A pop cultural battle has raged online the past several years and the skirmishes have come to a head around the current season of the biggest hit in HBO’s history, Game of Thrones. It’s not a war between Stark and Lannisters fans but a vicious, perhaps unwinnable fight between spoilerphiles and spoilerphobes. So far no one has reaped the . . . well, spoils.
Personally, I’ve been on Team Spoiler since childhood when I would often read the ending of a book first just so I could then go back to the beginning and enjoy a slow journey without rushing through fueled by the suspense. For me, Game of Thrones is the ideal show.
I’m an avid reader, but I haven’t read one chapter of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, the gritty fantasy series on which the HBO show is based because (Spoiler Alert) Martin appears no closer to ever finishing this monster epic than he was two books ago. I like to be certain there’s going to be some sort of end before I begin. Yet, since the first book was published in 1996, there’s a virtual ton of plot summaries floating online to enjoy.
Still I imagine Team Surprise, those who hate any hint of what’s to come, must live their days between episodes in a constant state of paranoia that some book reader will drop a dirty plot bomb onto their Twitter feed or Facebook page.
But now with the season over, as (Spoiler Alert) Stannis has his one “Hell Yea!” moment of the series, Jon Snow has his millionth beautiful pout of the series, Arya sets sail to turn her death dabbles into a profession and Tyrion gives his dad the Father’s Day gift of an eternal moment of peace on the pot — you’re a laugh riot HBO schedulers — I would like to make a case for spoilers.
Three years ago, the only psychological study of spoilers confirmed the theory that some stories are enjoyed more when we know how they end. And I believe a thousand years of literary history support this idea. When was the last time someone left a production of Hamlet muttering: Everybody in Denmark died and that Norwegian prince with five lines wins the throne? Wow, I did not see that coming.
Yet, after 400 years of already knowing all his tricks, Shakespeare's still smokin' hot.
But back to the Game, this season especially felt like it was made for those in the know, as show runners Benioff and Weiss purposeful and perhaps sometimes accidentally played into and defied the spoiled expectations.
One of the coolest scenes this season came in episode four when the show confirmed where White Walkers babies come from. (It apparently involves adult White Walkers doing a rousing cover of “Let It Go” offscreen and then getting a fierce magical manicure.) Yet, this major reveal is still only conjecture in the books.
I’d argue that if it’s shocks you’re looking for, these scenes were much more stunning for those spoiled then those not.
Meanwhile, one of the most controversial scenes came one episode earlier when it looked like Queen mum Cersei and her twin brother Jamie’s screw on their dead son’s coffin from the book had been turned into a possible funeral rape on the show, which strangely enough made things all the more sordid.
My favorite moment of the whole season came during the finale when Varys hears the bells announcing Tywin Lannister’s murder and makes the split second decision to join Tyrion on his all-inclusive cruise, which might just make season five the best buddy adventure in television history. This too was a deviation from the books.
I’d argue that if it’s shocks you’re looking for, these scenes were much more stunning for those spoiled than those not.
I realize spoiler lovers and haters might never agree, but we really can’t even virtually jab our thumbs in our enemies’ eye sockets and crush their heads because it would make a bloody mess all over the Internet. (I miss you Oberyn even though I knew going in all men must die.) Instead, I propose we come to some agreed upon etiquette.
Here’s my version, feel free to counter with your own.
Don’t Be Smug.
Just because you know something big, that’s no reason to act like a 6-year-old who can’t wait to tell her little brother that (Spoiler Alert for all 4-year-olds reading this article) Santa really is mommy and daddy.