This article contains spoilers for Game Of Thrones seasons 1-4. BE WARNED!
If you have a vaguely working internet connection, chances are you’ve already heard showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff’s announcement that mega-popular fantasy drama Game Of Thrones will officially overtake the books it’s based on and begin spoiling them – significantly, the much discussed and theorized ending. Until now, book readers have always been at least one step ahead of those who just watch HBO’s flagship show, but with George R.R. Martin still scribbling away on the sixth and penultimate instalment, The Winds Of Winter, that’s all about to change.
Martin announced that he’s cutting appearances at Comic Con and other conventions in order to get the book finished, yet it still isn’t due out until at least late 2016. Season 5 of the show, on the other hand, in which several plot strands have already caught up with the books (notably Bran and Sansa), is only days away from airing – this leads to a question surely on many minds: do we keep reading the books and stop watching the show when the final overtake occurs, or do we suck it up and spoil the books for ourselves?
Perhaps the obvious answer would be to keep watching the show so there’s no chance of being spoiled before you’ve either watched or read it. I mean, if you had the choice, and you do, you’d rather find out what happens at the end of the books by watching the brilliant show than reading it in some random comment, right? It’s arguably a compromise, but the problem these days, particularly with something as big as Game Of Thrones, is the internet. Nothing is kept secret anymore – it’s literally impossible in a world filled with spoiler trolls who specifically set out to ruin other people’s days in comment sections. But even without them it’s all too easy to ruin your favourite movies and shows with inadvertent searches or simple scrolls through your Facebook and Twitter feeds (The Walking Dead is particularly bad for spoiling the previous night’s episode on its Facebook page).
I know several people who have had the biggest moments in the series spoiled from various sources, and I remember distinctly after an episode in season 4 aired, a news outlet (I forget which) actually spoiled Joffrey’s death in a tweet. If it was in an article without a warning, that would be bad, but this was a massive, un-signposted spoiler right there for anyone scrolling through their feed to see. I know if I hadn’t already known what happened I would have been furious.
On the other hand, book readers have every right to feel a little aggrieved, having put so much time – and yes, effort – into reading the thing (it’s huge), only to discover their only real options of finding out who will sit the coveted Iron Throne once and for all are an ‘easy’ TV show or an internet spoiler. Heck, maybe just a word of mouth spoiler. (And before you go off your rocker, labelling the show as “easy” isn’t meant in a negative way, just that it takes less commitment to watch the show than read the books). Book readers have been waiting patiently and impatiently for years – the last book, A Dance With Dragons, hit shelves in 2011; it’s best not to even think what it’s been like for people who began with the first book way back in ’96 – so it almost feels like a cop-out to watch the ending rather than read it. Is it fair? Or is this just making mountains out of mole hills? The reason we read the books is because they’re exciting, compelling and packed with information; as wonderful as the show is, it doesn’t have the same gloriously rich level of detail. I mean, no-one in their right mind would pursue with five books that, put back to back, measure about a foot in length unless they were worth it, right?
The argument not to keep watching is probably stronger, as reinforced by the principle of it; it’s not unreasonable to want to finish what you start. But the reality is that not watching the show is too much of a risk to take. It would be hard to forgive yourself if you ended up trying to wait years for the final book to arrive on shelves (and it will be years), only to overhear a conversation dissecting the ending of Game Of Thrones in the pub one night, or be foiled by Google’s mischievous autocomplete. If there’s one thing everyone can agree on it’s that all of the biggest moments in the show so far; Ned’s death, The Red Wedding, Tyrion crossbowing Tywin; they will all pale in comparison to the finale, whatever it may be. Game Of Thrones has become a phenomenon, and one of the most discussed, most anticipated and most revered fantasy stories in literary and TV history. I want to read it all the way to the end with the gleeful prospect of not knowing what the final word will be, but, with a heavy heart, that’s not something I can do. Unless you want to live on a mountain top for the next decade, I’d urge you to cut your losses and do the same.
Season 5 of Game Of Thrones airs on April 12th