A Column of Fire and Ice: Our Game of Thrones experience

By Lew K. Cohn

Managing Editor

Highland Lakes Newspapers

I was so excited when it was finally Sunday, April 24, and Game of Thrones returned to HBO for its sixth season. The epic drama, based on the fantasy novel series A Song of Fire and Ice by George R. R. Martin, is one of the best shows on television and is a must-see for Betty and me.

For those who do not know much about the show, it chronicles political machinations, wars, alliances and perils on the mythical continents of Westeros and Essos as characters scheme and fight their way to claiming the vaunted Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms. Martin created many of the details in the series from actual historical events and locales, including the War of the Roses, the Hundred Years War, the Wall of Hadrian, the Mongolian Empire and even Nordic Viking sagas.

I don't think we will be able to top last year's season-opening viewing experience. As a valued former longtime Verizon customer, I was invited to preview the first episode five days early at the Alamo Drafthouse in Richardson. These special sneak previews were only taking place in one location each in Virginia, Texas, New York City and Tampa, so we were very lucky indeed to be able to take part in such an exclusive event.

Of course, I took my very own “Khaleesi,” Betty, as my plus one. I suppose I should explain that Khaleesi is a Dothraki title for a tribal warlord's queen and is the title used by one of the main characters, Daenerys Targaryen. The Dothraki are a nomadic horse-borne warrior race and they draw their historical parallel to the Mongols, who emerged from the steppes of Asia to rule nearly half of the known world. But I digress.

We had to sign documents swearing to remain silent about the events we would see onscreen, with the punishment for leaks amounting to something akin to being chained to four separate horses and being pulled apart by the limbs. Or perhaps it was just losing any further rights to participate in future Verizon and Game of Throne events. All I know is I signed a piece of paper and kept my mouth shut.

Ironically, the people hosting the event, while not wanting us to disclose information about what we were about to see on the big screen, were quite insistent that we should take pictures of ourselves enjoying the event and tweet them or post them to Facebook with hashtags like #GoTPreview and #VerizonFios and #Hashtag.

So we took photographs of ourselves wearing crowns and holding swords and standing like Conan the Barbarian. Oops, wrong show. I meant standing like Jaime “The Kingslayer” Lannister or Brienne of Tarth. Do I need to tell you that Lannister's name is pronounced “Jay-mee” and not “Hy-may?” Probably not, so I'll get back to the story.

We hashtagged every photo or tweet or Facebook post appropriately, and fortunately for us, we didn't need to have anyone explain what hashtagging meant, even though I think we were the oldest couple in attendance. I'm pretty sure we were the only people there who remembered what rotary phones were like or that televisions once lacked remote controls and often would require needle-nose pliers to change channels once the channel knob fell off from constantly being turned to one or another of the only four stations we used to get (ABC, NBC, CBS and PBS).

There were drawings for some pretty neat prizes to be won. I really wanted one that was a framed map of Westeros and the Seven Kingdoms, but it was not to be. They also gave out pillows that bore the coats of arms of the great Houses of Westeros: House Baratheon, House Lannister, House Tyrell, House Arryn, House Martell and, of course, House Stark, whose slogan is “Winter is Coming” although it apparently has been coming for many years at the time of the events in Game of Thrones. As for me, as I write this column, I am thinking more and more about adopting a slogan of “The End of This Column is Coming.”

Alamo Drafthouse incorporated a theme into the meal and the drinks they served that night. Our meal was free and covered by Verizon, but alcoholic beverages were our own responsibility. The food had names that had something to do with the show, even though it was pretty much the same food you can find at any Alamo Drafthouse on any night. That was fine with me, however, because the price point was within my budget, with my budget being zero.

When the show finally started, it was incredible to see it on a humongous screen. We have a 60-inch flatscreen TV, so we aren't exactly watching the show on an Etch-a-Sketch, but you have not seen Game of Thrones until you have seen it on a movie theater screen.

It was amazing to get to see the detail in the opening titles, which include a 3-D map of Westeros highlighting all the locations that are featured in that episode. As the camera focuses on a particular location, clockwork mechanisms cause the buildings that are unique to that locale to pop up like pictures in a child's storybook, though the stories being told in this show are not suitable at all for children over the age of 65 as they contain more than enough blood, sex, violence and adult situations to make a live audience start screaming “Jerry, Jerry, Jerry!”

To make a long story short, which as you can tell I'm not that good at doing, that first episode looked amazing in the theater and had us wishing we didn't have to wait 12 more days to see the next episode from our suddenly inadequate 60-inch TV at home. And now, almost a year to the date after that great experience, our favorite show is back on again. For some reason, I didnt get another invitation from Verizon, which might have more to do with my having switched service to AT&T than my possibly having leaked details of that episode to anyone.

So, until Game of Thrones returns, let me tell you Valar Morghulis, a High Valyrian platitude which doesn't mean “hello” or “goodbye,” but “All men must die” and I also will bid you “Valar Dohaeris,” which translates to “All men must serve” and is the proper response to the previous refrain. And make sure you stay away from the House of Black and White in Braavos. They have an entirely different definition of “Facebook.” For the night is dark and filled with terrors, much like a Red Priestess without her choker necklace.

But you'll just have to watch the show to understand all of that, won't you?

 

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