Until last autumn I had never seen a single episode of “Game Of Thrones”. (In fact, I very rarely watch TV of any kind, but that’s another story.)
On a ski holiday back in 2000, I read A Game Of Thrones and A Clash Of Kings – the first two books. George R R Martin originally conceived A Song Of Ice And Fire as a trilogy, but it was already apparent at the time the first book was published that it was going to be considerably longer than that. Little did I know when I was first gripped by those first two books that getting on for twenty years later, the story would still be very far from finished.
2011 was the last time a book in the series was published – A Dance With Dragons. 2011 was also when the first season of the TV series aired. I decided that I was NOT going to watch it as I wanted to find out what happened to the characters by reading the books (and also, I thought it might be too viscerally horrible). I was expecting the next book in the series, The Winds of Winter, to take around 5 years to materialise (as had been the case with books 4 and 5) but despite the release of several sample chapters and a 2015 publisher deadline, it didn’t and still hasn’t.
Not long after that, the TV series began to overtake the books. The young actors who portrayed the Stark children were growing up so there could be no question of waiting for the books to be finished before resuming filming.
Nevertheless, I clung to the hope that the next book would come out soon and I could carry on reading the story of the characters I’d become attached to – but as the years passed and nothing was heard of a publication date for The Winds of Winter, I began to doubt that the books would ever be finished in my lifetime.
Meanwhile my friend Emma had both read the books and watched the TV series, and when the final season was announced for a 2019 release she suggested that we watch it together. Although the TV series has diverged from the books in many ways, the ending is unlikely to be so substantially different as not to constitute very major spoilers – and the prospect of being able to avoid those spoilers basically non-existent. I therefore finally, reluctantly, decided that I would have to find out what happened in the end by watching the last season of the TV series.
Of course there was a snag – I hadn’t seen any of the previous episodes and since the TV series had already gone far beyond the end of A Dance With Dragons, I needed to catch up to know what was happening. So in summer 2018, we came up with a mad plan – we would watch all seven previous seasons from start to finish.
Now, I know lots of other people could do that in a month and some could probably do it in a weekend. But that wasn’t going to be possible for us due to work, family and social commitments and in fact, we didn’t even manage to get started until after the October half term. Since then, we’ve had a Game of Thrones evening most weeks, watching anything from 2-5 episodes depending on what time I get away from work, what time we have to get up the next morning (6.30 in term time), how long we spend chatting and which episodes end in ways that make them unsuitable for watching shortly before bedtime (for instance, one evening we decided not to watch the next episode even though there was plenty of time because it ended with the Red Wedding). One Friday evening, we even managed to watch 6 episodes.
At times we thought we would never get through it all in time but now – with a few weeks to go – there are just 11 episodes left to watch.
It’s been exciting enough seeing the characters from the books brought to life on the screen but our marathon is now at the stage where I don’t always know what is going to happen and that makes it even more exciting. When season 6, which we’re now watching, was first aired there were lots of major spoilers doing the rounds on the Web on social media as well as on fan sites like Westeros.org, but I was careful not to delve into the details too much. The events at Vaes Dothrak and on the Iron Islands were previously unknown to me but I would have to have been living under a rock ever since just before the episode in question aired not to know how Hodor got his name or indeed whether or not Jon Snow stayed dead.
You know what’s going to be really hard, though? Watching season 8 just one episode at a time!