Essays · TV

Game of Thrones: Do We Really Want to Be Spoiled?

On Game of Thrones season 6 spoilers and whether or not we really want to know what happens.
By  · Published on April 13th, 2016

This is always the most interesting week for Game of Thrones fans. In years past, this week — two weeks ahead of the new season — is usually about the time when press receive screeners and the potential for leaks rises. Earlier this week, select members of press, fans and celebrity guests were treated to the Hollywood premiere of the upcoming season’s first episode. In short, this is a week when all kinds of spoiler chaos — real and fake — begins to take over the Internet.

The difference this year is that the press have not been provided screeners for the upcoming season. Which honestly doesn’t make a big difference for spoilers. Most press — I include myself in this category — don’t actively spoil shows based on early information. Yes, I am one third of a podcast called A Storm of Spoilers. And yes, I talk all kinds of speculation throughout the Thrones offseason. But I would never actively reveal something that I’ve seen in the show that isn’t available to the public. All of my work is wild theory-crafting and speculation based on some blurry set photos. That might be one of the most common misconceptions for those of us who work in the “spoiler” arena. We’re not here to blow the big surprises. If I wanted to find out what the last shot of the upcoming season 6 premiere is, I could do that. And I could write a huge article about it tomorrow.

That’s no fun. And if we’re honest with ourselves, that’s not how you want to find these things out either, is it?

I was reminded of this earlier today while watching a clip of Thrones actor John Bradley on Conan, in which he talks about how he reacts when people ask him for information about the future of the show:

It calls to mind the way all book readers felt as they watched the first five seasons of the show. Did you tell your friends what was going to happen when Robb Stark and his family attended a wedding at The Twins? No. It was far better for everyone involved to allow those show watchers to discover it for themselves. That’s not to say that some of us on the other side weren’t secretly videoing their reactions or simply watching them instead of the show — because damn, that Red Wedding. But to actively spoil what’s going to happen? That’s a mean-spirited way to ruin something that you all can share and enjoy together.

As John Bradley explains, the show has some of the best directors, cinematographers, writers and creative crew working in television today. We should let them tell their stories.

Does that mean we can’t do a little speculation? Not at all. I love that stuff because I love narrative puzzles. That comes from my mom, who would always be the one to sit up halfway through a movie and tell me who she thought the killer was. You’re not always right and being right isn’t the point. What matters is being engaged with the story on a level deeper than what new Thrones star Ian McShane called “just a bunch of tits and dragons.”

Even when we’re looking at set photos, or dissecting casting announcements, or trying to figure out why a certain member of the cast is kicking around Belfast even though their character is allegedly long gone. We use these things to create these versions of the stories in our mind. We take what we can see and combine it with what we know about the show, the books and the tendencies of the people behind both, then craft a theory. And that’s all it is: a theory. Many of them are wrong. Some of them are right. The process is what’s fun.

More to John Bradley’s point — and I point I had been discussing with my Storm of Spoilers co-hosts just yesterday — we don’t really want to know everything that’s going to happen. Not until the show is ready to tell us. Every time I read one of these “big leaks” that claims to be spilling the beans on every storyline for an upcoming season — something I do out of morbid curiosity every damn time — I never feel good afterwords. What if all that information is right, I always end up thinking. What if I just blew an entire season of Game of Thrones for myself?

It hasn’t happened yet — especially with those alleged season 6 leaks — but it might some day. And that would be sad. Because forming a theory based on little bits of information and ultimately being right is something that can be satisfying without scorching the final experience. But knowing 100% what’s going to happen before it plays out on screen? That’s no fun at all.

For those who would like to continue the speculative journey with us — including all kinds of wild theories — there’s a link to the Storm of Spoilers Season 6 Preview below. If you’re into the same puzzle solving that I am, you’ll find it to be an enriching experience. Just know that like Jon Snow, we also know nothing. And we did know something, we’d never intentionally ruin it for you. That’s not what true fans do.

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Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the One Perfect Shot TV show (currently streaming on HBO Max) and the co-host of Trial By Content on The Ringer Podcast Network. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)