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Game of Thrones’ Women Rule Ratings

GoT-Danerys_s3.jpgAfter nearly a year in hiatus, HBO’s powerhouse drama Game of Thrones returned Sunday night to epic ratings. During its one hour premiere Thrones garnered 4.4million viewers, surpassing the previous record of 4.2 million fans who tuned in to the Season 2 finale. By Monday ratings for the subscription-based channel’s first episode reached 6.7 million viewers, giving cable heavyweights The Walking Dead and The Bible a run for their respective multi-million dollar budgets, and bettors big ideas on future awards season wins.

The wildly popular adaption of George R.R. Martin’s high fantasy saga A Song of Ice and Fire, Thrones’ sprawling, multi-storyline plot follows a medieval world’s bloody power struggle where politics and family ties can be as deadly as its dragons. HBO’s attention to detail (and open check book) have paid off, drawing loyal readers and new fans alike with lavish sets, blistering special effects, and an iron-clad cast of exceptional actresses – including new faces destined to make Oscar bet cards in years to come - leading the charge.

Appearing as both heroines and villains, women move through Thrones’ brutal world as catalysts of intrigue, war, and political upheaval while balancing loyalty, love and (in some cases) puberty. From the icy beauty of plotting queen Cersei, played to perfection by 300 and Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles actress Lena Headly, to Emilia Clarke’s dragon-wielding teen empress Daenerys Targaryen, or the eroding naiveté and hidden strength of orphaned court hostage Sansa Stark, Thrones’ better halves are as handy with swords and intrigue as they are with court manners – and as deserving of a crown as any man.

For Martin, writing strong women isn’t about gender roles, but decisions. Declaring himself “a feminist at heart” in a recent interview, the author attributed the lasting impression his queens, girl-assassins and lady knights have made on popular culture to the flaws and moral ambiguity built into their DNA. By avoiding dog-eared tropes of damsels in distress and shining heroes, Martin allows his characters the space to make terrible decisions, remember betrayals, and justify deeds both good and bad.

In response, fans have turned show into a runaway hit, spawning an empire of merchandise, box-sets, video games and, of course, more seasons in the works. As the new season rolls on, nominations will no doubt follow. In just two years Game of Thrones collected 34 gongs, including Emilia Clarke’s Breakout Performance nod at the 2011 Scream awards. While it’s anyone’s guess who will bring home big prizes in 2013, fans and critics will keep tuning in for more of the women of Westeros.

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