Months-old spoilers ahead: When TV fans look back at the year in television, one moment will surely stand out above the rest: the Red Wedding, otherwise known as the most shocking, disturbing, and infamous event in Game of Thrones history. The scene, which featured the murders of some of the series' most important characters in one long, blood-soaked sequence, came as an enormous shock to fans of the show — that is, unless they'd read the books first.
To Game of Thrones book readers, the Red Wedding, TV version, was undoubtedly huge, but it certainly wasn't a surprise. A Storm of Swords, the third book in the series of which the show is based on, was published long ago in 2000. In the 13 years since its publication, countless fans have discovered the depths of author George R.R. Martin's twisted mind, and have had plenty of time to come to terms with some of his most memorable creations, such as the Red Wedding. By the time the long-awaited episode of Game of Thrones came around this past June, millions of people had known what was coming — and yet, incredibly, hardly any of them spoiled it for non-book readers.
To those of you who aren't massive TV fans, this may not seem like a big deal at first, rather just a common courtesy. Why would someone spoil something for others who don't know it's coming? Yet in today's Twitter-using, Wiki-searching world, spoilers aren't taken nearly as seriously as they once were. It's frighteningly easy for fans to get ahold of information they didn't wish to know, whether it's clicking on the wrong link or accidentally seeing friends' online conversations. Sometimes, it's not the newcomer's fault; in many instances, people are mean enough to spoil things for fun, trolling on recap blogs out of boredom or wearing "Dumbledore dies!" shirts for pure pleasure.
Yet when it comes to Game of Thrones, things are different. Book readers don't want to spoil the plots for non-book readers, because what happens throughout the series is just too good. The Red Wedding is an incredible, game-changing event that's incomparable to anything else, and deserves to be seen or read without any prior knowledge; why would anyone want to ruin that experience for someone else?
I can't speak for everyone, of course, but I know that when I saw the Red Wedding this June, I had absolutely no idea it was coming, despite my father, several of my friends, and a good portion of the Internet having read the books. As I watched the horrors unfold onscreen, I was awed, traumatized, shocked — exactly all the things I was supposed to feel when seeing it for the first time. Thanks to the incredible work of the show's writers and actors, the episode would've been amazing to watch even if I'd known what was to come beforehand, but its effects wouldn't have been nearly as great. I'm happy that I got to witness the Red Wedding without any preparation, because it made for a far better TV viewing experience than if I'd had even the smallest plot points ruined for me beforehand by a too-eager fan.
And I know I'm not the only grateful one. In a recent interview, Martin expressed his pride for the readers of his books, saying:
... The fact that the Red Wedding had such a tremendous impact all around the world is a testament not only to what a great job David Benioff and Dan Weiss and the cast of Game of Thrones did in rendering the Red Wedding, but it’s also a tribute to all of my book readers who knew what was gonna happen but deliberately withheld that information, did not spoil their friends and relatives.
It's sweet to see Martin so proud of his fans, who, thankfully for people like me, are so dedicated to the material that they've refused to give in to the temptation of spoiling it for non-readers. Yet it's his second comment, below, that brings up some questions:
Some of them, mind you, set up cameras to capture the grief, rage, and shock of their friends and relatives, which is a whole ‘nother issue to discuss, but they didn’t spoil it, so I give them that and I congratulate them on that because these are experiences you should have as a virgin, so to speak.
While it seemed to me that book readers chose not to spoil the Red Wedding out of respect for the material and courtesy to non-readers, maybe it was for a completely different reason — schadenfreude. After all, like Martin said, many Game of Thrones devotees filmed their non-reader friends' reactions to the Red Wedding, and then posted them on YouTube for all to see and enjoy. Filming your friends reacting in horror over an incredibly disturbing scene — that's just cruel.
Whether Game of Thrones readers chose not to spoil the Red Wedding out of courtesy or evilness is up for debate, but in this case, their motivations are less important than their actions. They didn't ruin the experience for us, and for me, at least, I'll always be grateful.