Essays · TV

Watching Game of Thrones With My Parents

By  · Published on June 29th, 2016

A Game of Groans and the Rolling Stones

I watch the Season Six Finale of Game of Thrones with my parents. It got weird.

“Everyone is standing up straight on these boats and nobody’s puking. It’s amazing.” – My dad

I am a little disappointed in myself. Last summer I watched the latter half of the fifth season of Game of Thrones in my parents’ living room. Yes, I was there for Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken. Yes, it was unpleasant. But unnecessary and near indefensible scenes aside, I find watching the show with them to be a rather enjoyable experience. And yet, the first episode I watched with them this year was the season six finale.

It wasn’t because they’re a bad audience. My friends are far more raucous. It wasn’t because it makes me uncomfortable. My brother and I convinced my mom to take us to see Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo in theaters when we were 11. That was uncomfortable. It was because I wanted to watch it with my friends, who are also obsessed, though not to the same extent that I am, with the show. I revel in the camaraderie of a weekly viewing group, a tradition I have tried to maintain since I was roped into watching American Horror Story every Wednesday night in college. But in making that choice, I was missing out on the joy that comes from watching a near-universally loved show with two people whose perspectives differ vastly from my own. When I finally watched “The Winds of Winter” with them Monday night, I was once again privy to the hilarity and the insight I was missing. What follows is a sampling of some of the choice moments from that viewing, and how it reestablished in my mind the basis of the show’s near-universal adoration.

“What a tree!… It must be cement.” – My mom

Before I begin the story (if you even made it through that intro), I wish to establish my parents’ relationships with the show. My mom has watched most of the episodes, but is strictly a TV viewer. She doesn’t read any theories. She hasn’t read the books. My dad was a book reader first. He isn’t especially Reddit literate, so theories aren’t his forte either, but we spend a lot of time each week discussing the show. I, on the other hand, am an avid pursuer of any and all A Song of Ice and Fire content. I listen to too many of the podcasts, though I have a definite favorite. I read too many theories. I near religiously follow @BrydenBFish. Despite all of these differences, we all LOVE the show.

For this viewing, my dad and I had already watched the finale (What kind of obsessed fan would I be if I missed out on Sunday night twitter?). My mom was in Maine for a family reunion and missed the finale on Sunday night. So her first move upon returning from the airport? Watch Game of Thrones.

As Lancel Lannister (Eugene Simon) chased the young sparrow through the sewers beneath the Great Sept of Baelor, my dad couldn’t resist prying into my mother’s memories.

“Do you remember what that is?” my father murmured. Instead of answering, she remained engrossed in the screen, unsure of how those gathered in the Sept were doomed but far too invested to care. The sweeping cello score and eerie frames of the scene were enough.

When the explosion vaporized Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer), the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce), and many more citizens of King’s Landing, the camera cut to Cersei’s view of the violence and then back to her face.

“HOLY SHIT! There she is. Queen Mom!” my own mother chuckled as the consequences of the explosion spread all over both her and Lena Headey’s faces.

What did my dad say…? “Jumping jack flash! It’s a gas!”

The next few scenes were overlaid with some choice commentary (mainly unanswered questions and off screen narration). A choice moment occurred when Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) gazed upon the majesty of the Citadel’s library. My mom was incredulous at the scale of the facility:

“That’s a lot of books for back then… Well, I guess this IS a parallel universe that doesn’t exist.” Her canny commentary, though vague and rather random, speaks to the feelings of awe that make this show so successful. For many viewers, pondering the rules of the World of Ice & Fire is secondary to the weight of the story. She became lost in the action and didn’t mention the books again.

And yet, my mother often relates points in a phrase that consume hours of obsessed fans’ time. When Frey pie finally came into fruition, my dad couldn’t stop himself from humming the Mission: Impossible Theme. Well, he probably COULD have, but that didn’t stop him from doing so. My mom, on the other hand, accurately reflected on the change in Arya’s character in a manner ill-suited for book readers, ““Ew… ew… She’s a real meanie now, isn’t she?” Though somewhat simplistic, her analysis gels perfectly with David Benioff’s characterization of Arya’s vengeance as a “worrisome narrative.”

“You refused the call.”

There is one more moment that was crucial in this experience. For some reason, both of my parents suggested some rather strange marriage proposals. After the King in the North scene my mom, speaking of Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey), immediately snickered, “Jon Snow better marry that little girl.”

My dad quickly retorted, “He’s gonna marry Daenerys!” Hah! My mom wasn’t serious, but in responding to my dad, he revealed that he thought that “R + L = J” could refer to King Robert Baratheon, and not Rhaegar Targaryen. We know this. My dad, the prolific reader that he is, did not. We waited to discuss this until the episode ended. The conversation that followed ranged from discussions of the likelihood of Targaryen incest to my mom thinking that Robert Baratheon was the Mad King.

Even though we differed on the details, and we STILL disagree on our projections for season seven, we had a great discussion. Even though we were not all on the same page about what was happening, we were so invested in the characters that we felt the emotional impact of what played out on the screen. By creating such a fully realized world and grounding character decisions, for the most part, in human emotions, Game of Thrones rises above traditional understandings of fandom. My mom, dad, and I all understand and connect with the show in a variety of different ways, but we keep going back each week.

At the end of the event, I was glad to have shared this moment with my parents. It reminded me of how much they influenced my love of cinema and television, and how funny they both can be. And then my dad had to ruin the moment:

“Just remember: what we can say about Cersei is that she made Jumping Jack Flash… he’s a gas!”

The puns will never end.

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