Like many Game of Thrones fans, I was disappointed with the show’s finale. The two seasons leading up to it were also not the fantasy juggernaut’s best, but the finale hurt.
I was one of those Thrones fans who couldn’t wait for a new season to begin each year, who rotated through friends’ apartments on spring and summer Sundays to watch together, and who planned themed meals and treats to fully immerse my guests in the Westeros experience. Thrones were more than a show — it was a social and conversational lifeline. The finale made me feel like my efforts had been wasted. I resigned myself to feeling burned on Thrones and moves on to other series.
Now that the COVID-19 outbreak necessitates that non-essential workers like myself remain homebound, however, I find myself drawn towards Game of Thrones again. I’ll make myself dinner, pour a glass of wine, and decide that tonight I’ll watch Tyrion Lannister’s fateful trial in Season 4’s “The Laws of Gods and Men.” Or I’ll skip back to watch King Joffrey die in “The Lion and the Rose.” The battles of Blackwater Bay and Hardhome are also favorites, as is the show’s premiere, to reflect on how much everything changed.
It’s a comforting and bittersweet habit. I can’t stop.
Knowing its twists and reveals in advance robs Game of Thrones of some of its magic, but speaking as an A Song of Ice and Fire reader, they were never what drew me to the show. Seasons 1–4 are still miracles of book-to-screen adaptation, with stories that are wonderfully staged, acted, and directed. Without the pressure of wondering what comes next, I use my love of the show as a time machine, taking me back to the highs and lows of ~the discourse~ after each episode and how it felt to watch it unfold with my fellow fans.
When I moved to New York as an adult, I shared an apartment with a friend who loved Thrones as much as I did. We watched “Hardhome” together and screamed in absolute shock when Jon Snow’s Valyrian steel blade shattered a White Walker like glass. Years later, I visited that same friend at the new apartment where he lives with his wife to cheer when Arya Stark pulled the same trick on the Night King. My dad was a latecomer to the show, but by the time Season 8 came around he was packing an Apple TV in his carry-on bag so we could watch the finale together on a family vacation.
I’m rewatching Game of Thrones to remember my pack and how we howled together.
I remember the horrible date I had when someone came over to watch “The Bells,” and the fantastic vacation I took to Northern Ireland to visit the show’s set at Titanic Studios. I’ve mended friendships over pre-Thrones drinks and connected with people I hadn’t seen in years at watch parties. That life seems a million miles away in a time before this long night when I could leave my apartment, see my friends, yell at strangers in bars about dragons, and serve my guests steak-and-ale “Frey” pie with “Dornish” mulled wine like the enormous nerd I am.
Adults millennials have never enjoyed the privilege of an uneventful year, but many of us have enjoyed the simple pleasure of being in love with a television show. For me, getting back into the best parts of Game of Thrones and remembering the community we built around the show is half entertainment and half torture at this point.
Remember loving this? I ask myself while watching Peter Dinklage win his fourth Emmy in real-time. Remember that we shared this once?
I started my rewatch in the course of writing another piece earlier this month, about Game of Thrones quotes to live by. One of the quotes stuck out to me as I wrote it. “The lone wolf dies but the pack survives” seems counterintuitive in the time of social distancing, but if the Starks had had video calls, they would have had a much easier time navigating Westeros’ harsh landscape. It is the job of every non-essential worker to be a lone wolf now, to scatter our packs, and to survive.
I’m rewatching Game of Thrones to remember my pack and how we howled together. They are thankfully still here if I need them. Until then, I have eight seasons of memories to watch and love, knowing that each one brings me closer to the dream of spring.
Game of Thrones is streaming on HBO.