For those of us who are just a tab compulsive about completing things, TV on demand is a very sharp double-edged sword.
I can watch an entire show–every episode–all in one sitting!
OMG, I’m going to watch it all?!?
Let’s Talk Game of Thrones
GoT season 7 finally launched last week. It’s been away forever; season 6 concluded on June 26, 2016, so seeing as I often can’t remember if I ate lunch, surely some important details have been forgotten, right?
As of this publishing date, there are 60 GoT episodes. They vary slightly in length, though they’re all around the hour-long range.
By the old gods and the new, that’s a lot of TV.
Let’s say I wanted to re-watch everything to prep for the current season. According to a nifty website called BingeClock (and some extremely basic arithmetic), if I skip both the opening and closing credits, that’s a solid 60 hours of couch surfing. Eeek.
Call me a nonbeliever or a fucking Thenn, but really–do I need to see everything?
For the fan who simply wants to brush up on a major plot line, I say no. There are other castles to storm and more dead to burn. My recommendation: binge mindfully.
Binge-Watching GoT With Purpose
I approached my GoT refresh as a scholar conducting background research. The goal: an up-to-date understanding of just how winter was, finally, coming. I needed to revisit the Night King and his White Walker generals and their Army of the Dead before the icy storm swept into Westeros.
Step 1: Set up access to every episode. Have ’em handy and ready to go, so you move seamlessly from one season and episode to the next. I used HBO Go. No wasted time!
Step 2: Read through each episode description for characters and places closely tied to your plot line of interest. You may want to supplement the streaming descriptions with a good GoT fan site, like Fandom. In the case of the White Walkers, activity at the Wall is crucial, so everything related to the Night’s Watch got a glance. I skimmed for characters who came in contact with wights, Walkers, and the Night King (Jon , Sam, Gilly, Osha, Bran, Jojen, and more). As much as you enjoy Daenerys, the Mother of Dragons, or small but fierce Lady Mormont, they have no connection to this plot line (at least, not yet).
Step 3: Write down a watch list. I’m a paper person, so I listed the episodes of focus on a tablet. Wherever you list, leave space; sometimes you’ll realize something’s missing and add in another episode. I took notes as I went along.* DON’T GET DISTRACTED–stick to your plan, or you’ll discover days later that you’ve re-watched the entire show.
Step 4: Be methodical. Interestingly, I worked from the most current episode to the very first. Going backward seemed to make skipping over stuff I had no business watching a tad easier. And, rather than anticipating what was coming next, I think I paid more attention to details. Absolutely essential: Fast forward over everything that isn’t your story. When stripped of all but the White Walk plot line, GoT episodes shrank to 20 minutes at most (and often much less).
Step 5: Read over your notes. Those pithy comments you’ve jotted down provide a quick synopsis. Little character nuances come into clearer focus. Important details stand out. You also see who, what, and where isn’t involved, and that can be equally revealing. For example: when the Night King raises his battle flag, at what point will the other GoT plots and characters intersect?
*I have a whole list of Sam’s warnings to others, which, ironically, almost immediately come true.
Interesting GoT Topics to Binge
Now that I’ve finished with the White Walkers, several secondary elements spark my interest. Who knows how crucial these plot points may become?
- the Lord of Light and his priestesses
- stone men and grayscale
- the Hound and the Mountain
- direwolves and omens
- care and feeding of dragons
- family members of House Mormont
- what Targaryens and Starks already know about their connection
- the Iron Throne and various special swords
Ok, there’s that double-edged sword of compulsion again. I’m going off the deep end. Am I creating more reasons to binge GoT? Or am I spending less time by watching more attentively?
To spare you a compulsive binge, here’s what I found out in my White Walker deep dive: