If you spend any time reading the commentary that surrounds Game of Thrones you will have noticed there are a considerable number of people who complain about spoilers. I am going to assume that, like me, you find these people somewhat irritating. Although I want to argue that they are not just irritating, but wrong.
At a time when TV audiences are becoming more fragmented, and TV viewing habits more idiosyncratic, televisual events are rarer. Viewers can watch TV whenever they want, and they have so much more to choose from. The few shows that can gather a large audience every week benefit from a kind of simultaneity that was once taken for granted.
Thrones is such a show: gloriously popular, narratively gripping, and eked out in a way that it is almost unbearable for a generation used to binging whole seasons in a weekend.
The biggest reason for this change in viewing habits is, of course, the internet. The internet makes it harder for shows that aren't already hugely popular to get a lot of attention, because they have so much competition, but for a show that is already popular, it can have the opposite effect.
For a popular show, a dedicated viewer can spend all of the next morning at work reading reactions to the latest episode (I recommend Grantland's and the LA Review of Books'). The internet commentary is far more time consuming than the water cooler small talk I'm assured happened in previous lifetimes.
And it is far richer and deeper and more challenging too. The level of discourse can be exceptional and provocative, can point you towards parts of the show and, more importantly, ways of interpreting those parts that you would never previously have considered.
These can take a variety of forms: was that scene misogynistic? Was it too violent? Is that character annoying? Is this elaborate conspiracy theory accurate? Is that incidental detail a vital clue? Reading about the show can become just as important as watching it.
The obvious drawbacks, of course, are the inevitable spoilers. One of Game of Thrones' many appeals is the compulsive draw of its many plots, and its infamous willingness to murder characters unpredictably and cruelly.
Game of Thrones season 5 cast
Game of Thrones season 5 cast
1/9 Game of Thrones season 5
Oscar-nominated New Zealand actress Keisha Castle-Hughes will play the fiery Obara Sand, one of Prince Oberyn’s illegitimate daughters, who is seeking revenge for her father’s murder at the hands of the Mountain in season four
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Nymeria “Nym” Sand will be played by Jessica Henwick, her best known role to date is in television series Silk and Spirit Warriors
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Jonathan Pryce will star as the High Sparrow, a religious figure who could be making waves in King’s Landing
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Alexander Siddig, who will be playing Doran Martell, the stoic ruler of Dorne and the older brother of the gruesomely slain Oberyn
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Enzo Cilenti (left) will take on the part of the slave trader Yezzan
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London-born star DeObia Oparei will play Areo Hotah, the loyal protector of Doran Martell
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Rosabell Laurenti Sellers will play Tyene Sand, one of the illegitimate daughters of Oberyn Martell, the Prince of Dorne
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Myrcella Baratheon will be played by newcomer Nell Tiger Free
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Newcomer Toby Sebastian will take on the role of Trystane Martell, the youngest son of Doran
I have myself been spoiled vigorously and at length. Some of my less considerate friends deliberately gave some of the game away in a series of Weissbier-induced 'why the show is worse than the books' rants. My worst spoiling has come from the high end of available commentary.
John Lanchester, in the London Review of Books, brutally exposed the fates of many of protagonists. A commentator on an article in the New Yorker filled in many of the gaps. Few of the major events of the last two seasons have come as complete surprises.
From this torture I've learnt a valuable lesson: knowing what is going to happen has not significantly reduced my enjoyment of the show.
It is the unavoidable price of the show's excellence and depth and swagger. The sense of community and of cultural zeitgeist, of a whole load of people paying attention to the same thing at once, is exhilarating.
I accept that if I want to get drunk, I'm going to be hungover, and I accept that if I want to exercise properly, my body will probably ache the next day. I accept that if I want to live in London I have to pay extortionate rent, and if I want to live at all I have to work.
And I accept that, if I want to enjoy Game of Thrones, I'm probably going to be spoiled.