LOS ANGELES – Unremitting power struggles, an insatiable thirst for revenge and the cold of darkest winter return to the medieval Seven Kingdoms in “Game of Thrones,” a hit TV series debuting its fifth season this weekend on screens worldwide.
The drama inspired by the literary saga “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George R. R. Martin, first published in 1996, has become the HBO program with the biggest audience, beating even the renowned “The Sopranos” with an average 18.4 million viewers a week in the United States.
The series has additionally become all the international rage, and now for the first time the channels associated with HBO in 170 countries will air episodes at the same time as in the U.S., starting at 9:00 p.m. EDT on Sunday.
Audience numbers continue to rise and the story is far from over, since the cast has committed to film up to seven seasons, while Martin reveals that HBO wants the series to last 10 years.
The new season consists of 10 one-hour episodes airing weekly until June 21 and will have as its first episode “The Wars to Come,” in which the leading characters adjust to their new realities following the patricide of clan leader Lannister.
Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss will base this season on the fourth and fifth novels of Martin’s saga: “A Feast for Crows” (2005) and “A Dance with Dragons” (2011).
Martin still hasn’t finished the sixth volume, “The Winds of Winter,” which won’t hit the shelves this year, and plans to write one more, “A Dream of Spring,” for which no launch date has been set – all of which makes it likely that the series will end before the final two novels are published.
However, just as the book saga “Game of Thrones” takes artistic license with history, so HBO together with Benioff and Weiss take artistic license with the books, and it is they, not Martin, who have the last word about what will happen in the TV series.
Despite its commercial success, the series itself has achieved little recognition within the industry in terms of awards, though it has had multiple nominations.
“Game of Thrones” has been nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series in each of its seasons, but without ever taking the prize.
Since 2011 the program was won 14 Emmys, all of them technical in nature except for the Best Supporting Actor accolade that went this year to Peter Dinklage for his role as Tyrion Lannister.
That actor, an unknown until “Game of Thrones,” is among those whose careers have been enriched by the series. Last year he was seen in three feature films – “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” “Low Down” and “The Angriest Man in Brooklyn” – and in 2015 he will premiere another two, “Taxi” and the superproduction “Pixels” with Adam Sandler.
Stardom also came to Emilia Clarke, the ambitious mother of dragons and queen of armies Daenerys Targaryen, who will be the new Sarah Connor in the fifth part of the “Terminator” saga (“Terminator Genisys”) which will premiere on the big screen in July, while Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark) will appear in “X-Men: Apocalypse” in 2016.