This post will be talking about Game of Thrones, and will be lightly referencing plot points from the first four seasons. That’s as spoilery as it will get, nothing that hasn’t been aired on the actual show.
As season five of Game of Thrones approached, it was clear that it would be a controversial collection of episodes. Rumors of deviations, characters omitted from the season, non-canonical deaths, and the airing of scenes from the unpublished books fired up the fanbase.
Then the first four episodes of the new season were leaked and made available on torrent sites, days before the premiere on HBO. The Internet went crazy.
Well, not the entire Internet. (And it’s not like segments of the Internet need an excuse to go crazy, anyway.)
But Twitter, Facebook, Game of Thrones forums and other relevant social media had significant activity related to the leaks. There were condemnations of the leaks, justifications of the leaks, people announcing that they’d seen the leaked episodes and wanted to Oh My God talk about them, people vowing to drop off the Internet for a month until the four episodes were aired, etc.
I have my own opinion on the leaked episodes, but that’s not why I’m here typing this (I’ve not seen them and are planning on watching the episodes on the usual Sunday night schedule. I’m hoping not to get spoiled on the details ahead of time. [UPDATE: those hopes were dashed.])
So why am I here, typing this?
It’s because while I was on Twitter I noticed that when someone invested in the show would complain about the leaks, they’d often encounter a reply like this:
The Iron Price and the Gold Price
First off, I don’t know if I’d want to be self-identifying as one of the Ironborn, if I was that guy. But whatever, man. Have fun storming the fishing villages.
But, and I apologize for being a big Game of Thrones geek and being pedantic, there’s nothing about the leaks that should be labeled as paying the Iron Price.
Oh, I get that people downloading the leaked episodes from the torrent sites aren’t paying the Gold Price either. But the Iron Price refers to the taking of spoils in combat. Culturally, the Ironborn would not wear jewelry and other luxury items unless they were taken from someone, mano y mano. Someone would have bled in that exchange.
Hand-waving aside the whole virtual nature of the theft and that HBO didn’t physically lose anything, as far as I can tell there was no daring raid to secure the episodes. There’s no song to be sung about this. The leaks were from a screener that HBO had trusted to be loaned out for review purposes. That’s not spoils of combat, that’s just a betrayal by someone who was untrustworthy.
Okay, maybe we have seen actions like that among the Ironborn.
But I don’t know if Theon’s men deciding to trade him for their lives (which really did not work out for them, of course) is a good analogy for a reviewer breaking their non-disclosure agreement and distributing the episodes. I can probably think of some more apt examples in Game of Thrones where a trust was violated…
… and people not directly involved benefitting from that betrayal.
But let’s assume that a reviewer didn’t release the screeners intentionally and that instead raiders assailed the reviewer’s office, took the screener, and made it available to the general public. Those commandoes certainly paid the Iron Price.
But no one else did.
Simply not paying the Gold Price isn’t sufficient to qualify as paying the Iron Price. It’s just scavenging.
Look, I’m not trying to be judgmental (but I bet that I sound like I am.) I think I’m fairly neutral on the ethos of someone wanting to watch the poor-quality screeners early and then being forced to wait a month for the fifth episode to air. That’s already a two-edged sword.
As long as people aren’t going around dropping obvious spoilers, there’s probably no real harm done. People are still going to watch the episodes when they air, because they’ll be in high quality. HBO will probably not be in financial trouble from this. Game of Thrones will somehow get funded for next year, etc.
Anyway, it’s a short period of time until the calendar catches up to the leaked episodes and then we’ll all be on the same page. But this is Game of Thrones. If someone is going to romanticize their shady actions using Game of Thrones language, they’d better back it up.
Sometimes words need to be purchased with the Iron Price. But there’s an alternative. There’s a lot of groups in Game of Thrones.
The Wildling Way
In all fairness, if someone wants to associate the questionable activity of distributing and viewing the leaked episodes to a Game of Thrones population, there’s a much better group of people to identify with than the Iron Islanders. The Wildlings.
These are the guys who take stuff, because they can. As Ygritte says to Jon, if people aren’t strong enough to hold on to what they have, maybe they don’t deserve to have it.
They’ll take stuff by force, or they’ll take it if it’s not nailed down.
If you ask a Free Folk to watch your flock for you, they’ll watch it all the way up to their lands.
Look, it’s not that you can’t tell them what they can and can’t do. You can tell them. They’ll just do as they please.
Anyway, I’m not saying that the Wildlings are necessarily the best role models to associate with either, but there’s more moral grayness to them than to the predatory and bullying Ironborn. The Wildlings are kind of fun.
But not everyone would think so. I assume Stannis would look unfavorably on the entire activity, so don’t let him catch you pirating leaked episodes.
Full disclosure, right after I wrote the bulk of this article, just to be timely during this period of leaked screeners, a fine and upstanding netizen sent me a tweet with a bunch of episode 3 and 4 spoilers. Here it is, heavily redacted.
In a couple of weeks, I’ll post the actual unredacted spoiler, which was discussing major things happening to some not inconsequential people.
I mentioned the spoiler tweet to my wife (but not the specific contents…)
Wife: WHY DID YOU EVEN READ THE TWEET?
It’s not like I wanted to read spoilers. One has to read the tweet to realize it’s a spoiler and once read, can’t be unread.
Anyway, I’m still neutral on the ethical import of viewing the pirated screeners but I’m VERY down on people randomly exposing spoilers to the unsuspecting.
I’m kind of Team Stannis when it comes to that.
(Comments are always welcome. Super welcome! But if you want to talk spoilery Game of Thrones talk with me (also welcome) I’d invite you to visit my Safe Spoilers page on my backup blog. That way my non-book-reading friends won’t be shocked with foreknowledge. Oh, and for the next few weeks, when I say SPOILERS, I mean BOOK SPOILERS, not information from the leaks, please.)
Images from HBO’s Game of Thrones (obviously.)
I make no claims to the artwork, but some claims to the text. So there. Well, obviously not the tweets that I was featuring.
If you liked this article, thank you! I have all of my Game of Thrones related articles on my handy-dandy Game of Thrones page should you want to read more but don’t want to navigate around my site.
© Patrick Sponaugle 2015 Some Rights Reserved