The clue to understand Game of Thrones is that it’s basically a high-class soap opera. Every moment something DRAMATIC is happening, every character goes from bad to worse, without ever getting something like a short reprieve. There is a big difference, in that most of the time the characterization comes over as more honest and realistic, instead of just pushing your buttons (or in most cases, the buttons that those who like soap opera have, which aren’t per se universal). I hate soap operas with passion, but thankfully GoT managed to override that with it’s setting (fantasy is one of my buttons).
One clever twist I like about the series is how it manages to make you re-examine your views on certain characters, who start out bad, but then become more nuanced. The only thing I found pretty annoying was the storyline with the Mongol-lookalike tribe, which came over as a bit too simplistic and at times even offensively stupid in its portrayal of “savages on horses”. I know it’s a make-up world, but if you manage such a fine and nuanced depiction of the European middle age lookalike culture, you can do better than reducing the horse-tribes to a blood-thirsty culture that looks more inspired by Klingons than anything based on reality.
At the moment I’m also reading the book from which this was adapted, and I’m not sure which version I will like better in the end. The series is stream-lined, with all the narrative fat cut out. So far, while the book is a nice read, it feels like going on too long, but this could be a side-effect of seeing the story in a compressed state before reading the book.