Now that HBO’s Game of Thrones has outpaced the George R. R. Martin novels on which it is based, readers and TV viewers are finally on a level playing field, with all of us equally oblivious to the plot twists ahead in Season 7 (and, if we’re lucky, maybe even Season 8, which is set to be the fantasy saga’s last).
Of course, because we can’t have nice things when it comes to the internet, rumor has it that great swaths of plot details about Season 7 have leaked online, with enterprising fans on Reddit trying to piece together the storyline for next season.
It all originated with an anonymous Redditor going by the name awayforthelads, who has since deleted their account. Awayforthelads offered up detailed descriptions of purported scenes and character interactions, some of which have been supported by paparazzi shots taken during filming on location in Europe for Season 7.
Another Reddit user, known as starkandlannister, has claimed that the spoilers are false or purely based on speculation, insisting that they have their own source, “one of the major actors/actresses in the show,” who has debunked the rumors. Basically, it’s a classic game of internet “he said, she said,” and there’s no way of knowing how much of it is true until the show returns next year.
Spoilers are a particularly tricky thing for TV or movie properties that are based on books for its first few seasons, Game of Thrones was fairly faithful to Martin’s novels, meaning that fans who’d read his A Song of Ice and Fire series were always a step ahead of casual viewers, making cryptic references to the Red Wedding or Kingsmoot just to freak out their spoiler-averse friends.
Of course, that never stopped HBO from zealously guarding plot details surrounding the series with many actors lying point blank to reporters who quizzed them about specific scenes, characters or deaths that were likely to be adapted from the novels, in order to try and preserve the show’s plot twists. That didn’t stop screeners for the show’s first four episodes from leaking online before they aired in Season 5, prompting HBO to decide against sending episodes to press in advance of the Season 6 premiere.
It’s a predicament that has also plagued AMC’s The Walking Dead, a show based on a long-running comic book series by Robert Kirkman. Like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead has seen paparazzi staking out the set in order to uncover cast members’ movements, with fans even managing to leak detailed plot descriptions for each episode online before the show airs.
To combat the voracious spoiler seekers, the show had to film multiple alternate death scenes for its Season 7 premiere to hide the identities of the characters that were killed by Negan, and also declined to make the episode available to press in advance. In the end, the series hewed fairly closely to the deaths laid out by Kirkman in the comics, although that didn’t stop some fans from threatening to quit the show.
But now that Game of Thrones has overtaken Martin’s published work there are two books still to be released, and two shortened seasons of Game of Thrones yet to air we’re in uncharted territory, which makes spoiler-hounds more relentless and those involved with the show even more protective.
In the age of smartphones and social media, where plot leaks and sensitive information can be instantly disseminated, and even deleted Reddit threads can be screencapped for posterity, preventing leaks can often feel like a game of whack-a-mole. There seems to be no clear solution to stymie spoilers, short of filming exclusively on closed sets and sneaking actors into the studio under blankets something that seems impossible for a show as ambitious in scale as Game of Thrones.
It’s probably not much of a silver lining for networks and studios who work to preserve the sanctity of a show’s viewing experience, but perhaps they can take some comfort in the fact that if fans are obsessed enough to trawl through message boards and pore over grainy paparazzi shots for plot details, they’re probably also the first ones to tune in when the series gets back on air.
Either way, winter can’t come soon enough for any of us.