Game of Thrones has been ruined for me. I enjoyed the first two seasons in a way that I thought impossible in this post-The Wire world. I mean, how could any show rival the world of the Baltimore PD, where the stories involved less character arcs, more entire mountain ranges of developments and intricate plotting? My anticipation was such that I saved season three to watch in a sword and death filled binge over the course of this week, because I knew that waiting a full seven days between episodes would shred my nerves to pieces. I had popcorn and drinks ready so I wouldn’t have to leave the room for such comparatively trivial matters as hunger or thirst. I even had a bottle of mead by my side to sooth the pain of the inevitable yet shocking death of a main character. However three episodes in, I am giving up.
It wasn’t some ‘friend’ posting a key plot twist on Facebook. Nor have I discovered which major character dies at the end of season 3 (I don’t actually know for sure that one does, but if the first two seasons have taught me anything, it’s that someone will likely die, and probably horrifically). No, my strategy of avoiding most forms of social media and darting out of the staff room whenever people start discussing the latest episodes has proven successful in keeping season three spoiler free for me. However I can’t go on like this.
‘Isn’t that whatshisname, from Skins?’
‘Weren’t they in The Full Monty?’
‘Isn’t that Jerome from Robson and Jerome?’
‘I’m sure that he was in Holby City. Or was it Casualty?’
These questions were all I could think about during recent episodes. At the funeral of Lady Stark’s father, when I should have been contemplating how a mother’s grief for her father might help her re-bond with the son she betrayed; when Tyrion Lannister confronted his own father over a lack of affection. I was trying to recall just what else Charles Dance had been in between this and Alien 3.
It didn’t really bother me during the first series. The character of Ned Stark is so perfectly in tune with Sean Bean’s one (admittedly powerful) note acting that he transcended the role. Similarly, the chemistry between he and Mark Addy was such that the scenes between Lord Stark and Robert Baratheon felt entirely natural. Any other instances of vague recognition of other roles were so few and far between that they raised simple curiosity, rather than nagging questions.
However season three has proved the tipping point. All dramatic tension has been completely undermined by that pressing feeling in the back of my mind in almost every scene: where do I know this guy from?
One minute a kid from the first season of Skins is helping Sharpe’s daughter escape through the woods, the next Dennis Pennis rocks up with some of his friends and kidnaps them. You ponder too how that guy from Fresh Meat became so good at using a bow and arrow. It completely removes you from the moment. Instead of wondering if these two new characters are good or evil, you think to yourself how much that kid from Love Actually has grown up. Upon seeing Theon Greyjoy tortured in the stocks, you wonder if Lily Allen is releasing a new album anytime soon.
Worse still, it makes you start to doubt yourself. Isn’t that Bianca from Eastenders? Even though you know full well that it isn’t, you half expect the red haired girl from beyond the wall to shout “RICKYYY” during her arguments with Jon Snow.
I was watching this season with an American friend of mine who didn’t recognise any of the actors, aside from Sean Bean. My friend couldn’t understand this anguish. As people are becoming more pop-culturally aware than before, and such shows become more widely available through various streaming sites, surely it’s a problem that is only going to get worse. Am I the only one feeling this way?