How Did Critics Like ‘Game of Thrones’ When It Premiered Six Years Ago?

Game of Thrones

How Did Critics Like ‘Game of Thrones’ When It Premiered Six Years Ago?

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How Did Critics Like ‘Game of Thrones’ When It Premiered Six Years Ago?

Game of Thrones is one of television’s most successful dramas by any measure — particularly its record-breaking Emmy haul. (No scripted show has won more of those trophies.)

But TV critics weren’t all on board when the HBO drama premiered six years ago today, on April 11, 2011.

Some praised the show’s morally complicated characters and lavish production values, others decried its violence and gender politics.

In this gallery, see excerpts from 15 of these reviews, arranged from worst to best, per Metacritic’s ranking.

Game of Thrones Season 7 premieres on Sunday, July 16 on HBO.

How Did Critics Like ‘Game of Thrones’ When It Premiered Six Years Ago?
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The Wall Street Journal

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The Wall Street Journal

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“We’re back to the familiar favorites of the infantile, e.g. spurting blood and gore, bastard sons, evil vixens, blond nymphets, quasi-lesbian action, crude talk among men about their private parts, incest, rough couplings, and more random bare breasts than any other contender in the adolescent-boy-action-show contest this month.” – Nancy deWolf Smith

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The New York Times

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The New York Times

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Game of Thrones serves up a lot of confusion in the name of no larger or really relevant idea beyond sketchily fleshed-out notions that war is ugly, families are insidious, and power is hot.” – Ginia Bellafante

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Orlando Sentinel

Orlando Sentinel

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Game of Thrones doesn’t touch the heart. The series too often puts children and animals in jeopardy; depicts lopped heads and geysers of blood; and lingers over an incestuous relationship with unsettling results.

You’re subjected to a lot of unpleasantness, but there’s no dramatic payoff to make the slog worthwhile.” – Hal Boedeker

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Boston Herald

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Boston Herald

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“Keeping track of people — much less learning their names — is the biggest hurdle in this competent if sometimes trying adaptation …

“Those who love the books will probably geek out on the series. The rest of us may have a harder time sitting through Game of Thrones.” – Mark A. Perigard

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New York Daily News

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New York Daily News

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“When you’re three episodes into a series and still unsure which member of which family holds which nominal role in which ruling household, you may start asking whether the effort is worth the payback.” – David Hinckley

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Slant Magazine

Slant Magazine

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“If Game of Thrones can find its place in the personal (in the power, corruption, and integrity to be found in individual souls), then it can transcend the ugly social and historical dynamics that it so casually relies on and reproduces.” – Phillip Maciak

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The Washington Post

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The Washington Post

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“It is possible to admire Game of Thrones for its sincerity and clarity of purpose — its utter devotion to form and detail — while the rest of your TV brain struggles to keep pace with what happens …

The eternal question is, are you up for the journey? It’s about becoming (or not becoming) the kind of viewer who can sign on to such a daunting amount of Dark Ages hoo-hah.” – Hank Stuever

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Salon

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Salon

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“This HBO show has a particular storytelling philosophy and creative process. And it’s uncompromising in how it lays things out, taking a full hour to set its pieces on the chessboard and not making its first big move until the final seconds of the pilot.

“Things don’t really start to cook until the second hour. By that point, the uninitiated will have gotten hip to what they’re looking at: a tale set in a viscerally convincing, outwardly ‘realistic’ universe inhabited by psychologically plausible characters whose actions are subtly affected by unseen forces.” – Matt Zoller Seitz

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USA Today

USA Today

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“It’s all very well told and well acted, but those who insist on comparing it to The Lord of the Rings are setting up expectations Game cannot possibly match …

Game is just that: an ever-more-complicated contest for power among powerful people of various shades of gray, with the common people suffering to one degree or another no matter the outcome. It’s a popular story, but it lacks the joyous force and universal appeal of Rings.” – Robert Blanco

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New York Post

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New York Post

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“The art direction, acting, and incredible sets are as breathtaking as the massive scope of the series. A bit slow at first, but it’s a grabber once you get into it.”

In this galaxy far, far away, it’s all intrigue, warring, and whoring. No wonder it’s a fantasy! Bring on the beer and chips.” – Linda Stasi

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Variety

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Variety

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Game of Thrones excels on multiple levels — with its splendid ensemble cast (able to sell even the clunkier fantasy dialogue), intricate palace machinations, sly humor, and growing sense of inevitable conflict.

“The production’s look is a wonder, showcasing a variety of environments (lensing was in Northern Ireland and Malta) and ornate sets and costumes that approximate the feel of a theatrical blockbuster.” – Brian Lowry

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TIME

TIME

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“Watching Game of Thrones is like falling into a gorgeous, stained tapestry. This epic, unflinching fantasy noir takes our preconceptions of chivalry, nobility, and magic and gets medieval on them.” – James Poniewozik

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Entertainment Weekly

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Entertainment Weekly

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“The series stars actors as striking and varied as Sean Bean, Peter Dinklage, and Lena Headey. Just as impressive, it nearly always maintains a narrative pace that keeps you engaged even during the talky parts …

“Stick with it. Free your eyes to take in the spectacle, and your brain will magically start following the intricate storytelling. And there’s a magical realism to Game of Thrones.” – Ken Tucker

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The Hollywood Reporter

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The Hollywood Reporter

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“It’s a fantasy series shouldn’t scare anyone away, because — like Lord of the Rings — there’s a real allure to costume-dramas that pair dense mythology with all of the crowd-pleasing elements of war, honor, pride, lust, power and, yes, even humor.

Thrones has all of those in spades and supports them with exceptional storytelling, strong writing, superb acting and some stunning visual effects.” – Tim Goodman

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Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Times

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Game of Thrones … quickly becomes a great and thundering series of political and psychological intrigue bristling with vivid characters, cross-hatched with tantalizing plotlines and seasoned with a splash of fantasy …

“[The show] finds that rare alchemy of action, motivation, and explanation, proving, once again, that the epic mythology remains the Holy Grail of almost any medium.” – Mary McNamara

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Game of Thrones is one of television’s most successful dramas by any measure — particularly its record-breaking Emmy haul. (No scripted show has won more of those trophies.)

But TV critics weren’t all on board when the HBO drama premiered six years ago today, on April 11, 2011.

Some praised the show’s morally complicated characters and lavish production values, others decried its violence and gender politics.

In this gallery, see excerpts from 15 of these reviews, arranged from worst to best, per Metacritic’s ranking.

Game of Thrones Season 7 premieres on Sunday, July 16 on HBO.