Graham: Cheating my way through 'Game of Thrones'

Playing catch up on TV's biggest show just to be a part of the conversation

Adam Graham
The Detroit News
This photo released by HBO shows Kit Harington as Jon Snow, left, and Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen in a scene from "Game of Thrones," which premiered its eighth season on Sunday.

I haven’t done the homework, but I’m cramming for the final exam.

Sunday nights when it comes time for “Game of Thrones,” I am locked into HBO. Wanna talk about it? I, too, found the Battle of Winterfell several shades too dark. Arya Stark is a total badass. The coffee cup meme? I laughed, too.

Just don’t ask me too much about what any of it means.

Before this season, I had never watched the show. It always felt too daunting to try and catch up. But since “Game of Thrones” is the absolute center of the pop culture conversation, I am watching without context, just to be able to keep up.

Mother of cakes: Rochester bakery's 'Game of Thrones' dragon, Night King turn heads

We all want to belong. These days, there are very few experiences we all share together at the same time. We’ve all splintered off into our own corners, watching things at our own pace, absorbing them on our own time. So when something comes along that unites us, that we can all participate in together, it takes on added value.

That’s part of the reason “Avengers: Endgame” is so huge: it’s something everybody is rallying behind, right now, at the same time. Waiting to watch it six months from now when it hits Disney+ won’t have the same effect. It’s smashing records – by the end of the weekend, it will likely be the third-highest domestic grosser of all-time, behind only “Avatar” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” – because people are interacting with it together, sharing their views afterward and reliving it on the internet through memes.

What else is there that unites us?

It’s not pop music: Lil Nas X’s viral sensation “Old Town Road” has been No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 for five weeks, but mention it to the cashier at your grocery store and see what kind of look you get in return. It’s probably the same look you’d get if you asked them if they watched the Billboard Music Awards earlier this month.

Is it a musical like “Hamilton?” Tickets are expensive and hard to get, and the high buy-in leaves many out in the cold. Sports? The Super Bowl reaches everyone, but nothing else even comes close. Books? Please. And I know better than most it’s not newspapers.

There’s Trump, who we all have opinions about, but those opinions are best shared only with those we agree with, otherwise things are likely to get ugly, quick.

So there’s “Avengers” and “Game of Thrones.”

Both had a huge build-up – 21 previous movies for “Endgame,” seven previous seasons for “Game of Thrones” – and both are currently in payoff season. “Game of Thrones” wraps up next weekend, and it will be a long time before something on television grabs us, or unites us, in the same way.

Even not watching “Game of Thrones,” the show penetrated the conversation in such a way that it was impossible not to have a general idea what was going on. There was the Red Wedding, where everyone died. Jon Snow died, and then he came back, just don’t ask me how. The Khaleesi is the Queen of Dragons. Hodor held the door. If you’ve been awake the last eight years, you know at least this much.

Watching the show now in real time feels a bit like cheating. Sure, I’d love to be all caught up, but I never found those spare 67 hours I vowed I’d find before the final season began, so here we are. After the final episode, I won’t understand all the nuance of everything that happened. But at least I won’t be left out of the discussion.