Warning: spoilers ahead.
Regardless of how shit the writing may or may not have been, how quickly entire storylines seem to have dissolved into the abyss, or how swiftly major characters have departed for no reason at all, the latest season of ‘Game of Thrones‘ has demonstrated two things about watching content in the digital age: the spoiler-free zone is dead, and it has never been easier to understand almost everything about a show without even watching it.
This final season of’ ‘Game of Thrones’ has seen an insane amount of social traffic, even by its own self-implemented standards. There were hours in the day – around lunch time if you’re in Australia! – that were cordoned off as ‘Thrones time’.
At the end of the season finale, every social media trend in the US was about Khaleesi and Jon Snow and the will-they won’t-they of the game of thrones. Personally, I did not care. I am going to watch the show anyway, and living in Australia you get used to things being spoiled by way of the brutal timezone difference between Hollywood and Down Under. But some people were really, really, pissed. In the opening episodes of Season 6, HBO‘s flagship program had people all over the world in a spin over what could and couldn’t be tweeted, what should and shouldn’t be reported on, and how a headline or thumbnail for a news article should be positioned so as not to spoil the long journey to the Iron Throne.
Until they weren’t.
The debate that once flourished during ‘Game of Thrones’ hours to not spoil, to not ruin, and to leave all discussion of plot at home has essentially been completely overrun by constant posting.
Why would you waste money on a service that carries Game of Thrones when you could just absorb the plot of each episode as hundreds of furious live-tweets. I have been consuming the show in this fashion for at least four seasons, as a whale consumes krill.
— Lee May 🚮 (@new_waster) May 13, 2019
By the end of it, Twitter was just a running feed of updates to a show I hadn’t seen yet, an ever-ticking flow of line by line quotes, descriptions, celebrations, and applause. Those who had once demanded everyone wait for them before tweeting were beaten down; burned multiple times from seeing a tweet where a dragon is impaled by an arrow fired from a giant crossbow on a boat, or by watching a gif of Arya soaring through the sky as she stabbed the Night King in the belly for some reason.
This is of course exactly what Twitter wants: from its early days the platform has been about discussion – leveraging itself off of ridiculously successful shows with emoji-laden hashtags and Twitter Moments (which still exist, somehow). A platform built for reaction and for live sports updates evolved into a constant narration of every moment of our lives – and that includes the content we digest.
Before digital, the closest thing to this was going to your friend’s house to watch Seinfeld or Friends or later, The Sopranos – but there were no “How To Watch ‘Friends’” articles in TV Week, and at the end of an episode everyone just went home. Talk about it at school or at work the next day, maybe even see it mentioned on a Late Night show, but if you wanted to ruin it for everyone else in the world – really, really, ruin it – you’d be hard-pressed to do it.
Maybe I’m just sad, an old man of the internet, because I remember a time when people took the effort to warn others before mindlessly tweeting the entirety of a television show brick by brick, moment by moment. But also, I must stress: I do not care.
Logging off is easy, and it’s good for you too. But the idea that you can be online and somehow be spared spoiler-laden discussion around cultural touchpoints is becoming more and more obsolete. We’re dissolving into The Matrix, folks, and I for one am looking forward to it. The steak tastes great.
I’m not going to pay for HBO. I sure as heck ain’t gonna ask for a friend’s login, either. Pirating is for squares, and I definitely wouldn’t admit to it in a publication even if I did it. I’m just gonna sit back on my couch, bowl of ice cream in my lap, and absorb the endless stream of Game of Thrones tweets like a solar panel does the sun. It’s warm and lush and feels like home.