2 minutes. Went through the house got a bottle of water and said to myself, let me read that again. It was masterfully done in the tv series. Kudos to the entire crew. They hit two of the hardest scenes out of the park in the same episode. The showing of Jon Snow’s true colors was well done as well. So many series or movies made from books or series of books cheapen or are not true to the feel of the story. This series has been pretty well pitch perfect. Hats off to another great OMG moment in this series.

  6. Quoting Varys, “The revenge you want will be yours in time”.

  7. Tip #1 should be stay as far away from GoT comment sections as you possibly can.

    • Word!

      Tip number two should be “Don’t get attached to any one character”.

  8. Ok so who is he boy keeping Theon captive ? so confussed

    • The answer is in season 2 dialogue.

    • something about someone´s bastard

    • Then things are going according to plan. You, AND Theon are supposed to have no idea right now.

    • There’s actually been a few major give-aways this season if you have a close look at all the “pictures and imagery”…

  9. Just read the books, Jeez. They are a kajillian buhmillion times better than the show.

    You see with the Harry Potter adaptations and The Lord of the Rings adaptations they have their own faults in adapting the story as well, but they at least manage to capture the spectacle and intrigue of the respective worlds because they are big budgeted epic films…

    Game of Thrones however, despite being from HBO and one of the most lavish television productions in history, is still a cheap, pale shadow of the sprawling worlds of Westeros and Essos, its also boggled down by having to cater to the T i t s and A s s requirements. The majority of the characters don’t reflect they’re book counterparts and the majority of the story just translates horribly to tv.

    If you want to enjoy the story of the Song of Ice and Fire and the Game of Thrones, then read Martin’s novels. They are pure, majestic and Holy relics…

    Forget about the cheap television show and all of the posters, video games, merchandising tie-ins, youtube parodys, music compilation videos and look-alike cosplayers, all that is just money and pop culture….

    At the end of the day, the most rewarding experience comes from the books.

    I realize this is a post dedicated to the tv show and this site is about movies and tv, not literature, but seriously


    you should see my face right now

    GoT got nothing on ASoIaF

    • K. I’ll hurry up and sell my blurays.

    • This guy knows how it is.

    • No

    • Nope.

    • I love the books, but I respectfully disagree with this statement.

      Yes there are going to be changes between the book and the show, but the show is still fantastic. The acting is amazing and yeah, sometimes you might watch a character and think “hmm dunno if that would happen in the book” but for the most part the casting and acting is fairly accurate.

      The show has to adapt the books for viewers who havent read them, so a lot gets cut out, but all the important stuff gets the priority.

      And I love the books, George is a brilliant writer but I wouldnt call them “pure, majestic, Holy relics.” In places they are quite slow (for the most part actually) and this isnt something that would make a successful show.

      In my opinion, the showrunners and writers are doing a brilliant job.

  10. All excellent tips and viewing guide for watching this most unusual series.

    I have my own very personal rule after season one. I was disillusioned early on.
    I took the fall of Eddard Stark and then the wasted death of Khal Drogol pretty hard.

    I did like the elaborate landscape and how it all ties together was intriguing so
    I had a lingering curiosity of how that would all play out but for me I realized
    investing too much in any favorite characters was an emotional liability.

    I watch somewhat detached from the characters to the point
    where an episode like the last does not shock or upset me.

  11. Honestly (and I might come across as a bit….rude? And I hate to be rude to anyone), if people complained about last night’s episode and vowed to never watch again because of it then they really should get out more and into the real world where things like that happen daily.

    Soldier hacked to death on a busy afternoon street by radical extremists.

    Soldier facing at least 20 years in prison for leaking a video of US helicopter crews laughing and gunning down innocent Reuters reporters and children in Iraq.

    Those are just two examples of real world, despicable acts and yet a TV show based on a book gets people up in arms and vowing never to bother with the material again?

    Get real, people, seriously.

    I may get the books at some point but my advice would be to not buy Book Three just yet, lest you spoil what’s going to happen in season 4 of the TV show since this season is only the first half of that book.

  12. I don’t like how they only do 10 episodes a season. They leave out a lot of the storyline. It’s less than a representation of the summary of the chapters of the books. It’s like they want you to go buy and read the books in order to follow along with the TV series to not miss anything. Some of the episodes, like the “Rains of Castamere”, just vaguely go through the motions.

    I thought the Red Wedding scenes were poorly done. It was clearly a low budget production that should have been a blockbuster. The writing and directing was awful. The wedding was suppose to be “all the talk of Westeros”, but it was barely a wedding. Supposedly, nearly all of the Starks’ bannermen were killed, but they were hardly represented and it looked like only a handful. The Starks and the bannermen didn’t appear drunk and yet they didn’t fight back at all. Why would Catelyn grab the “wife” of Walder Frey? Why not put the knife to Walder Frey himself? And after Robb gets killed, Catelyn kills Frey’s wife, drops the knife, and just stands there waiting to be killed. Wouldn’t her character at least attempt to get revenge on Walder Frey by killing him? It was idi0tic and cheap the way that they did it.

    *****Spoiler Alert**** The guy torturing Theon is………Lord Bolton’s b@st@rd. You should have picked that up from season 2. From my understanding, he’s more psychotic than Joffrey. And why would Lord Bolton believe Tywin Lannister would give him Winterfell considering Tywin forced Tyrion and Sansa to get married? He had to know that his lordship of Winterfell would only be temporary.

    • Right well first of all, judging by next week’s promo, the rest of Stark’s bannermen will attempt to fight back against the Freys.

      Catylen just stood there because she was devestated that her father, husband and – to her knowledge – all of her kids are now dead (with the exception of Sansa who is a captive). She thinks Arya was killed in the sacking of Kings Landing, and that Bran and Rickon were killed by Theon. She has nobody left. In the books it’s pretty obvious that she’s almost driven to madness by the death of Robb.

      She didnt attempt to grab Walder because she was trying to appealing to him: if he killed someone she loved, shed kill someone he loved. But Walder is an asshole so it didnt work.

      Budget has to do with the studios, the show-runners did the best they could, and it was still pretty decent.

      And no need for spoilers mate, you just look like a dork.

  13. Oh, I love this guide! I’m on Book 3 and have since anticipated the penultimate episode when I saw that it was title Rains of Castamere. And it actually is a better fun, enjoyment and thrill when you’ve read the books because everything makes so much sense and you don’t dare take the little things for granted. Especially the dialogues of Littlefinger and Varys (which just so delicious to the ear). It’s a hard show/book/story to follow because of the massive details but it works. Both of it works in the book and the series. I’m so glad that they did great justice to how The Red Wedding was translated from book to TV. All I can say, season 3 is my favorite season so far. They have achieved a feat of topping their work every season. And everything just gets higher and higher.

  14. After reading this it only confirms i should give up on this show. I have been so sadden by this season plus i have no idea who is holding him and torturing him. I loved the slaughter

  15. Can’t wait for the introduction to Dorne and Reek!

  16. Totally wrong. To accurately follow the show & books you must;

    1. Do not believe in a plan. Anyone in the series who attempts, or appears to have some grand well thought plan is usually the one who loses. If you read the books GRRM spends entire books building up one character only to have them brought down in the end to the point I at least felt “where the f–k is he going with this?”

    2. Anyone who would normally be looked over in society does well. GRRM was obviously a societal outcast, basically a dork. All the “dorks” aka outcasts do well in this series. I am going to predict that Tyrion eventually becomes King.

    3. Nice guys finish last.

    4. Self serving social sycophants succeed at everything.

  17. I believe the only main characters in this seeies are Jon Snow, who btw gets a real character development from here, and Daenerys Targaryen who kind of drags a bit from here, but above all most people seems to attach themselves to characters and forget the main villians of the whole series, The others, who are refered to as the white walkers in the tv show. At the end of the day that is the main arc, “what happens when the others ride south” not who lives and dies. I predict jon and dan will ride dragons and save the realm and will end up king and queen.

    Another point: the only thing i don’t like in the show is the complete abscence to jon’s mother reference. In the books there are several references which kept me wanting to confirm my suspicions who is she. If it turns out who she is is really who i suspect she is the the whole series will fall into place, even the name, a song of ice and fire.

    • oh my god that makes sense! love the twist. don’t get TV here i have to read or buy seasons DVD packs read the books though

  18. Here’s what bothers me about Theon….

    its not really that we don’t know WHO THE HELL IS TORTURING HIM

    the question

    WHY THE HELL DO WE CARE….. In my mind, and I’m sure others would agree, I’ve already killed him off when he imprisoned what were essentially his little brothers and killed the farm boys. I used to be torn on his daddy complex and feelings of inadequecy but he’s no longer a character I care about or seems to matter to the wider narrative. So therefore why should we care?

    Look I’ve read what you guys are cluing us in on as far as social outcasts and the crippled. and I know what’s happened to him. But I fail to see how him or even ANY of the Greyjoys become significant in a story about WhiteWalkers, Wildlings, Crows, Sun Gods, and Dragons.

    • Because the guy who is torturing Theon is connected to Roose Bolton and north in future story since you know, since Robb(king of the north) is dead. Same goes with Theon, the north, Arya, Stannis, the wildings and the men of the nightwatch.

    • No one character is totally good or bad, hero or villain, innocent or guilty. Tyrion was never a favorite of mine because of his family, but changed into a fair and loving person. In the same way all characters are shaped by their experiences. Don’t count out any Greyjoy, Theon or otherwise. What’s best about this story is that the best parts of any character come out thru the deepest adversity (even if its done with their dying breath). I can’t wait to see all the new characters, new places, new changes in the continual growth of my favorite characters!

  19. Check this video, with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Tom Cruise: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=RwFN1QJ8rbc

  20. Those who are shockingly dismayed over this episode are also the people who want neat and tidy stories and endings that stay within the safe zone. Its the stories that dare to sacrifice that have the heroes rising to unimagined heights and cause people to have a better understanding of evil in the world and celebration of the good!

  21. Best tip to think about, if you haven’t read the books is any character can die at any time

  22. I don’t know if I’m the only one that has this problem, but I’m finding it harder to invest in this series because of all the seemingly senseless plot twits. Every time I feel like I’m grasping an overall theme, there’s a useless twist. Every time I get emotionally invested in a character, they die off. When Theon killed those kids, it felt like the perfect opportunity to build a deeper character when the suggestion to take the black was made. But what do we get? A kidnapping and torture. This last twist devastated me as I found myself really rooting for the Starks to win the war, through I should have known what was coming after what happened to Ned.

    I don’t have anything against characters dying, but they only seem for the purpose of creating a false sense of suspense, it makes it very hard to leave with anything from the series. The series only seems then to come off as a soap opera, which in a way is fitting faith all the sex scenes in the series. I still like the show as it has really been the only good fantasy in some time, with the last two episodes were probably the best so far. I’m probably going to start reading the books to get a better grasp on the story, but I’m wondering if anyone has had the same problem with the books?

    • Totally agree. I feel like every thing we know can be arbitrarily upended with no real reason. Bad authors have events happen from nowhere – “Deus ex machina”. Good authors make events arise from dramatic tensions in the plot. Series 1 was by a fantastic author, series 3 by a terrible one.

  23. I think this show is actually a fantastic show because its stories are all connected, I don’t get why people say it’s terrible or it’s
    too sad the way characters die off looking at life in that manner you’ll see that sometimes the best people die and the bad (so to say) live on. even when they are not suppose to and you get to wonder why? does that mean you won’t develop? The characters are built in a manner where every event makes their next move look at Arya for example she has experienced the death for every member of her family that gives her the will to revenge her family the more as the story develops she only becomes more harden so if you think the show is too annoying get some new hobby or watch Comedy Central and move on instead of complaining about a perfectly good show. IMO it’s not as easy as you think to bring a show like ASOIAF to life because its so hard to notice everything taking place at the same time but the show runners and doing a fab job the books are worth reading.
    For the record GRR Matins writes the scripts himself so I don’t think he adds unnecessary plots like someone said it might not seem as it is on paper like how you see on set.
    Aren’t you all tired of traditional story arc good guy kill bad guy thing change anit such a bad thing it’s unconventional and gritty that’s what makes it good so please don’t complain try to understand the show

  24. Seems like a dramatic Arrested Development

  25. I disagree with the article author. Fans aren’t leaving because they are disappointed that the show is more complex and kills off some heroes or that they can’t handle morally grey characters, its more that
    a) there are too many new characters that get tiny amounts of screen time so we never get to know them before they die,
    b) In the real world noone’s perfect but some people are pretty darned good, others neutral or grey and others downright evil, whereas GoT can’t do good people for any amount of time which is just as fake or faker than the other way around, and depressing to boot. It ruins all the characters we like, every darned one of the likable characters ends up either dead in highly contrived circumstances or does something so morally heinous we cant ever really like them again. Meanwhile the villains stay just as dastardly.
    c) Hours of torture of a character we dont care much about by a character we dont know is gratuitous and completely unstimulating.
    d) Dani could have swum to Westeros by now.