HBO Binge Madness and the Art of the Spoiler-Free

GOT3If you’ve seen it, you’ll know what I mean- there’s a point near the end of the ninth episode (its always the ninth episode with this show) of this third season when my jaw near dropped to the floor. “What?!” I cried out loud, stunned  at what I was seeing; “What!?” And then the end-credits followed in sudden silence, as if sharing the numbness of every viewer who hadn’t seen the events coming.

Just how good is HBO’s  Game Of Thrones?

I won’t discuss what it was that happened for fear of spoiling it; no-one , save someone who has read the books, should ever see this series having been spoiled of its secret delights, its twists and turns. Its something special. Readers of the books may say otherwise, but to me, this show is darn near perfect.

I love stuff like this. When something happens that takes you by surprise, when something turns a corner you didn’t see coming. When a story suddenly carries you somewhere you didn’t think you were going and hands you an emotional sucker-punch that leaves you reeling. It doesn’t often happen with movies lately, if ever at all.  The only time I ever mutter a numbed “what?!!” at the silver screen these days is when I see yet another plot hole open up in-front of me.

Just as some of the very best actors are shifting away from movies and into tv drama, so are the very best writers and producers working in television now rather than motion pictures. I’ve written of this before, that television is no longer the cheap, sub-par alternate to the silver screen that it used to be back during my childhood. Sure, there’s still a lot of crap on television, so many game shows, so much reality tv, inane chat shows, moronic soaps etc but there’s so much quality drama superior to anything you’ll see at the cinema. Stuff like the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica, The Walking Dead, Mad Men, Hannibal, and that’s just the American stuff, there’s plenty of quality material from our own shore or across the channel in Europe. 

got3bAnd of course, yes, there’s  Game Of Thrones. I finished the third season boxset last night having started the thing with a re-watch of Season 2’s final episode on Tuesday. That’s eleven episodes all told over five days (two per evening with a three-episode hit on Saturday night). I’ve not read the books (although I have them on my tablet’s Kindle app ready to go) so when watching the series it’s all new to me, but goodness me you have to devour it don’t you? Having a complete season in a box, its simply impossible to ration it out to even one episode a night, nevermind one a week as it originally aired on tv.

However, stuck with having to wait for the boxsets,  I have to watch the show as an annual treat when they are released. Which means somehow avoiding all spoilers for nearly a year. One day, in several years time, I guess first-time viewers will be able to watch the entire thing in one go with a huge Complete Game of Thrones series boxset, in a similar way to how I watched The Wire and The Shield. Well, wouldn’t that be something.

Staying spoiler-free for almost a whole year regards one of the very biggest shows on television takes some doing. Particularly in this Information Age we are living in. Biggest thing is Will Power obviously (anybody remember that 1970s pop act Will Powers? Anyway I digress…), and averting my eyes from every newspaper and website headline involving Game Of Thrones or any of the actors, any Youtube with Game Of Thrones  in the subject-line. Its easy to forget how much we are assaulted by media all the time, at least until you have to consciously work to actually avoid all that media and marketing.  Its hard but staying spoiler-free can be done. I’m doing it with Mad Men too ( I have the season 6 box sitting on my shelf right now, with season 7 soon to air this Spring) and the Harry Potter movies (boxset on the shelf, waiting for a suitable amount of time to finally see why there was such a fuss about that young wizard with the specs).

I wonder if someone is doing this with The Hobbit movies, waiting for the third film to be released on disc in the inevitable trilogy box and only watching them then? I suppose there must be someone doing that; I suspect the films might be better for it. My brother has seen the sec0nd of the films at the cinema (Wild Wargs couldn’t drag me to the cinema for that) and told me the ‘ending’ of the film is particularly poor as a stand-alone experience.

So for Game of Thrones, that’s it again for another year. Except maybe it isn’t; my in-laws have taken Sky (for the sport, funnily enough) and that means they now have Sky Atlantic. So this year I may well be able to watch season 4 when it airs, and thus be able to avoid that long hard work of staying spoiler-free. But I do wonder if my enjoyment/viewing experience will be lessened, compared to if I wait for next year’s season 4 Blu-ray box and have another HBO binge. Hmm.

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8 thoughts on “HBO Binge Madness and the Art of the Spoiler-Free

  1. Reblogged this on 100 Films in a Year and commented:
    I could virtually have written this myself, so close is it to my thoughts. (Apart from the bit about Game of Thrones season 3, because I’ve not watched it yet. If anyone spoils what the Red Wedding entails, I shall reenact it on you. Once I know what it actually is.)

    1. I didn’t know reblogging it would post a comment here!

      Anyway, what I said is true — I also wait all year to watch GoT and then binge in a week. And I actually really like watching it that way. Yes, it means having to do the spoiler-avoiding dance online for nearly a year (and I nearly gave in this year when ep9 exploded across the internet), but I think it’s a more satisfying experience.

      Ironically, I think Netflix are doing the wrong thing releasing their original series all at once every year, but maybe they’re right after all.

      Also, nowadays there’s so much good TV I’ve been meaning to catch up on (15+ years of it, if we go from The Sopranos kicking it off), that several times I’ve seriously considered ditching 100 Films for “365 Episodes of TV in a Year” or something.

      1. I think I’ll be featuring a bit more tv material this year, mainly as its eating up so much of my available movie-watching time and its bugging me when this blog suffers from the resulting hiatus. There’s so much really good stuff -American Horror Story, Hannibal, even something like Spartacus and Da Vinci’s Demons. Even the rather average stuff is superior to most movies these days. I also want to try re-watching BSG on Blu-ray again, but that will take a considerable effort.

        And as for the Red Wedding- no spoilers here, but do let me know what you think about it once you’ve seen it and got your breath back!

      2. I watched ep9 last night, and… well, crikey!

        To be honest, I’d guessed something along those lines was going to happen — between the creators and fans talking about how significant the Red Wedding was even before season one began, and the amount of articles online about the episode after it aired, and then the characters involved and what they (especially Walder Frey) are like… But still, exactly how it happened, and how many were done for…!

        In some respects the most fascinating thing is how much this changes. It’s not just some characters exiting, it’s one of the driving plots of the entire series just being over, and with the majority of the series still to come. Looking forward to what ep10 reveals and sets up when I watch it tonight.

        Have you watched the “Rains of Castamere Unveiled” feature on the Blu-ray? I thought there was lots of interesting info and analysis in there, but it’s horrible to navigate if you want to catch everything.

      3. Well, regards the ‘shock’ surprise, I must confess I was totally in the dark- perhaps I wasn’t paying enough attention, because somehow I’d gotten myself convinced that the Red Wedding was actually referring to Sansa’s wedding in Kings Landing, or perhaps Joffrey’s own wedding… so it completely wrong-footed me. When the die was cast and the blood-letting commenced I was truly shell-shocked. No wonder the books get so much praise.

        I haven’t watched any of the special features yet. I should have, but got myself sidetracked by my new Farscape box. The one feature for GOT I did watch was the bonus Amazon disc regards the visual effects; Amazon have had a run on these for each season’s boxset, and after watching each season its been fascinating watching the disc to see visual effects I wouldn’t have guessed were visual effects. Gives me a greater appreciation regards how good GOT really is. I would love Robert E Howard’s Conan to get treated this way.

        With some of this HBO stuff (and things like Hannibal), who needs movies?

      4. They did a lot of good (and very deliberate) work to obscure that something nasty was coming, plus having so many weddings so close together makes any of them plausible as The Big One — I think I made a ‘lucky’ guess.

        I haven’t watched many of the special features either, but based on that one I can imagine there being a lot of good stuff. Talking of unexpected special effects, I was surprised that the Twins are entirely created. I’d assumed they’d found a real keep, then duplicated it on the other bank (with a CG bridge or somesuch); but the gate the Hound and Arya arrive at was a single-storey set, and the rest of the exterior is CG. They spend something mad like $70 million per season, but it does pay off in the quality!

  2. I agree, I think it’s something that’s been in effect for a long time now. You could call it the ‘soap opera effect’: when you’ve had hours or days, spread over months or years to get to know characters the way you do in a soap, sudden changes hit that much harder.

    This is also why so many superhero movies fail badly when they try to adapt big key moments from the comic books – they just can’t earn the same impact in a couple of hours that you get from years of cumulative history.
    [It’s why I’m trying convince people to read Marvel’s reprints of Alan Moore’s ‘Miracleman’ in the monthly issues: I read it in its tiny monthly instalments over the seven troubled years of its original publishing history, and the massive events at the end of the story hit so much harder at the culmination of that long period than they possibly could over an afternoon reading the trade paperback reprint.]

    Back to TV, though: we do the same for Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire on Blu-ray [the production design is so good we want to watch them at the highest quality we can], and we often end up doing at least a couple of episodes every evening. Netflix just exacerbated things with House Of Cards [I did the first season in a week last summer, and the new one in three days last week!].

    Watching week-by-week doesn’t hurt, though. I’d argue that Breaking Bad was helped by having the episodes fed to us on Netflix for the last season, and Girls works best in 30 minute doses.

    1. I’m tempted to give House of Cards a try but I’m a bit worried at having so much stuff to watch as it is. When the Blu-ray drops in price no doubt it will be a temptation I’ll find impossible to resist.

      I actually think the high quality of some of these shows demonstrates that we should be demanding more of our ‘blockbusters’, when we see what proper quality drama can be. The flip-side is that I can see so many film series having larger story-arcs now, as if influenced by tv mini-series and the like, that I find it irritating watching a two-hour film only to have an open-ended/almost cliffhanger conclusion. It feels like a cheat. Especially when you have to wait years for the next instalment.

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