I started watching Game of Thrones this summer because I thought it'd be a funny joke. Prior to this, I had maybe seen one episode, which frankly felt like it took more effort than being a regular viewer. After all, Game of Thrones was a juggernaut. You could make the argument that for a long while, websites constructed their entire editorial calendar around new Jon Snow takes, in the same way turkey farmers run in the red until Thanksgiving. The idea of tapping in mid-stream seemed exhausting, so I remained on the sidelines as the Red Wedding, the Night King, and Cersei's desolation bloomed into view and faded into the distance without ever knowing what anyone was talking about. Instead, I burned off my Sunday evenings with other things. Not better things, mind you, but other things.
Two years have passed since the series finale of Game of Thrones — an event that seemed to upset a lot of people — and any residue of the mania has been thoroughly washed away. The show's terminal fall from grace is honestly kind of disorienting. Star Wars fans held on to their mythos for 20 years between trilogies, long-suffering Dune heads have finally earned their deliverance, but currently, most people seem eager to leave everyone in Westeros dead and buried. In fact, 2021 is the first time in human history it became possible to enjoy Game of Thrones completely discourse-free. We are far removed from the white-hot crucible of intrigue, that breezy Obama-era period where a bonanza of clicks could be harvested from headlines titled "15 Epic Sansa Clapbacks." Game of Thrones has also not matured into that sainted, cultish-yet-popular Sopranos tier, living on through wistful critical reappraisals, a tang of nostalgia, and avant-garde meme accounts. Instead I am tumbling alone through the shapeless void, which is to say that I am on Season Two, Episode Two, of Game of Thrones. It’s wonderful. I feel like I've finally cracked the code. From now on, I am only engaging in television at the absolute nadir of its relevance.
I have always been bad at TV: I've been on the second season of Mad Men since college; I quit Breaking Bad because it was scary to imagine having cancer. I tried giving Girls a shot, only to find that the series angered an ex-partner of mine in a way that I'm unequipped to adequately articulate. Looking back, it's clear that my repeated attempts to engage with the shows everyone was watching were the result of a nearly imperceptible shift in our social contract. I came of age at the turn of the millennium when there were precisely three television programs to talk about: House, 24, and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. But as media became increasingly decentralized, and as young people developed a desire to add boutique television to their overarching catalogue of genteel taste, I found myself confronted by all sorts of mind-numbing Roku-oriented conversation vectors at house parties every weekend. The TV being bandied about became almost theoretical in nature, as networks bloated up with intractable, balkanized content streams. My personal breaking point arrived after a rabid endorsement of a show that was exclusive to the STARZ network. I did not want to subscribe to the STARZ network merely to gain access to a show I may or may not like, only for the ability to talk about it with people I may or may not see again.
There is no way I am the only one who has learned to fear the dreaded Television Portion of the Evening; where loved ones standing around a kitchen counter spend a few minutes describing whatever thing they are currently watching to an arid chorus of, "Wow I'll have to check that out." It gives me a panic attack, and I've finally taken refuge in the promised land: Season Two, Episode Two, of Game of Thrones.
You have no idea how little anyone wants to talk to me about Game of Thrones. I have loudly trumpeted my heroic, belated journey through Westeros to everyone I know, only for them to quickly pivot to something, anything else. Being this far removed from the zeitgeist — marooned in the polar regions of topicality — has become a natural deterrent, akin to a dart frog brandishing its colors. People ignore me like they ignore their dads when they go off on Band of Brothers. I have never felt so wonderfully, peacefully washed, and I am prepared to sustain this fantasy indefinitely. No new TV, ever. I'll be wielding my thoughts on Hart of Dixie like a switchblade until I'm dead in the ground.
Already, I'm plotting my next television adventures, all plucked from the fetid late-2000s, which remains the most insane period of programming we've ever had. A groundswell of flowering critical acclaim once embraced premises like, "This lady sells weed," "This lady is in jail," and "This dude has a lot of wives." I have frequently threatened my girlfriend with the idea of an Entourage watch, which will surely provoke some sort of ultimatum in our relationship. (Her chief worry seems to be that I would like it too much.) I have simultaneously sanded down my media diet to the point that I'm eschewing everything on the internet in favor of Game of Thrones recaps from 2011, as if I'm role-playing that sanguine, hubristic age where everyone seemed to genuinely believe that we could save the world by blogging. Trawl through the desiccated ruins of The A.V. Club, and if you suspend your disbelief, you'll be able to relive those golden years where liberalism won and TV was politics. It's a balm on my soul. Whenever I finish a new episode, I gleefully consume a forgotten churn of contemporaneous podcasts, takes, and Reddit threads — my very own primary sources — all asking the most important questions of the time, like whether or not that woman who is fucking her brother counts as a feminist. That is a crucial part of the appeal for me, because as a longtime freelancer, it brings to mind some of the happiest days of my life; pouring my blood, sweat, and tears into an overworked thinkpiece and getting paid $75 for it.
I recently read How To Do Nothing by Jenny Odell and was disappointed to find that in lieu of any functional strategies to achieve neural tranquility, it was mostly about what different birds sound like. I was drawn to the book because I have literally never been calm in my life, a condition exacerbated by a content overload designed to make you feel behind on everything at once, and that has tasked me with a lifelong quest to achieve total lobotomization by any means possible. Nobody told me that the solution was right under my nose. Season Two, Episode Two of Game of Thrones is TV in warm, smooth stasis, where everyone is safe and there is nothing to talk about. The oceans will boil, the skies will blacken, and I'll be rounding out Ted Lasso or something. You too can cancel culture, if you’re brave enough.
Luke Winkie is a writer and former pizza maker from San Diego. In addition to Gawker, he's written for Rolling Stone, Vice, the New York Times, Gizmodo, Vox and anywhere else good content can be found.