The first four episodes of the highly anticipated Season 5 of Game of Thrones have been leaked online in the past twenty-four hours. Before reading any further, let me just say: You will NOT be getting any spoilers or links to those episodes here. I’m going to go into the details and share my thoughts on the leak following the break – click through if you want to read more.
The four episodes began showing up on torrent sites late yesterday, with the first torrents arriving about 14 hours ago for episode 1, and the most recent 10 hours ago for episode 4 (between 9PM and 1AM Eastern Standard Time). Torrent sites are going crazy, with between 47,000 and 78,000 seeders currently uploading the episodes (as of 11:00 EST Sunday morning).
While Game of Thrones has consistently been the most pirated television show since its premiere, this is an unprecedented leak, coming as it does concurrently with the launch of HBO’s new streaming service, HBO Now. This service, offering current and popular HBO programs for streaming via Apple TV (for now), is offered at a premium of $14.99 a month – about the same cost as subscribing to HBO through a cable provider, but without the need to pay basic cable costs. This is bound to affect their bottom line, and may affect the way the episodes are released.
I doubt that HBO will opt to release the four episodes already leaked on their own. Certainly, it’s a possibility, and it does make some fiscal sense: if people want to watch the four episodes legitimately, why not give them the option via HBO’s shiny new streaming service, so that they can keep up and avoid inevitable spoilers? That said, HBO has weathered the pirating storm for years now, and is likely to rely on the honesty of loyal fans of the show. But if honesty isn’t enough, there’s always the anticipation.
Really, isn’t part of the enjoyment of watching Game of Thrones that anticipation that builds every week? It’s the kind of show that is wonderful to binge watch once the season is over, so that you can see all the parts fitting together over the course of ten hours – but during the weeks between, those water cooler moments with friends and co-workers, the theories people bandy about over what’s coming next (Winter, of course!), the special foods and viewing rituals people share every Sunday evening, these are all a major part of the experience, and are largely what has made Game of Thrones into the cultural phenomenon it has become.
My advice: resist the temptation! Turn off Twitter, forego Facebook, switch off your cell – do your best to create a spoiler-free bubble around yourself, and enjoy the anticipation that makes everything that much sweeter. That’s something you’ll have over all those smug people that have already seen the show (lucky – and unscrupulous – bastards!).
If you do decide to watch the four episodes early, more power to you. You’re not really a bastard, and I completely understand your desire to keep up. I lived in Japan for three years from 2002-2005, and I was always behind by about six months on movie releases (don’t even get me started on television shows – I got to be reminded just how bad most 70s and 80s TV was). I’ll be sitting here baking my Pigeon Pie for tonight’s episode, avoiding any and all spoilers if I can. I’ll finish with a relevant quote from the inimitable Tyrion Lannister himself:
“Why is it that when one man builds a wall, the next man immediately needs to know what’s on the other side?”