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Game of Thrones: Anticipating the End

Authored By: 
Gabriella Skwara, History Teacher

“Did you watch it?”

Several students greeted me with some variation of these words on Monday. The “it” referred to the new episode of the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones. No explanation was necessary, as my students and I clearly knew that there was only one topic that might warrant such interest on a Monday morning. I had indeed watched “it,” and was eager to exchange thoughts and predictions based on those 50-odd minutes the night before. I’m teaching an elective on “The Real Game of Thrones” this semester, so it makes sense the students would talk to me about it, but we certainly weren’t unique. Audiences worldwide are debating political machinations in Westeros and wondering who will be the last man and/or woman standing and thus win the Iron Throne.

Game of Thrones reminds us of a distinct thrill that is lost in the process of discussing shows as a fait accompli after “binge-watching” them over a long weekend. Listening to students dissect complex plot points and the meanings of tiny visual clues proves that they are indeed able to remember and analyze history and literature, as much as some may resist having to do so in the classroom.  The enforced wait between seasons and individual episodes sparks both our analytical and our creative faculties. We theorize about what will happen next, or what secret might yet be revealed, calling on evidence from past episodes and subtle hints dropped by the writers and actors. A frequent lament expressed about our era of “digital overload” is that it has utterly destroyed our attention span, yet Game of Thrones illustrates that this skill can still be recalled when we are sufficiently invested and enthused. What else would account for the fact that Game of Thrones continued to trend on social media throughout the “long winter” between the final seasons? I will be sad to see the conversations end this summer, although readers will still have the books to look forward to, hopefully sooner rather than later!