I’m just going to come right out and say it: I am what you might call scripted series-averse ― a traitor to my own millennial kind.
I’m used to the groans and sighs of disbelief when my content-connoisseur peers hear that I never finished “Mad Men,” that I never started “The Sopranos” and that I “just couldn’t get into” “The Wire.”
I keep a cable subscription mainly so I can live tweet awards shows once a year and the Olympics every two, watch “CBS Sunday Morning” in tandem with my mother and grandmother and fall asleep to the same episode of “Friends” I’ve seen four trillion times.
It’s not that I don’t think about expanding my television horizons, it’s the sheer volume of options available to me at any given moment that I find paralyzing. I am overwhelmed at the prospect of committing to one particular show, regardless of its relevance in pop culture or brilliant production quality. And so, I’d sooner opt to re-watch a John Mulaney Netflix comedy special than commit to something requiring more time and energy and that might ultimately end up disappointing me.
When it comes to “Game of Thrones” (ever heard of it?) my issues have to do with a different type of commitment entirely.
“Game of Thrones” is what I’ve always regarded as relationship television. It’s the kind of show you watch with a partner, someone who will sit through the especially violent scenes and describe them in graphic detail so you can cover your eyes without really missing anything. It’s the kind of show you spend hours dissecting and debating with someone else. Most importantly, it’s the kind of show you get angry at your partner for watching without you: the truest benchmark of love in 2019.
So, as a notoriously, mostly happily independent single person, my situation is a tricky one. Like getting an IUD and finally pleasing my grandmother, I, until recently, wrote off watching “Thrones” as something I’d only accomplish if ― and only if ― I ever found myself in a relationship.
It turns out that my position on one (or all three) of those things is really stupid. Because once I decided to watch it, I realized ― and I don’t know if you know this ― “Game of Thrones” is So. Fucking. Good.
I have my therapist to indirectly thank for encouraging me to march forth toward King’s Landing and my new television obsession all by myself. In the past year she has opened my eyes to a few things that ― and stay with me ― I now realize have been contributing to my television deficiency.
I am highly skilled in the art of finding reasons not to stay home in order to keep myself distracted from myself ― a person I’ve only recently really started to get along with. Less time alone with my thoughts meant less time to process some of the heaviest personal shit I have had to deal with (or avoid having to deal with) over the years. These are the same things that have impacted my ability to get close to any romantic partner and have successfully allowed me to keep up a wall not even the most skilled man of the night’s watch could cross.
I’ve begun paying down credit card debt I got myself into while attempting to be home as little as possible (which, as you can imagine in New York is an expensive endeavor), and I’ve learned to find joy of just sitting on my (new! vintage!) comfortable couch. So, now that I’ve scaled back on going out and frivolously spending money that I don’t need ― or even want ― to spend on overpriced sushi and $16 old fashioneds, I have suddenly and enthusiastically found myself with more time to ― you guessed it ― watch television.
Not only did I find myself with more time, I also had the support to challenge myself into doing something I’d always believed was reserved for a relationship. Upending my notion that I needed a boyfriend to journey alongside kept me stationary ― and seeing as I’d made so much progress in other areas of my life where feeling confident and fulfilled is concerned ― I told myself I was ready to see what all the “GoT” fuss was about (and I was ready to do it alone).
So why “Thrones” and not one of the other umpteen critically acclaimed scripted series out there? Well, besides wanting to dispel the notion that “GoT” is decidedly “boyfriend TV,” I was also sick of hearing all my friends rave about it. And with the final season coming up, I felt very much like this was a “now or never” scenario. Also, I really don’t do well with violence ― real or fictional ― and I’ve found that can sometimes hold me back from experiencing films and TV I want to experience. So I figured what better way to face my fears than to watch repeated, graphic sword fighting and beheading?
Really, in the end, venturing on a mostly solo (I was grateful to be with a friend for Season Three episode 9, most commonly referred to as The Red Wedding) seven-season binge was less about the show itself and more about the fact that I am ― in television endeavors and otherwise ― enough on my own. Or at least I wanted to believe I am. And this seemed like a good and enjoyable way to prove it. Because really, what good is having therapy-induced epiphanies if you never put them into practice?
So, I decided to just go for it, and threw myself right into the world of Westeros.
I watched the first episode of the first season on Feb. 26, about eight years after it premiered. Some doubted my ability to make it through the entire show before its final season premieres on April 14. Others assured me if I was committed to my new cause, I had more than enough time to catch up. I knew that in order to achieve this feat, a few big binge sessions would be necessary and, to be honest, I was a bit worried about that. I’ve never been particularly good at binging anything. Who can sit for that long?
Well, apparently me. I watched all of Season Five in just one day.
Otherwise, my viewing schedule varies. Some nights I watch three episodes, some nights none. My typically regimented sleep schedule has been completely turned on its head, and waking up every morning for the gym has gotten drastically harder. But it’s totally worth it. I watch every episode from its very beginning to its very end, drinking in everything from the opening credits to the supplemental “Inside the Episode” packages (super helpful, by the way!) I have gone through cases of seltzer and stress-eaten countless bags of pretzels. I’ve cried, I’ve laughed, I’ve gasped and I’ve talked out loud to myself. I even tried live tweeting, but I ― another realization! ― have found it’s more important and fulfilling to be present than it is to try to be funny on the internet (a lesson that applies to far more than just the way to watch “Game of Thrones,” by the way).
My foray into The Narrow Sea hasn’t been totally seamless or completely without anxiety, especially where spoilers are concerned. Working on the internet for a living and just plain being a human being who has existed in the world for the past eight years means I have heard my fair share of “Game of Thrones” plot lines and surprises. How could I not? The show is arguably one of the most popular and discussed in history. But now that I’m on a mission to see every episode before the final season’s premiere, I have been and still am constantly dodging think pieces, tweets and even people in the desperate hope of not having anything (or at least as little as possible) spoiled for me. Even writing this article, which required me to find photos of characters and information about the show, was risky.
Seeing as the show is full of dozens of characters and even more twists and turns, I’m often confused about what exactly is happening while watching. So I’ve turned to friends and family who, at this point, don’t even remember most of the things I’ve been freaking out about.
Now, with less than a week to go before the new and final season premieres, I find myself looking forward to getting through the day so I can get home to my apartment, settle in on the couch and get lost in the complicated, messy, exciting and emotional ride “GoT” has been offering me for the past six weeks.
I didn’t immediately feel that way about the series. Every time something in Season One confused me, I craved the insight and instant gratification of having another person to navigate the show with me. Luckily, thanks to technology (and the pause button) I never had to wait too long to hear from friends and family members with more episodes under their belt ― all of whom I realized are always willing and eager to talk about all things “Thrones” all the time.
But now, halfway through Season Six, I’m not only more confident about grasping character development and plot points ― I’m more confident in my ability to do anything, even something as trivial as watching a television show, alone. It might sound silly, but this endeavor has only confirmed what I already knew to be true: I. Am. Enough. And ― not only am I capable of doing it, I actually enjoy myself and my time alone, which is something I never thought I’d type.
This is not to say that I have given up my social life ― not in the least. Some people might say forgoing hanging out with other people to hang out with Jon Snow is unhealthy. But I realized my going-out habits were actually veering toward unhealthy. Making time for myself has only helped give me a bit more balance and made me realize that waiting for the right person to come alone to start living, to do anything ― even if that thing is watching a popular TV show ― is ridiculous.
Winter is coming ― and maybe so is my future boyfriend. But only one of those things really matter. And if he doesn’t show up anytime soon, I’ve learned something better: That I actually want to spend time with myself, which is one of the most epic battles just months ago I never thought I’d wage, much less win.