When I challenged myself to watch all 7 seasons of Game of Thrones before the new season began, I knew it was an ambitious goal. I was nearly paralyzed by how daunting the mile-long episode list was every time I opened it — which is why I closed it, every time, and instead went for an easy binge that didn’t require the attention I knew this would. But with it being such a pop culture phenomenon and me having a major case of FOMO/being sick of not being able to participate in too many conversations because I hadn’t watched it, I knew I needed to hop on the bandwagon and be part of the cultural moment that would be its eighth and final season. Plus, I’m not one to turn down a challenge, even a self-imposed one.
Let me start off by saying I’m not a GoT super fan. I haven’t read the books. I don’t follow any fan theories online unless I accidentally stumble upon them. I didn’t even feel like I was missing out on the show until everyone and their hairdresser started talking about season 8, finally airing nearly two years later. So, I’m not looking for any GoT nerds to tell me I don’t know anything about anything. I already know I don’t.
So, in September I reactivated my Crave account for the sole purpose of a fall/winter Game of Thrones binge. But – due to the aforementioned intimidation factor – it took February rolling around, and winter showing no sign of slowing down, until I finally hunkered down and pressed play. This is also the moment when sheer and utter panic set in, when I realized I had 70 plus hours of dark, twisted fantasy to get through in two very busy months. Challenge accepted.
It took a few episodes for me to really get into the story and focus my phone addicted brain to follow along. I always seemed to be confused about who was who, who was related to who, who was in love with who, who was sleeping with who… if you’ve seen the show, you get the idea. I had to restart a few episodes more times than I’d like to admit, and I even had to do a full re-watch of some with my phone purposefully left in another room.
But by the end of season 1, I was hooked. At night I dreamt about what Jon Snow was up to, what he was wearing, how his hair looked blowing in the snow… ok, ok I’ll stop. My days were spent feeling very conflicted over how I could sympathize with a Lannister, and wondering just how does Daenerys manage to move around so freely while her wig doesn’t move an inch!?
I think what I love most about Game of Thrones is that even though you will hate characters as fervently as you’ll love others, the character development devoted to each of them is so strong and well done that you have to give a big pat on the back to the writers. You want to watch the story arcs of all of them, no matter how you feel about them. Except maybe Joffrey.
Compare this to a show like, say, The OC and how basically every single season had a Marissa Cooper/”villain” storyline that made me lit-er-all-y hate the show for a whole story arc. Oliver? Johnny? Trey? Volchok? Yep, I could skip through all their storylines and still not feel like I missed anything. Joffrey and Cersei on the other hand… even though I looooathe them, I kinda want to understand why they are the way they are. That’s a job well done, in my opinion.
It was also fun to watch the show’s budget get larger with time, as visuals, settings, costumes, and production value increasingly started to look more expensive. Battle scenes became more and more epic. Deaths more dramatic. Between 2012 and 2015, the average budget per episode increased from $6 million to “at least” $8 million. The sixth-season budget was over $10 million per episode, for a season total of over $100 million and a series record. And, rumour is, the final six episodes of Game of Thrones will cost a staggering $15 million apiece.
Now for a play-by-play of what went through my silly mind as I watched all the ups and downs of 7 long, increasingly dramatic (and extravagant) seasons (warning – spoilers ahead):
Season 1: Wow, I’m only 4 episodes in and the level of hate I have for f**king Joffrey is unreal. I’ve never hated a character this much – not even Oliver or Johnny from The OC. Can he get any worse? Yep! Turns out he can. Shit, this show is violent, how does my mom watch it? Wait – Ned Stark!? How could they? NO!!
Season 2: Okay, so I kind of really like Jaime and Tyrion, but they are Lannisters. I don’t know if this is how I’m supposed to feel. Do others feel this way? I feel very conflicted and confused. *Immediately texts my brother to see if this feeling is shared.*
Season 3: Woah! So. Much. Girl. Power. Daenerys, Arya, and Brienne are just kicking ass and taking names wherever they go. Daenerys stealing the unsullied? ICONIC. Um, they just killed off the entire family of main characters – what now??? This show is ruthless.
Season 4: YES! JOFFREY IS DEAD! WAIT, WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO SAVE HIM!? YES! Nothing else in this season matters.
Season 5: I’m kind of bored, but is it okay that I have a crush on Littlefinger? Also, I’m trying really hard to like Sansa, but I don’t. Ok, the Battle of the North is maybe the most cinematic fight scene to ever be on TV! Woah, wait, no, this fight scene to save Daenerys might be. Omg, I can’t talk about what they did to Shireen, too busy crying. Do you think atonement will humble Cersei? Wait! JON SNOW! WHY ARE THEY ALL STABBING JON SNOW!? K, well now I have to start season 6 asap.
Season 6: But Jon Snow isn’t really dead, right? He can’t be! Phew, he’s back, my heart is whole again. Hmm, this season is kind of boring… did the writers not know what to do from here? Also, wtf is this weird Arya storyline? Anyone else not into the faces and magic? Also, someone please kill Ramsay already… Wow, the Battle of the Bastards. WOW. Jon Snow literally came back from the dead just to help kill Ramsay, and this is the only scene I need in this season really.
Season 7: If season 6 is the wayward child trying to find his way, then season 7 is the redemption you feel once he does. This might be my favourite season. I legit didn’t think Jon Snow could get hotter BUT HE DID. Daenerys, Tyrion, and Jon – there is no trio that makes me happier. Is it weird to have all the feels over the unlikely friendship reunions between Bronn and Tyrion and Brienne and the Hound? I really hope Jaime goes rogue and joins Tyrion next season. Wowowowowow JON IS THE HEIR AND DANY IS HIS AUNT AND THEY JUST HAD SEX. She gon’ be mad.
Whew, okay, what an emotional roller coaster. To say the last few months have been tumultuous is an understatement. When I decided I would write about this, I planned to title it “I watched all 7 seasons of Game of Thrones in 2 months without losing my mind.” But by season 6, I definitely felt like I was losing my mind. I’m not sure if this is because of the intensity of the story, or maybe that I needed to give my full attention to something for an hour or more every evening – which is EXHAUSTING, for the record. Or maybe it truly was a case of “it’s not me, it’s you” and the show just had some seasons and plot points that were stronger than others, while others just draaaagged on.
My best advice if you’re embarking on/planning to embark on this epic journey is to pace yourself. Usually I watched one episode per night – the emotion, the drama, the amount of detail to keep up with, it’s a lot. Thank god we had a long, brutal winter, so hibernation was pretty necessary and this show got me through it. Winter is ALWAYS COMING, after all.
But, I think my favourite part of this experiment has been the daily updates with friends who I know watched it. I texted my reactions to my brother and basically anyone who would listen whenever a huge story line climaxed or a big reveal happened. I annoyed my colleagues with morning-after office chats on whatever exciting/heartbreaking/unbelievable moments I finished the night before. After all, the reason I took on this ambitious, silly task in the first place was to participate in the chatter of a huge cultural moment, so to that I say, challenge accomplished.