Game of Thrones is about to end. Never again will teenagers wake up this early all year. Water cooler conversations will be avoided at work, ride sharing will be temporarily banned. It’s difficult to comprehend, but the evolution of Game of Thrones has sort of complimented the evolution of television – especially in the context of India.
I remember watching the first episode the day it came out, to little fanfare. It was a big deal abroad – I remember HBO marketed it heavily – but made absolutely no noise here. Not only was I the only one in my friends circle to have seen episode one – ominously titled Winter is Coming – but I found that no one was interested in checking it out at all. Compare that to now, eight years later, when it is difficult to switch on your phone without receiving a news alert informing you of a character’s death, or your BFF risking years of friendship by blabbing about what they’ve just seen.
The first season of Game of Thrones, at least to those of us who watched it when it first aired, exists in a sort of vacuum. It’s a special feeling, because never again in the show’s illustrious history has watching it felt like such a cult activity. These days, every episode of the show is followed by intense online discourse, and preceded by unbearable mass hysteria.
The internet (and cheap data plans) has helped, as it has in many other avenues – politically and culturally. The fourth season premiere was the first time I remember being on Twitter during the airing, reading fans’ live tweets, and feeling for the first time like the show had become larger than it could ever have anticipated. Indeed, the ratings had tripled by then. While the first season premiere was watched by a little over two million viewers in the US, the season four premiere – Two Swords – was watched by almost seven million people, several of whom that stood up during the opening credits, because their ‘anthem’ was on.
Game of Thrones had transcended its boundaries. It was no longer a niche high fantasy show. It had become mainstream. It was no longer an expensive risk, but was actually making a solid profit for HBO, and household names out of its stars. But while its legion of devotees grew, I found myself disconnecting – not because it was not cool and exclusive anymore — but perhaps because it had been given more importance than it deserved.
You must remember, this was the dawn of the Golden Age of Television. Around the same time, shows such as Breaking Bad and Mad Men were altering the landscape, and drawing just as much attention as Game of Thrones. It was also a time when I was watching around 15 different shows a week – from mainstream sitcoms such as The Office and Parks & Recreation to obscure oddities such as Louie and Community. Game of Thrones was always on the list, but rarely ever on top. Mondays were devoted to other flagship HBO programming such as Girls and The Newsroom.
It is my theory that GoT was massively aided in its progress thanks to both Breaking Bad (my favourite show of all time) and Mad Men ending within months of each other – perhaps even more so than the introduction of simulcasts and Hotstar.
Television – especially HBO – has always been an appointment-driven medium, unlike, say, Netflix, which allows you to consume programming at your own convenience. Because Mondays were so packed (TV wise), especially for a college student with nothing else to do with his time, choices had to be made.
Had I not been watching the amount of TV that I was, it’s safe to say that I would’ve remained invested in Game of Thrones – certainly, the storytelling is still as terrific as ever, despite the typical mid-season lull. But as time became more valuable – free college days turned into hectic work hours – I began cutting off ties with mediocre shows. The first to be thrown overboard was the always overrated The Walking Dead. Sitcoms such as the Big Bang Theory and Modern Family were the next to be discarded.
Now, the times have changed considerably. I rarely watch shows for fun; most of the television I consume is for a review that’ll be published days, sometimes even weeks later. But strangely enough, Game of Thrones remains, as it always has, absolutely unmissable. Without me realising it, the show has steadily climbed up my makeshift rankings, and has firmly established itself as the top seed. While I may not be able to tell you the most basic things about the plot, nor would I be able to indulge your excitement at all the possible ways in which it could end, I can say that I’ve been there since day one, which is something I can’t say that even about Harry Potter, a series I am infinitely more devoted to.
Will there be a void when its gone? Will we immediately begin our quest for rebound relationships? Will we show up for those planned spin-offs? Who knows. But come Monday, April 15, we’ll be there, united like never before, for the throne.