Maisie Williams as Arya Stark in "Game of Thrones" (HBO/Helen Sloan)

What it's like to watch the season 7 premiere if you've never seen "Game of Thrones" before

These people had never seen "Game of Thrones." Here's what they thought about the season premiere


Gabriel Bell
July 23, 2017 7:00PM (UTC)

Yes, for some reason, there are people out there who have not seen nor do they care about HBO's boobs-and-broadswords spectacular, "Game of Thrones." Do not judge them. They are humans just like you.

Some of these people, whatever their reasons, chose to break their lifelong "Thrones" fasts this weekend, when the series returned to HBO for its seventh season. Thing is, they decided to do so without having watched a single moment of the 60 episodes of the preceding six seasons that have been broadcast over the last seven years.

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Yes, we know, they are brave.

So why did they enter near the end of this sprawling small-screen epic? Why start so late in the game?

Keith, an editor, was daunted by the amount of content already available, "There were so many seasons," he said, "it seemed really challenging to get into." He added, "Like, I'm not going to watch a hundred hours of television just to see some new, much-hyped episodes. Also, I tried reading the books and the writing was terrible. I get that it's a good story, but it was clunky writing. George R. R. Martin is no Tolkien." Yet, "my housemates put on the new episode, and I was curious, so I sat down and tried to follow along."

Lauren, also an editor, had somewhat different reasons for never getting up to speed. "Honestly, I think I never started because it was billed as a man's man-type show," she told Salon. "I didn't really see many advertisements for it beforehand, and if I did, I just tuned them out. I also had, like, seven jobs in 2011, and one of them was probably closing the bar on Sunday nights because that'd be just my luck."

Going in, Lauren's knowledge was fairly limited, "I heard it was good, but I had 'Mad Men.' All I needed was Don Draper." Still, she was game for giving it a shot. "My boyfriend is a big fan," she said, "and he was originally supposed to watch it with his brother at SoHo House, but tickets sold out quickly. I had work to do but, figured I'd hang out on the couch with him and look up every so often."

As she relates, her beloved helped her through her first experience with the show. "It was just us two," she said, "and I knew that if I asked questions, Dillon would kill me. So I just sat there and looked confused. It kills him when I look confused, so he quickly walked me through everything, including the Red Wedding. Side note: What the fuck?" Indeed.

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Keith was somewhat more attuned to the incessant discussion around the series, "I knew there was a lot of sex, and incest, and that almost everyone died on the show," said he said, clearly having the right idea. "I heard that HBO was pretty gratuitous about nudity. I understand that it is set in some vague medieval-esque era. I was pretty sure that there were dragons. I also knew that Hodor held doors." Seems HBO's marketing is actually pretty effective, yes?

Still, even he needed help as he watched it with his housemates, "I didn't want to interrupt my housemates' focus too much, so I tried to limit my questions. But I did ask if 'the Hound' was a literal hound." Alas, Keith, he is not. "I would have enjoyed the show more if it were just talking dogs, I think. Are there actually talking dogs on the show? Because I would totally watch it if it were just like medieval 'Air Bud.'" While a virgin to the show, Keith may know more than producers D.B. Weiss and David Benioff about the right way to interpret the works of George R.R. Martin.

Still, from the first scene on, it was all chaos. Watching Arya kill a hall full of Freys, Keith thought, "It looked a lot like Hogwarts," believing that "angry, patriarchal Dumbledore poisoned some people, then it turned out it wasn't Dumbledore but someone who'd taken polyjuice potion to look like Dumbledore and kill everyone." He also wasn't that impressed with Arya's strategy, "I was surprised that the ploy to poison the wine was 100 percent effective — you'd think there would be at least one teetotaler in the room."

Lauren was less confused than concerned for the professionals involved, "I didn't really concentrate," she said. "I could only think about how all the main characters that got killed off were probably reading their scripts and freaking out before that episode."

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Indeed, other than the "weird accents," Lauren was actually more focused on very relevant, very important offscreen issues. "Where are all the black people in this show? How are we still asking ourselves this question?" Alas, watching six seasons has given us few solid answers for that very, very good query.

Still, Lauren actually seemed to have a pretty good grasp of what was going on (though she may have her boyfriend to thank for some of that). Regarding the scene between Cersei and Jaime, she said, "They're probably a supposed mother/son relationship, but it turns out they're actually long-lost separated identical twins — it's a dream world, guys — that end up fucking or something and then they have babies with defects because they have the same DNA." Close enough for horseshoes!

Keith, meanwhile, was having issues with the use of magic in the show. He found the white walkers and the wights confusing, as "the idea of a zombie originates in Haitian folklore. So I was confused about what elements of Earth civilization had crept into Westeros' cosmology." He continues, "I mean I guess the idea of the undead have roots in Western folklore, too, but maybe this just confused me further about the 'rules' of the universe here."

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In fact, these issues proved to be his downfall. "The religion on the show," he asked us. "Is this Christian cosmology? If this is a different 'universe' and a non-Western civilization (not Earth), why are there so many symbols and architectural/cultural referents to Western civilization? What technologies are on and off limits? Is there a God in this universe? What are the rules of 'magic' here? Is there poverty in this world? Are we only seeing the perspectives of this civilization's aristocrats? Are the white walkers actually the good guys who are only 'bad' because they've been oppressed by humans and are fighting back?"

Of course, the answers to Keith's questions are — in order — no, because George R.R. Martin is lazy, no one knows, totally, whatever the producers need at any given moment, very much so, you betcha, and we never really thought of it that way, but yes.

He adds, "I would want to watch 'A People's History of Westeros' to get a better reading on the privileged narratives HBO is showing us." Are you listening, Howard Zinn?

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It wasn't such Marxist concerns that turned Lauren off, but a combination of racial underrepresentation and excrement. Like many watchers — including this one — the scene of Sam emptying bedpans had her turning away. "Holy fuck that was disgusting," she says. "At first, I was distracted and looked up and assumed it was porridge or some shit. Turns out it was some shit. Gross." Yeah, right there with you.

The scene even interrupted her ability to enjoy (or hate on) the controversial appearance of Ed Sheeran. "I resolved to give up after the poop part," she says, "ran to the bathroom, got my clothes together for the next morning, and I look up and it's Ed Sheeran. I thought, good for you Ed Sheeran! Get that paycheck!"

But, again, she could avoid neither the show's ongoing racial issues nor the hollow defenses for them. "I hate to harp on this, but I'm annoyed that people on internet forums (read: Reddit, Facebook) say there's barely any people of color because it would be historically inaccurate. To that I say, dragons. Are you fucking kidding me?" For someone who's never seen the show before, Lauren knows what's up.

By the by, neither of our subjects could tell the difference between all the various characters, remember names, or tell what any of them wanted. When asked about the "girl with the red hair" Lauren asked us, "Is she the head woman in charge? Or is that Ned Stark's girl? I don't know, man. I'm just stoked that there's a woman in charge. But for real, where are all the people of color?"

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When asked about a "young man with a beard," Keith said, "I think there's a psychological theory that you have to see a face for a certain number of minutes before it become memorable, and to be honest I don't really remember this person. The cranky old guy who stayed in the house overnight in the snow, and stared at the fire, and buried the corpses, made the biggest impression."

So, will Lauren watch "Game of Thrones" again? "That's a fuckload of time I'd rather spend re-watching Gilmore Girls, tbh." Fair.

As for Keith, he "probably" won't be following the series either. "It's too confusing."

 

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Gabriel Bell

Gabriel Bell is Salon's Deputy Culture Editor. Follow him on Twitter at @GabrielJBell

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