All anyone on the internet could talk about for a decade was Game of Thrones, and now it’s like it never happened. If I told you less than a year ago, when the finale aired, that 33,000 journalists were going to lose their jobs in a month, you’d nod and say, “Yeah, because Game of Thrones is ending.”
Instead, those journalists are inside, like anyone else, watching a shitload of TV and, apparently, not a second of Game of Thrones. HBO seems to know this. You can barely find the show on its streaming app; under “Obsession-worthy drama series,” Thrones is behind Westworld, The Plot Against America, My Brilliant Friend, Watchmen, The New Pope, The Young Pope, His Dark Materials, Succession, The Deuce, and Chernobyl. While obviously this list is pushing new HBO shows, at least three of them, like Thrones, ended in 2019. In the “TV on your to-do list,” section it’s behind The Sopranos, The Wire, Big Little Lies, Boardwalk Empire, Sex and the City, True Blood, Six Feet Under, Veep, and Entourage. Thrones, by far the most-viewed and most-discussed HBO show ever, is not featured in the carousel of shows at the top of HBO’s app at all. (I logged out and double-checked this on several devices to make sure this wasn’t an algorithmic recommendation.)
And why would HBO push anyone to watch Game of Thrones? Every plotline in every episode was blown to bits by the heinous last season. The White Walkers were exterminated in a single leap without killing a major character. Daenerys got stabbed by her nephew-boyfriend because she went from woke girlboss to Hitler overnight. Jaime and Cersei Lannister, two of the best-acted and fully realized characters on television–I tried to think of what happened to them for 10 minutes and drew a blank. I only remembered what happened to their brother Tyrion because of his participation in a tribal council that elected a creepy child king of the world.
Even as the show was badly listing heading into its final season, it remained immensely rewatchable. Yes, it had probably jumped the shark before 2019, but during the final season it jumped the shark, mounted it, and fucked it to death. The episode where Joffrey gets poisoned is one of my favorite TV episodes ever; the idea of watching it while knowing that no Lannister plot point has any purpose or meaning is unimaginable. The episode where the Mountain fucks up Oberyn Martell’s face is an undeniable classic; I’d rather watch a Phillies game from 2002.
Plenty of shows have bad seasons or even bad stretches. Any Showtime series runs about five seasons too long; but knowing what, say, Homeland or Dexter ultimately became doesn’t diminish the pleasure those shows can still provide when they were at their best. With Game of Thrones, though, it’s impossible to imagine enjoying any of the earlier episodes, because what propels Thrones as a show is its central mysteries, and knowing that all those central mysteries eventually add up to a puddle of crap makes the show impossible to rewatch.
I recently watched all eight episodes of Too Hot To Handle in a single sitting. The show–which one person accurately described as a televised version of the “u get to live in a mansion and get five million dollars but you can’t go on Facebook for a week wyd” posts–has to be one of the biggest pieces of shit ever filmed. That’s the point of releasing it in the middle of a pandemic: There are too many hours to fill in the day, and just about anything will get the job done. All people can do, really, is sit in their house and watch TV and post about it. There used to be other things you could do, and Game of Thrones still ruled the world then. Netflix just had its best quarter ever; any TV show readily available has been gifted the lowest bar in world history. Thrones isn’t even close to clearing it.