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How to Pretend You're Watching 'Game of Thrones'

The popular television program 'Game of Thrones' is back. This is terrible news for people like me who don't watch it.
Maisie Williams. (Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO)

I know I should be watching Game of Thrones. I'm sorry. I watched the first episode long after the show became popular, but I couldn't really get into it. As the show kept getting more and more popular, the prospect of watching multiple seasons of swordplay and incest to get caught up appealed less and less to me. I can't justify that time investment, not when I've only seen two seasons of The Americans, never finished Show Me a Hero, need to get around to Insecure at some point, and haven't finished a novel in months.


If you tell anyone you don't watch GoT, it's like admitting you didn't vote or don't know how to drive. It marks a hole in your cultural knowledge that makes you seem like an outsider, the sort of rube who doesn't know soppressata from capicollo. At best, you're sadly depriving yourself of an important moment in the zeitgeist. At worst, you're being a contrarian snob asshole, the sort of person who used to say "I don't even own a TV" before everyone agreed TV was actually artistic and literary and cool.

The solution to this dilemma is simple: Lie to your friends and family. Pretend you're watching Thrones the same way you pretended to be into Lost or the Elena Ferrante novels. People stopped talking about those things after a while, and they'll stop talking about Thrones too after this final season is over. We can do this, together. Here's how:

Familiarize Yourself with the Basics

You can't fake knowledge of something you know literally nothing about, so here is a summary that I have gleaned from years of reading social media about the show: Thrones is about a convoluted struggle over a throne in a make-believe place where the seasons last years. (This is why "winter is coming" is a big deal, because winter doesn't come that much.) The main characters used to be the Starks, who were the only ones with any integrity, but most of them have been killed off. Jon Snow is one of the remaining Starks, confusingly, and he leads a big army of mostly good guys (I think). Daenerys is like a princess in exile who has dragons and so can fuck pretty much anyone up. There are a shitload of other characters, but the big bad is called the White Walkers, who are like frozen zombies from the north. The question is whether Jon Snow and Daenerys are going to team up to fight the White Walkers, and the answer is probably.

Know Who the Good Guys Are

Unlike excellent shows like Seinfeld, which had four characters who were always the same, Game has 400 characters who are constantly dying, being resurrected, and, like, uhhhhh, traveling on ships between the desert place and the European place? But it seems like there are a few characters that are always around and that everyone likes. Jon Snow (he died then came back), Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), Arya Stark (she's like a ninja), and Daenerys (the naked one) are all the good guys who you should like. "I love Arya Stark, she's such a badass" is a fine thing to say. Also, "I just hope they don't kill Tyrion." With Jon Snow, it seems like some people think he's a dumbass for some reason, but if you say "Jon Snow is a dumbass" someone might ask you why you think that. Don't get trapped by this!!!

IMPORTANT: Don't Try to Say Daenerys's Name Out Loud!

Terrible idea. You'll get caught for sure.

Actually, Maybe Watch a Fan YouTube Video That Tells You How to Say the Names

Now that I think about it, I don't know how to say "Tyrion" either.

Skim Recaps

Thanks to various economic incentives that have corroded the internet publishing industry, every website publishes articles the day after an episode airs that basically just describe what has happened. Since these articles are generally written for people who can't follow the plot of a TV show about dragons, they are quick reads and easy to skim. That way you'll know who has died and who has had sex. It's very freeing to read these things without caring about spoilers—remember when the Red Lady got naked and turned out to be extremely old? Or when Theon Grayjoy had his dick chopped off?

Man, this show is kind of intense.


Take Advantage of Group Dynamics

If you're stuck talking about GoT, chances are you're surrounded by a crew of people who are mostly fans. They'll be so excited to talk about the latest make-believe battle or whatever that you can mostly check out of the conversation, occasionally nodding and saying stuff like, "Crazy!"

Never, ever tell a group of Throne-heads that you haven't seen the show, because they'll turn on you and start telling you why it's so great. Nothing is worse than being told why you should watch a TV show you are not watching. If pressed, just say vaguely that you haven't caught up. The conversation will move on sooner or later. If there's a pause, try to shift it to a show you've seen.

Isn't This Whole Plan Kind of Crazy?


Wait It Out

There's only one season left, which means there's only however many episodes there are in that season remaining. Throne-mania will be extremely intense for a while—people will have themed watching parties and get very angry about twists and plot holes and the internet will be flooded by crappy articles about GoT. But then it will end. The whole thing will fade. No one will ever ask you if you watched GoT, because no one will care all that much about the show. We'll all move on to the next premium cable show obsession, which is probably going to be Westworld.

You're caught up on Westworld, right?

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