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A Guide To Talk About 'Game Of Thrones' Even If You've Never Seen An Episode

Apr 12, 2019
Originally published on April 12, 2019 5:16 pm
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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

All right. Bad news for those stragglers out there - if you have not started watching "Game Of Thrones" yet, there are literally not enough hours left to catch up between now and the final season premiere on Sunday. But not to worry - we are here to help you pretend you know what's going on. We'll catch you up faster than you can say, "Game Of Thrones" is a show about a bunch of noble families on a fictional medieval continent battling for control while hordes of ice zombies march towards civilization. So here you go - a TV cheat sheet. Spoilers, of course, lie ahead. And here to help are David Chen and Joanna Robinson. They co-host the podcast A Cast of Kings. Hey, guys.

JOANNA ROBINSON: Hi.

DAVID CHEN: Hello.

CHANG: All right. So what is the state of play as we head into Season 8?

CHEN: So there's many players. And they all want a chance at sitting on the Iron Throne, which is the literal seat of power. It's where, like...

ROBINSON: Wait, Dave. Are you trying to tell me that this is a literal game of thrones? Is that what you're saying?

CHEN: It is a literal - it's literally a game of thrones, which is the name of the show.

CHANG: How clever.

ROBINSON: OK. The way that I like to explain it is to break it down into teams. So first of all, you've got Team Army of the Dead - literal zombies. They are invading from way up north. There's Team Targaryen. They're the ones with the dragons and led by a very cute and scary blonde lady. They're headed north to try to stop the army of the dead and to join up with our third team, Team Stark. They're the ones with the magical wolves. And they're led by a very cute and broody guy with curly, dark hair. And the last team is Team Lannister - mostly just one queen left on this team. She has no magical pets, unless you count her zombie bodyguard. She's sending her troops up north but not to help the army of the living. She's out for herself.

CHANG: So I think for some people, like for me at first, "Game Of Thrones" was kind of a turnoff because of all the fantasy, weird, fictional, medieval stuff. What ideas do you think this show gets at that might be interesting to people who are just not into dragons?

ROBINSON: I think if you go into "Game Of Thrones" thinking that you understand who's going to win, what a hero is, the beautiful thing that this story does is it just blows all of that out of the water. You're rooting for someone. And all of a sudden, they vanish off the game board. Or you write someone off as evil. And then they have this great moral growth.

CHANG: Yeah.

ROBINSON: So the fact that it's morally murky and complex in a way that - I think people dismiss fantasy as being too simplistic.

CHANG: So we've covered some of the basics. But now I want to get to some next-level stuff because if I want to sound smart and, like, fake my way through caring about what's going to happen to the bazillion characters on this show, I need some good questions to just kind of throw around. Give me some.

CHEN: Well, I think the one that everyone has been talking about is who is going to be the person who ends up sitting on the iron throne? You've got to kind of choose a side. And asking other people which side they're on is a good way to get a conversation started at a party.

ROBINSON: Yeah, that's my favorite question. I think if you want to sound, like, really smart and hipster at a party, when someone says, who do you think is going to sit on the Iron Throne? - you roll up and say, like, does the Iron Throne even matter anymore, really, in the grand scheme of things?

CHANG: (Laughter) All right. I'll use that one.

ROBINSON: I think that's a (laughter) good answer.

CHEN: I would say another question that a lot of people have is, who is going to survive until the end of the show. There's people who have, like, death pools going on or brackets of who's going to, like, make it to the end of the show.

CHANG: That's sunny.

CHEN: The show is so adept at killing off characters. People say between 2,000 and 150,000 deaths.

CHANG: That's quite a discrepancy you've just cited.

ROBINSON: That's what happens when you have a battle episode every single season.

CHANG: Oh, good point.

ROBINSON: You get a lot of bodies, you know?

CHANG: So this show launched, like, a thousand memes, right. What are some catchphrases I should know?

ROBINSON: What's been actually really helpful for spreading the popularity of "Game Of Thrones" is the fact that in this show, each of the houses, each of the families have their own, like, personal mottos and house words. So winter is coming is sort of the most famous one. And that's the House Stark house words, you could say.

CHANG: So, like, use winter is coming in context.

ROBINSON: I would say winter is coming if, like, prepare for the worst. Something bad is coming. You know what I mean? So if someone is moving in next door and it's not who you want, you just go, winter is coming next door.

(LAUGHTER)

CHANG: All right. So if I'm trying to decide, is it even worth bingeing at this point, how would you sell me on going for it?

ROBINSON: Maybe wait until it's all over.

CHANG: (Laughter).

ROBINSON: Well, you might want to find out if the ending feels worth it. I think when "Lost" ended and so many people were burned out on that ending, they were like, well, I'm just never going to catch up with this show.

CHANG: Such a great example.

ROBINSON: Thanks for saving me that time, you know? So...

CHEN: I have a pitch to make you, Ailsa.

CHANG: Uh-huh.

CHEN: There is no equal to this show in terms of popular culture right now. It's a show that everyone is talking about the day after it airs. There's something invigorating and fun about participating in a work of popular culture with millions of other people at the same time. And this show is one of the only ones that gives you that. And it might be one of the last ones that give you that.

CHANG: David Chen and Joanna Robinson are co-hosts of the podcast A Cast of Kings. Joanna also has two other "Game Of Thrones" podcasts - wow - and writes for Vanity Fair. Thank you to both of you.

ROBINSON: Thanks so much for having us.

CHEN: Thank you so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF RAMIN DWAJADI'S "GAME OF THRONES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.