Game Of Thrones is back.
The festival of violence, nudity, magic and intrigue has won more awards than most other television shows could shake a Valyrian sword at.
Now the fire-breathing, sibling-loving, head-chopping, zombie-walking and record-breaking series returns for its eighth and final season.
The previous seven have not been without controversy. Their defenders say the show is set in a fictional version of medieval Europe, complete with the ultraviolence, sexism, prostitution and incest of the age, finished off with a sprinkling of magic.
Its critics argue that medieval morals, where some characters revel in the rape and torture of others, have no place being glorified in the 21st century.
The more shocking moments – a pregnant woman stabbed to death, numerous rape scenes, a man’s skull crushed in the hands of another, to name a few – are often paraded as proof for the show’s detractors.
But do the numbers bear out the criticism? Did the show’s producers listen to their audience? And which characters are the worst culprits?
In time for the eighth season, here are eight things we learned after watching every episode again in great detail.
Men got their kit off more than women…
It may come as a surprise to find that, on the whole, the level of male nudity outweighed female nudity throughout the series by two to one, when giving male and female toplessness equal credence.
Of all the named characters across the seven seasons, it is Theon Greyjoy who spends most time with his clothes off. Despite the poor lad’s reputation for, er, swordsmanship, most of this time comes as he spends a season getting splayed, spayed and tortured by the psychopathic Ramsay Bolton.
Of the female characters it is Melisandre, who spends the most time nude. Her devotion to the Lord of Light is apparently only relevant if she exhibits it in various states of undress.
…but female nudity was more likely to be sexualised
Some 93% of the male nudity was composed of men baring their chests, yet this was largely on the field of battle or in some state of distress.
Viewers were often treated to long scenes where men forego clothing but in a completely unsexualised manner: the High Septon’s prolonged walk of shame through the streets of King’s Landing, Jorah’s agonising surgery for greyscale and Theon Greyjoy strapped to a cross and tortured for almost an entire season to mention but a few. Not to mention the Dothraki, who wouldn’t know a shirt if one hit them in the face.
Take that proportion of male nudity away, however, and there is 10 times more female nudity than there is for men, the vast majority of which is included, for want of a better word, as titillation. What’s more, just under a third of the naked women are unnamed sex workers whose role is to entertain male characters and, one assumes, the male viewers.
A strikingly handsome exception to the rule would be Olyvar, who never seems to venture outside of the brothels of King’s Landing, whether because he is responsible for their business or on sale himself.
Levels of violence dramatically overtook nudity
In the early seasons, there was often twice the level of screen time devoted to nudity than there was to violence.
In fact, it wasn’t until the Battle of the Blackwater – season two’s action-packed penultimate episode – that levels of violence overtook nudity for the first time. It then took until the fourth episode of season three to go a full episode without so much as a nipple, rear end or miscellaneous dangly bit in sight.
Nudity briefly gained the upper hand again when Melisandre seduced Gendry for his king’s blood but, once the horrific Red Wedding reached its grisly denouement, violence was always the bigger feature.
Jon Snow was the most violent character
Wildlings, whitewalkers, watchmen, warriors, all have fallen to the wolf-pommelled sword of Valyrian steel which Jon Snow calls Longclaw. In terms of screen time engaged in violence, it is Ned Stark’s favourite bastard who has been the most prolific.
Brienne of Tarth, the towering female knight from the Sapphire Isle, comes in second, lending her sword and her honour to whichever high born lord or lady demands it.
Jaime Lannister may be the Kingslayer, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard and one of the most feared and skilful warriors in Westeros but his fighting days were fairly limited. Losing a hand early in season three not only slowed him down but forced him to retrain and pushed him further from the action.
Widely known as the man without honour, it is maybe not surprising that he clocked up one of the highest murder counts, in terms of screen time committing the act, then any other character. All except one.
Arya spent the most time murdering
She may be the youngest daughter of a house in decline but Arya Stark’s training as an assassin and her long list of victims-to-be put her in good stead for reaching the top of the murder charts. Losing most of your family to various ruthless dictators can have that effect.
Neither of the most sadistic characters came to their demise at the end of Arya’s Needle, however.
The amount of sexual violence was a regular criticism levelled at the show and Joffrey Baratheon, poisoned by his mother-in-law and perhaps the most despicable character of the bunch, spent 90% of his violent acts engaged in it, entirely in one harrowing scene.
Only Ramsay Bolton spent more time assaulting or raping other characters, leading to one of Sansa Stark’s few acts of violence when she gets her grizzly revenge.
‘I drink and I know things’
In news that will not surprise the more ardent viewers, Tyrion Lannister was the drunkest character by a Westerosi country mile, drowning his sorrows or priming his pump with whatever he could lay his hands on.
Not only did he pour or drink more alcohol than anyone else across both the seven kingdoms and the seven seasons, he drank almost three times more than his boozy and broken sister Cersei.
A life on the road
Jon Snow and Jorah Mormont are in the most travelling scenes, but while Jon’s journey was a voyage of discovery, Jorah had only one aim in mind: the service of his queen.
Jon receives his marching orders in the second episode of season one and never really stops. First he heads to the wall to join the Night’s Watch and not long later he’s headed further north into wildling territory, spending the rest of the time fighting and walking his way between the two.
Despite sticking by Daenerys’ side throughout the early seasons, Jorah Mormont’s treachery gets him banished. Neither necrotic disease nor aging bones could stop his journey around the lands over the Narrow Sea, but he couldn’t quite match Jon for travel time.
As the budgets increased, so did the spectacle
While the first season averaged between five and six million dollars to produce, according to industry reports, this increased to a whopping ten million per episode for season seven.
As such, the show’s producers cranked up the big battles and CGI as the fight for the Iron Throne intensified. And as Dany’s dragons grew they were put to increasing use flaming her enemies or as a speedy, if scaly, mode of transport.
The prevalence of the walking dead also increased dramatically as the tension rose, allowing everyone who spent the early seasons warning that “Winter Is Coming” a satisfactory “told you so” as things got cold.
Season eight has a reported budget of $15 million per episode, understood to be the highest budget of any English-language TV show ever, meaning all the more opportunity crank up the wow factor.
- Press Association