I'm not a fan of Game of Thrones, or at least I wasn't a week ago, and as such I was part of an increasingly rare breed. Anti-GoTs are like social pariahs. We get excluded from communal lunches. People yell things at us in Dothraki and then run off, cackling. But the enormously popular HBO show only ever made me despair. We live in a bloated world. Hirsute men and dragons are the coolest thing on TV. Muse exist. Did punk count for nothing?
Having voiced these opinions once too often, the office youth rounded on me. 'How can you disparage what you refuse to watch?,' they demanded. 'Watch it now and watch it all, and only then will we listen to your meaningless blatherings.' And so the die was cast. The entire first two series in a single sitting. At least 20 hours of beards and fantasy, fantasy beards, and more gratuitous sex and violence than is possible for the balanced mind to process, all live-blogged and tweeted for the watching world.
Why a single sitting? That decision had a lot to do with scheduling. As a family man, finding the time to hide away with my laptop and a day's worth of snuff is never easy. It is possible, however, especially if much of the watching can be done while the rest of the family sleeps. And so it was that I was granted a day off work and pointed in the direction of blinkbox, where the first two seasons sat in pristine exclusivity, waiting to be streamed. I got in marathon shape the previous day by walking to the local shop for some microwave popcorn and a healthy supply of Coca Cola. By midnight, I was all hashtagged up and ready to go.
The results of this mammoth undertaking can be read in full on my Game of Thrones Challenge blog. To the uninitiated, they look like one man's rapid descent into custard-brained madness, but for anyone who was present at the time (me and the dark night), it's a chilling reminder of a potentially life-altering experience. Should anyone feel unstable enough to walk in my footsteps, here are a few hints to help you do so in relative safety.
Know your houses
The biggest challenge to the uninitiated is the character list, and I advise anyone about to enter Westeros to do so with a family tree in hand. I came to this one too late, but it should help to illuminate at least some of the bed hopping that threatens to push season one into the realm of soft porn.
When chaos threatens, just let go
There will be moments when the struggle to keep up with the myriad plotlines threatens to capsize your mind. In such instances, don't panic. Take a deep breath, live in the moment and let the chaos flow beneath you. Know that there are essentially four main plotlines, most of which can be summed up thusly: man/woman develops throne crush, man/woman plots and schemes, man/woman kills and/or copulates, man/woman waits for fate to play its hand. Oh, and some people live on a wall. Once you've accepted that this is just how it is in Westeros, things will seem a lot less impenetrable.
Don't expect fate to stick to the standard Hollywood script
If there was one thing that I particularly liked about the first two seasons of Game of Thrones, it was the unorthodox disregard for happy endings. As several great men once advised: expect the unexpected. Just because he's Sean Bean, it doesn't mean he has a contract to the end of the season. Just because the S&M boy king is a pure nugget of vile nasty, it doesn't mean he'll get his comeuppance (not in the first two seasons, at any rate... sorry, I should have inserted a spoiler alert around here, shouldn't I).
Celebrate the programme's inclusivity
Somewhere around the 10-hour mark, as it occurred to me that I wasn't even halfway through and began losing all hope, I found positivity in the realisation that Game of Thrones really does have something for everyone. Randy dwarves? Check. Incestuous twins? Check. Shots of ripped powerhouses enjoying camaraderie, shirtless, beside a fire? Check. A kindly gentleman helping two lesbian prostitutes to improve their heterosexual skills? Check.
It may be the most thoughtful production on TV.