Cruel, bloody, vulgar, Machiavellian, unrepentant. And that is just the writing. The camera angles, the score, the pacing mesh together for grand storytelling: a mix of horror, swords and sorcery, and endless treachery.
And all of that would be somewhat squandered if it wasn't for the best casting I've ever seen. From Lena Headey as soft spoken Cersei to Peter Vaughan as ancient Maester Aemon, each character pulses with depth and believability. Peter Dinklage may have sacrificed a virgin princess to get this role; I've never seen a better fit, not in size (though there is that) but in the way his eyes convey shrewd arrogance coupled with unabashed debauchery.