Gay is the television critic.
Viewership for HBO's "Game of Thrones" (Sunday at 9 p.m.) continues to climb in its third season. A record 5.5 million tuned in this past Sunday, the fourth week in a row viewership has increased. Why has this sometimes-mystifying, sometimes-confounding drama become one of TV's biggest hits? Here are 10 reasons:
1. "GoT" hates exposition and instead dumps you right down into the middle of the action. This sink-or-swim narrative style keeps viewers off balance, forces them to stick around for resolution, or better yet explanation, which seldom comes.
2. Scene setting is everything. Those haunted hulking pines that shelter Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) in his quest for the three-eyed crow? You are right there with him, too. "GoT" does this better than any series on TV, with the possible exception of "Mad Men."
5. Magic, but not too much. Martin has always given readers plenty in their epic fantasy diet, but not too much. Sure, the dragons are great this season, but partly because they are used so sparingly.
6. Strong female protagonists. They are truly the richest characters of the series and are better than ever in the third -- from Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg) to Brienne (Gwendoline Christie).
8. Intriguing theology. The nature of God, or rather Gods, is more deeply rooted this season, and how it plays to the big themes -- the battle of good and evil, light and dark, fire and ice.
10. It's complicated -- and it's supposed to be. Remember, "GoT" is an entire universe, where human motives, desires and impulses are always twisted up in knots of secrets, lies and deceptions. That's the whole point of this "game" -- to slowly unravel them. And the stakes seem to grow with each passing episode. But -- word of advice -- always follow the trail of Aidan Gillen's Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish. He seems to be the only one who knows where this will all end up.