It’s 9pm and the smell of popcorn mingles with a frisson of excitement in The Venue’s air. A partial hush has fallen over the room, broken partially by eager viewers humming along to the theme. Some of this crowd have been here since 6pm, enjoying the Students’ Union’s buildup to the new series of the cultural phenomenon that is Game of Thrones.
We are among the reported 1.57 million viewers watching the long-awaited season opener on Sky Atlantic – one day after the show’s premiere on HBO drew an estimated 8 million American viewers.
Game of Thrones is also the most pirated show in the world, with episodes from seasons 1-4 illegally downloaded 7 million times between February 5th and April 6th this year as fans old and new binged before the next episode. Indeed, the first four episodes of this season have already made their way online.
So what’s the draw then? What is it about this show that makes it so popular, particularly among university students?
Charlie Eababa, a DCU student who has been a fan since season one, says: “Game of Thrones gets a lot right… the costumes, the scriptwriting, the dialogue is top-notch, the actors are great and I think being on a popular station as well in HBO… it’s a magic formula when it all comes together.”
SU education officer Gary Gillick – the person behind the screening in The Venue – agrees, citing the production values that underpin the show as a major reason. But what of the levels of sex and violence the show is infamous for?
“The sort of topics that are covered in it does suit our audience – not just because there’s a load of sex in it, but it does suit a more mature audience who like this fantasy world,” Gary said.
Charlie agrees, saying: “The sex and violence does help, and swearing … It wouldn’t work as well without all the smut I think.”
Fans around the world have spoken of getting lost in the show’s rich fantasy universe, something which Gary can attest to.
“I’ve been a fan since my second year. I watched the first season in one go – ten hours of my life gone but, I think, well spent,” he said.
With the size and scope of the show and the depth and complexity of its plotlines growing, a place the size of The Venue seems appropriate to watch all the new drama and intrigue unfold.
The warm feeling of the communal experience is heightened with the knowledge that the proceeds from tonight go to the SU charities – Suicide or Survive, Cycle for Life and Irish Guide Dogs.
Show writers David Beninoff and David B. Weiss have chosen to end this episode on a warm note too as a man is burnt at the stake. Valar morghulis, I guess.
Welcome back, Game of Thrones. We’re all left eager for more.
Stephen Keegan, Deputy Arts Editor, @macaodhagainS