Plots, sex and bloody, bloody murder. Those are just three of the defining on-screen trademarks of the brilliance that is HBO's Game of Thrones. But a look behind the scenes of the television adaptation of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novels is just as fascinating as an hour in front of the television. (And not just because Theon Greyjoy is played by Lily Allen's brother. What now?)
Below, we explore some fun facts and figures about the world beneath the Seven Kingdoms.
Game of Thrones is one of most expensive shows on TV. It costs three times as much to make an episode of GoT as it does to make an episode of The Big Bang Theory. (However, it is still costs $1 million less than it did to make any episode on the final season of Friends).
Some GoT episodes cost even more than $6 million to make. Season 2's action-packed "Blackwater" skated in with a reported price tag of $8 million.
To date, producers have traveled to the United States, Croatia, Morocco, Malta, Iceland and Northern Ireland for filming, with locations often overlapping in order to meet deadlines. Rumor has it GoT will add Spain to that list for Season 5.
In addition to George R.R. Martin and series showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, all three of whom are credited for each episode, the show has used series executive story editor Bryan Cogman (five episodes), Divergent screenwriter Vanessa Taylor (three episodes) and serious nerd cred writer and producer Jane Espenson (one episode) to flesh out the novels for television. In comparison, True Blood and The Walking Dead, two other television adaptations of popular books with sprawling casts, have had 14 and 20 total writers respectively.
Martin has written five novels in what he says will ultimately be a seven-book series. But it took him a whopping 15 years to write those first five. Benioff and Weiss hope Martin pulls through, but are willing to move forward without him, books or not.
Benioff and Weiss say they have the "broad strokes" of what Martin plans to do with the book series ending, but none of the specifics. Martin hopes he'll be able to finish the books before the show ends.
Costume designer Michelle Clapton says the most time-consuming part of the design process is breaking in the wardrobe. She says breaking in the costumes helps the show avoid that cheap Renaissance Fair-fantasy look.
The now-iconic opening was created by the prolific short-form filmmaking studio Elastic, which also created the credits for Masters of Sex, The Americans and True Detective. While GoT's opening is meant to evoke the maps at the beginning of the Lord of the Rings books, it was Elastic's creative director who came up with the "world within a sphere." Pay attention to the shadowed areas beneath the surface of the map; there are cogs working there, too.
The locations that have appeared the least? Pentos (once), Braavos (twice) and the Twins (thrice).
It took prop-maker Gavin Jones two months to construct the iconic behemoth out of wood and steel. The finished product stands an impressive eight feet tall.
George R.R. Martin may be a major fan of Tolkien's work, but even he feels Lord of the Rings was missing some ritual and worship. (Middle-earth did have its own forms of religion, but nobody's here to debate the finer points of the Silmarillion.)
Though Martin refers to himself as a lapsed Catholic, he says he finds religion and spirituality fascinating and that he wants to believe in an afterlife.
The actor who plays Tyrion Lannister had the final "and" credit in Season 1, with Sean Bean taking top billing. That all changed when Dinklage won the Emmy in 2012.
Kevin Alexander, one of Game of Thrones' hair designers, says that each piece can cost up to $7,000.
In the books, Martin only provided a few examples of the foreign tongues spoken on Game of Thrones. So the show's producers enlisted linguist David J. Peterson, founder of the Language Creation Society, to develop Dothraki and Valyrian into full, grammatical languages that the show's actors could actually speak.
Despite having created the 4,000-word Dothraki dictionary, Peterson says fanboys still try to correct him on his pronunciation.
Despite being an HBO show, Game of Thrones doesn't always appear on HBO in other countries.
BitTorrent says the 2013 season finale of Game of Thrones was downloaded via their site 5.9 million times. (Compare that with Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead at 4.2 and 3.6 million downloads, respectively.)
And HBO doesn’t seem to have a problem with that. CEO Richard Plepler told Buzzfeed it was a "terrific marketing vehicle for the next generation of viewers."
The author says rape and sexual violence are a part of his story because they illustrate one of the series' main themes, "that the true horrors of human history derive not from orcs and Dark Lords, but from ourselves."
Whether the sexual and other violence in Game of Thrones bears any resemblance to "how things were back then" in our own history may be another story.
Nielsen research says women make up about 42% of the shows viewers, making it more popular among women than comparable programs.
Game of Thrones is known for its gratuitous sex. The show has even hired female porn stars for supporting roles (often as prostitutes). But for those who want more sex and less "sexposition," there are three porn parodies to choose from — so far: Game of Bones, Sex of Thrones and This Ain't Game of Thrones XXX.
Kristian Nairn, the Irish actor who plays Bran Stark's hulking escort, came out earlier this year, making him the first openly gay actor of the show's 100-plus member cast.