Game of Thrones - Season 8 (Official Trailer)
Warning: This “Game of Thrones” story has spoilers. Proceed at your own peril. But we know you want to and are caught up anyway.
HBO’s “Game of Thrones” is cheating.
Or, at the least, it’s guilty of double-dipping this eighth and final season.
Most pop-culture television shows get their major watercooler moment once per season — that pivotal scene, often a cliffhanger or its resolution, that has seemingly everyone engaged in speculation, shock or mass mourning the morning after, like the “Who Shot J.R.” episode of “Dallas,” or the series finales of “The Sopranos” and “Breaking Bad.”
But “Game of Thrones,” which, practically inarguably, is currently the medium’s most significant appointment television show and, arguably, the most significant such watercooler show of all time, has three episodes in this six-episode final season that dominate national discourse.
There’s a Mueller report?
Earlier this month, Vulture already astutely advanced the theory that “Game of Thrones” may be the last show we all watch “together.”
Season 8 must-sees
We saw the first such episode Sunday, a warm set-up directed by Emmy-winner David Nutter called “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.”
In this moving, 60-minute new classic, which contained nary a true action scene but had some of the best-written conversations you’d find in any entertainment medium, many of the key characters sat before a fire, drinking copious amounts of alcohol — which came to be known in fan-speak as the “Tyrion Pour.” They did so because they were coming to terms with the fact some, or most, of them are about to die in the coming battle of Winterfell.
Who wasn’t haunted by the grim look on Tyrion Lannister’s face (portrayed by Peter Dinklage) as the episode pulled to a tension-laced close?
Did anyone get any real work done on Monday? Or Tuesday? (We even saw at least one South Florida police department’s spokesperson posting “Game of Thrones” commentary on Twitter.)
That was “Game of Thrones” first mega shot. About 15.9 million viewers tuned in to Sunday’s episode across the cable pay channel’s platforms, according to preliminary Nielsen ratings, Variety reported. The preceding Sunday’s first episode of the eighth season drew 17.4 million.
The next obsession will be this Sunday’s epic, near 90-minute battle episode in which viewers will (likely) find out who lives and dies on the way to the series finale, when fans find out who will sit on the Iron Throne on May 19.
But ... but, “Game of Thrones” fans also know producers sometimes put their biggest, most talk-worthy hour as each season’s penultimate episode (“The Rains of Castamere” aka Red Wedding in Season Three, anyone?)
Maybe this is why Joe Biden has been taking so long to announce his own will-he or won’t-he presidential bid announcement. How can he fit into the news cycle?
Who lives, dies in Winterfell?
Countless sites have already run stories that authoritatively speculate on who will emerge from Sunday’s battle episode to face Cersei Lannister and her minions in the final two episodes in May. There’s even Vegas odds devoted to the game of “Game of Thrones.”
In one such Vegas Odds piece, put forth by members’ cyber site SportsBetting.ag and reported by TMZ, Jaime Lannister is going to be the first to die at 5:1 odds — done in by Arya Stark’s Dragonglass weapon.
We’re not convinced. In our mind’s eye, we see Jaime Lannister with his hands around his sister dearest’s throat in a subsequent episode.
But what do we know?
Except, we pretty much know that Brienne of Tarth is toast Sunday. She was promoted to knighthood in a touching scene during “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.” She’s the show’s first woman knight. Who doesn’t love this warrior? Her eyes went moist as the camera pulled away from her Sunday. So did yours. She earned her knighthood. She’ll defend Sansa and Arya, as promised, in the Winterfell fight. She’ll die with honor.
Samwell Tarly will live. He’s going to live to document the tale it was suggested in “Seven Kingdoms” ...
... which suggests Bran Stark, the spooky kid, could fall. He is being used as bait for the Night King, after all. And who wouldn’t prefer watching the endearing Sam for a few more episodes?
Theon Greyjoy found his redemption in the episode “Seven Wonders.” He’ll fight for Sansa and do his best to protect Bran. It won’t be enough.
Sansa Stark is so going to live. She’s not giving up the North to Daenerys. She survived a marriage to Ramsay Bolton, the cruelest character of a mighty cruel lot. The resilient Sansa could even find herself atop the Iron Throne on May 19.
Or likely survivors Jon Snow, who we found out is really Aegon Targaryen, and whose heart never really seemed to be in it for sitting on the Throne. Or his paramour — and aunt — Daenerys, who wants the Iron Throne.
Hard to imagine their own race for the Throne won’t play out at least once or twice more.
Tyrion Lannister is a toss-up. That look on his face alone at the end of “Seven Kingdoms” told us he knew his time was up. But Dany also said she needs his brains to guide her on her quest and told him he wasn’t to fight in the Winterfell battle.
But we sense a shocker. Dany may have to figure out her own path over Snow/Targaryen and Cersei Lannister.
From ‘Lucy’ to ‘Thrones’
Appointment TV, however, originated in the medium’s infancy.
The birth of Lucy and Ricky’s Little Ricky on “Lucy Goes to the Hospital” on Jan. 19, 1953, upstaged the inauguration of U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower and could be considered the first watercooler TV milestone. CBS couldn’t even use the word “pregnant.”
TV listings that day said “Lucy prepares to go to the hospital.” The episode drew nearly 72 percent of all North American TV sets, topping the near 68 percent that watched the 34th president get sworn into office.
About 20 years later, Bea Arthur’s 47-year-old title character on Norman Lear’s “Maude” had an abortion (off camera, of course) on the CBS sitcom on a two-part story in November 1972 — two months before Roe v. Wade made abortion legal across the U.S. CBS was allowed to say “abortion” but several affiliates opted not to air the reruns and the network received many calls in protest.
On Aug. 29, 1967, when “The Fugitive” Robert Kimble finally stopped running after the One-Armed Man, appointment TV was officially born with the first famous finale episode of a popular series.
Even Millennials probably have heard about the “Who Shot J.R.?” third-season cliffhanger on CBS’ Dallas on March 21, 1980, or the “Who Done It?” resolution four episodes into its fourth season eight months later on Nov. 21, 1980.
After a summer of “Who Shot J.R.?” chatter that captured the attention of even people who never bothered watching television’s most popular prime time soap, the “Who Done It? revelation roped in more than 83 million viewers — a TV record for the time.
Here’s how the Herald called it a few months after HBO’s “The Sopranos” faded to black in June 2007 with only Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’’” on the soundtrack.
“Although HBO’s’ The Sopranos’ ended with a total blackout that was the antithesis of crowd-pleasing and angered many viewers, the finale was still being discussed several weeks later, a sign that series creator David Chase had done something right.”
Many critics, including Rolling Stone, called the “Felina” finale of AMC’s “Breaking Bad” one of TV’s all-time greatest endings after it aired on Sept. 29, 2013. Bryan Cranston’s Walter White character finally finds redemption as he takes his last breath.
But even Walt White’s death pales to what “Game of Thrones” has in store for its audience — and its characters — on Sunday.
You will cry. And then tell everyone about it on Monday morning.