Game of Thrones Screener Leaks: Paying the Iron Price (or the Ironic Price)

Posted: April 21, 2015 in Game of Thrones, Opinion, TV
Tags: , , , , ,

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.

balon-greyjoy-600

Look at this cable bill! You expect me to pay for this? The GOLD PRICE?

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 Rumors of deviations, characters omitted from the season, non-canonical deaths, and the airing of scenes from the unpublished books fired up the fanbase.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:

ironPriceTweet

Is it?

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.

aeron-greyjoy_556217

Although the Ironborn are very familiar with leaks.

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.

TheonBetrayed

Theon: We can’t afford cable, but we can afford HBO Now!
Dagmar: HBO NO!

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…

Robb-Stark-Roose-Bolton-Red-Wedding

Look, your blood was already Out There…

… and people not directly involved benefitting from that betrayal.

Ramsay-Bolton

Whoa! Even I don’t think you should be that harsh with the episode leakers!

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.

Game-of-Thrones-Season-Three-11

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.

davos

Aye, ever since King Stannis shortened my fingers, my Internet Surfing days were done. I can’t Google a rotten onion’s worth!

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.

RedactedTheSpoilerToMe

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?

Me: Sigh.

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.

StannisChokeABitch


(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

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Comments
  1. beckysjones says:

    Yes! I was thinking the same thing Re: iron price vs. scavenging. I can totally picture Theon walking around after a battle, scraping stuff off corpses and claiming he killed the guy who owned it. Then getting smacked around by Balon a bit, probably.

    Like

    • 🙂 ah, a sick burrrrrn on Theon. Hey, I haven’t had a chance to listen to more of your podcasts, Becky, but I will.

      People, she’s part of the Rains of Podcastamere. Check them out!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dennis says:

      Yeah I was talking to my girlfriend about it and I coined the term “paying the dirt price.” As in you just picked it up off the ground. And yeah that totally sounds like something Theon would do. He’d probably still claim he took it even if the nearest dead guy was 5 miles away and died of natural causes years ago. As for spoilers by the time I get to actually watch the episodes on DVD (we don’t have HBO) I’ll probably have forgotten the spoilers anyway. I can remember what I ordered at McDonald’s 15 years ago yet I have problems remembering where I parked my car 15 minutes ago. lol

      Liked by 1 person

      • 🙂 Thanks for offering up “paying the dirt price”, that’s pretty much the best thing. I’m going to steal it, just like Theon would.

        It reminds me also of the 5 second rule, of picking up dropped food.

        I don’t know why. I’m tired. That’s why.

        Thanks for the comment, Dennis. Right on!

        Like

  2. matttblack42 says:

    That sucks. I don’t know why some people take such pleasure in spoiling things for other people. Isn’t it more fun (and significantly less fucked up) to watch someone experience a story unspoiled?

    Like

  3. IC says:

    I don’t really care whether people watch the episodes or not…but what kind of cruel, cruel soul tweets spoilers at you?! That’s just mean…and mean people always get what they deserve, right? Where is Bronn, anyway?

    Like

  4. I think your article is thoughtful. I see your points. I don’t particularly have sympathy for HBO because they are engaging in the distribution of very dark material–which I admit to enjoying, but which also subtly changes the mindset of weaker people. The very fact that someone would say “They’re paying the Iron Price” shows that their proliferated attitudes have taken flight to some extent. The fact that the nimrods don’t think as deeply as you do insofar as dissecting the Iron Price is par for the course. HBO is not writing to only those who are intellectuals and thoughtful purveyors of storytelling. It is also in the homes of people who take the Kylie Jenner challenge…and it is actually those people that keep the lights on at HBO.

    So while the “leakers” are dishonest dealers, in a way so is HBO. They know they are not just providing a titillating program but a subtle message of fluid morality to weak minds and count on it.

    In this I take the Wildling stance and that of the cynical anarchist that says: Dr. Frankenstein meet your monster.

    Like

    • I don’t know… I appreciate what you are saying, but if HBO was presenting something really popular but was not dark material (I don’t know if I can address the mindset-changing nature), the leaking of the screeners would probably happen as well.

      Certainly I understand that HBO as a corporate entity probably doesn’t need our sympathy, per se.

      It’s just ironic that the year HBO decides to make things easier for viewers who didn’t want to be shackled with cable by having HBO NOW, also saw this big leak of 40% of the season.

      Like

      • Is it really a problem when the books have been out for years and the people who watched will watch it again, buy the DVD, and go to the conventions?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Well, the leaks aren’t a problem financially, if that’s the problem you’re referring to. The details of the leaked episodes are only a problem for the next few weeks, since the show is deviating from the books, a book reader like me can have a surprise spoiled.

          I mean, these are all really minor problems to be sure. No one’s quality of life is being affected. It’s just one of those burrs.

          My wife still remembers that in 1980, 35 years ago, someone yelled out the surprise relationship about Luke Skywalker and his enemy, Darth Vader, to a crowd waiting to see Empire Strikes Back. It’s just an innocence that can’t be reclaimed.

          (I wasn’t sure exactly what you wanted me to address, by mentioning that the books have been out for years.)

          Hey, I really appreciate the detailed feedback, and reblogging my post to your site. It’s much, much appreciated.

          Like

  5. Reblogged this on tea time with miss b and commented:
    This was my comment to Pat and what I want to say as I reblog his well-written prose:

    I think your article is thoughtful. I see your points. I don’t particularly have sympathy for HBO because they are engaging in the distribution of very dark material–which I admit to enjoying, but which also subtly changes the mindset of weaker people. The very fact that someone would say “They’re paying the Iron Price” shows that their proliferated attitudes have taken flight to some extent. The fact that the nimrods don’t think as deeply as you do insofar as dissecting the Iron Price is par for the course. HBO is not writing to only those who are intellectuals and thoughtful purveyors of storytelling. It is also in the homes of people who take the Kylie Jenner challenge…and it is actually those people that keep the lights on at HBO.

    So while the “leakers” are dishonest dealers, in a way so is HBO. They know they are not just providing a titillating program but a subtle message of fluid morality to weak minds and count on it.

    In this I take the Wildling stance and that of the cynical anarchist that says: Dr. Frankenstein meet your monster.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I cannot wait to hear your thoughts (I know you have them) about the meanderings from the books. I’m watching it with my sister who hasn’t read “Dance” yet and I’m trying not to ask too many questions when I’m like “WTF. When did this happen? Oh, wait, it didn’t.” I’ve already accidentally spoiled things for her because I think things have happened that haven’t. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is a dangerous season to ask questions… 🙂

      And my wife has forgotten book details, so she sometimes gets confused on where the show is diverging.

      I’ll have a general post soon, kind of touching on the fact that we now have different stories in earnest, and after the season, I’ll have something more analytical, I guess.

      Thank you so much for your interest!

      Like

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