When it comes to Game of Thrones spoilers, we’re very much Beyond The Wall.
It’s time to talk about the ethics of leaks and spoilers within the realm of Game of Thrones fandom and journalism. It’s been a rough year for HBO’s flagship fantasy show, with production leaks dominating its offseason and now in-house screw-ups jettisoning whole episodes onto the Internet days before their planned releases. If you’re HBO chief Casey Bloys, you’re probably a few drinks into a furious rage at this point. But if you’re a journo covering the show, you’re in an equally frustrating and challenging spot. What to do with all of this freely available information about what is to come on Game of Thrones? And more importantly, how to reconcile that with the internet’s thirst for fan theories?
This is where many have gotten themselves into trouble, at least where the eternal damnation of their lying souls comes into play. This week especially, we’ve seen a number of publications passing off actual spoilers as “fan theories” from Reddit. But the truth, as anyone who listens to yours truly on A Storm of Spoilers would know, is that these “theories” are really part of a round of actual production leaks from the offseason. It’s misleading to the less-attentive readers of these publications, who will assume that their favorite website was prophetic in picking the right Reddit theories. When in reality, they were just dropping major spoilers in the name of getting dem clicks.
Of course, this is not to say that the authors of the following articles are knowingly misleading their readers. I personally receive dozens of emails per day from readers pointing me toward “fan theories” on Reddit that I know are derived from some confirmed leak. So it’s possible the worst sin of these pubs is that they didn’t do any research. Either way, these articles don’t distinguish between what is a “fan theory” and what is leaked information, which is — whether intentional or unintentional — disingenuous.
It’s a problem the entire Game of Thrones coverage industry has struggled with all year. From podcasts to websites, it’s hard to know who’s “in the know” and who’s “making guesses.” Which is why myself and my colleagues at A Storm of Spoilers made it clear in our season preview that we know things — pretty much all the things. Because we owe you an honest assessment of what we knew coming into the season. And as it turns out, what we thought we knew in June has been proven to be right in July and August. Yes, those offseason leaks from the production were dead on.
So if you’d like to go down the rabbit hole and know which of the trending “fan theories” are actually just spoilers, you can scroll past the dearly departed, pansexual Prince of Dorne and find out. If you’d like to live in blissful ignorance for the next two weeks and operate under the assumption that Thrones bloggers are amazing at picking theories from the haystack of Reddit, well, that’s your choice.
Seriously, from here on out it’s nothing but huge spoilers.
Theory #1: Dany will go to The Wall
The Theory: Per Mashable, there’s a theory that Daenerys will make her way to The Wall and come face-to-face with the real threat: The Night King.
The Truth: Yeah, that’s happening in this week’s episode, “Beyond the Wall.” The Magnificent Seven excursion doesn’t go well and Dany must bring not one, but all three of her dragons North to rescue her nephew Jon and his motley crew. You can even see in the picture above that Daenerys has her winter wardrobe in full effect.
Theory #2: Hopefully Littlefinger has underestimated the Stark girls
The Theory: Again per Mashable, a theory being espoused about how Littlefinger is clearly trying to pit Sansa and Arya against each other in an attempt to create a power vacuum for himself. But as the Reddit theorizer states, “please let Littlefinger underestimate either Sansa or Arya.” Glamour also published a theory about how Arya may be two steps ahead of Littlefinger.
The Truth: That’s exactly what’s happening. The show is setting us up to believe that Sansa and Arya could have a very real conflict and that Littlefinger may be somehow on the verge of a big win. He’s not. The pack has to survive and the show doesn’t need political operatives so much anymore, so this won’t end well for Lord Baelish. The good news is that he’s not long from seeing his beloved Cat again. The bad news is that if there is an afterlife, he’s gonna have a very awkward reunion with Ned first and have to explain why he tried to sex up his teenaged daughter.
Theory #3: A Motherf**king Ice Dragon
The Theory: Bustle has published a theory not only about the fact that there will be an ice dragon sighting before the season is over, but that it’ll be one of Dany’s lesser children, Viserion (named after her dickhead brother), who will die and be reanimated by The Night King.
The Truth: This one is perhaps the most frustrating, as there have been “Ice Dragon” rumblings all season. Well, guess what, Viserion is going down and then coming back to life as a blue-eyed zombie dragon. That’s happening this weekend in a sequence that is meant to be totally heartbreaking. People are very likely to lose their minds when this happens, and rightly so. But they’ll also have something nagging at them from the back of their minds — “Hmm, I guess this is why all those websites were writing ‘Will Game of Thrones have an Ice Dragon?’ articles for the past few weeks.”
Bonus Dumpster Theory: We’re Seeing Everything via Branvision
This isn’t a spoiler — at least not that I know of — but it’s dumb and since we’re out here dragging fan theories, it merits a mention. I too get trapped in a cycle of giving the show more credit than it deserves sometimes, which is why this theory from Refinery29 — which rests on the notion that the reason why the show is jumping around so much and making trips from Dragonstone to Eastwatch in a matter of minutes is because “we’re seeing things through Bran’s eyes.” No, that’s not it. We’re not seeing things over Weirwood Wi-Fi, the show has simply taken to a more cinematic approach to how time works. Gone is the painstaking detail of George R.R. Martin’s logically plausible timelines and here to stay is the big rush to get to all the biggest and most expensive action. It’s different and in the end, probably not the worst thing the show has ever done. But let’s not go trying to explain it as if the show is executing some masterful mindfuck on its audience. They simply want to get to the end and need to do some yada-yada’ing along the way.