I have a confession: I don’t watch.
Unbelievable, right? There are lost tribes on archipelagos thousands of miles out in the ocean that spend their time debating who’s hotter, Jon Snow or Jaime Lannister. Such is the cultural domination of HBO’s sword ‘n’ saucy fantasy series that I feel like the only person in the world who doesn’t watch it.
I’m not a total shut-in — I did watch the first season back in 2011. But I failed to keep up as the show took over the world, winning a record 47 Primetime Emmy Awards and becoming HBO’s biggest ever show as 30 million people tuned in and went online for each episode.
That was almost precisely when I lost interest in waiting a week for new episodes of a show. With the sole exception of Doctor Who, I haven’t followed any TV show week-in week-out for a decade. Also, I got a bit sick of talking about telly with friends. It might be the golden age of television, but instead of insightful conversations about the nuances of long-form storytelling, every conversation now seemed to involve everybody comparing which bit of Breaking Bad they were up to.
But the main reason I gave up on Game of Thrones so fast? All through the first season, the characters held barely audible whispered conversations about some dude named Stannis Baratheon who was apparently super important. Which one of the many identical bearded men is Stannis, I pondered. Is he that guy from The Wire? Is he that guy from ’90s British singing duo Robson and Jerome?
It was only at the end of the season I realized Stannis was none of them. He wasn’t even in it.
Screw you, TV show!
Win or die
Winter isn’t coming. Winter is here.
The— that’s 28 days from now. There are 67 episodes so far, which means between now and the start of Season 8 I’d have to watch 2.3 episodes per day to catch up.
That’s doable. I guess.
The question is what it would do to a person, watching two and a half hours of muddy, bloody killing and copulating every single day for a month?
There’s a strand of commercials currently on British television advertising Amazon Prime Video and depicting shows like Vikings and Lucifer changing the life of various abject viewers. A bleary-eyed dad gets into espionage thriller Jack Ryan and responds by dusting off his abandoned rowing machine and finally doing those jobs round the house, but with a dead-eyed intensity that clearly terrifies his kids. Meanwhile a browbeaten office worker watches Vikings and asserts herself at work by thumping tables and roaring wordlessly at her colleagues.
If that’s what happens when you watch those shows, god knows what mainlining Game of Thrones would do to me. What kind of feral, fur-clad man-beast would I become?
Besides, the only thing cooler than being into something is very vocally not being into something. “Game of Thrones?” I can announce loudly at parties. “Don’t watch it, mate.” Ian McShane knew this — the straight-talking actor referred to Game of Thrones as “only tits and dragons,” and he’s in it.
Maybe I could throw in a “It’s just a Krull rip-off anyway,” just to really wind people up.
But I am tempted to become one of you. I could finally join in all those conversations at work, at the pub, online. “Those two characters are obviously secret brother and sister,” I could declare confidently by the coffee machine. “I so do know who Stannis Baratheon is, thanks very much!” I could scream through the letterbox at passersby.
You know what? I’m going to do it. I’m going to get into Game of Thrones.
There are a million episodes to watch, but I’m actually going on paternity leave any minute now, which means I’ll have loads of free time on my hands, right? I’m pretty sure I already know every damn thing that’s happened on the show anyway, thanks to the omnipresent headlines shouting spoilers across social media and news sites for the past eight years.
I’m all in. Seventy hours of bloody murder and dynastic carnage in less than a month — let’s do it!
Finally, I can join in with the people chatting in my office instead of cranking up my headphones like some kind of filthy pariah. Every Monday I can spend two hours talking about a TV show instead of working, and it’ll be OK because the boss is the most excited out of everyone.
Finally I’ll understand what you’ve all been so excited about, and I can share that excitement too — if only for about a month.
I’ll understand the memes. I’ll be able to spend my lunch break reading detailed recaps of the episode I watched literally hours ago. I’ll use clan banners as analogies in Facebook arguments with vaguely racist cousins. I could even start a fan theory YouTube channel.
I will be, belatedly, the ruler of the zeitgeist.
I will, once and for all, win the game of thrones.
Wait, there are books as well? Oh, come on!