This week's Game of Thrones was an important one, with a scene unexpected enough to make viewers spill their coffee, their tears or other bodily fluids. There are viewer reaction videos on YouTube of people doing just those things.
Of course, if you haven't seen it yet, my mention of the fact that there's an unexpected scene makes the scene less unexpected. That's what they call a meta-spoiler. It was kind of unavoidable that I mention that there's a thing worth mentioning, because it's the point of this post, but I'm not going to go into further details because (like so many things in this world) it's a thing that can only be fully enjoyed in context.
I knew that there was an unexpected thing on the way but, miraculously, managed to make it to air time without finding out what the unexpected thing was. In these days of widespread internet prickery, that was no mean feat and required a certain amount of vigilance. From strangers having overly loud pub discussions through to deliberate acts of fun-spoiling by people being dicks, (of which, more later), the world is full of ways for the unwitting TV fan to get spoilered.
Game of Thrones, of course, is more open to this kind of problem than most shows. Whereas most shows guard their plot secrets like the family silver (well, unless they decide to send out advance DVDs by accident, anyway), the major developments in Westeros for the next few years are already known to vast sections of the public, thanks to the fact that they've already been published in books read by millions of people. This kind of advance knowledge makes minor details like the US broadcast happening a day before the UK broadcast the very least of a spoilerphobe's problems, but there are a couple of things working in our favour.
First of all, the show is complicated. Jesus, is it complicated. This means that should a dark-hearted individual with no interest in the show (or books) decide that they'll take a quick jaunt onto Wikipedia to get enough info to spoil a co-worker's day, they will be presented with such an utterly bewildering level of complexity in terms of character names and motivations that they won't have a clue what represents a significant spoiler without investing a certain amount of time and effort. The complexity acts as a bit of a shield, meaning that the only people who would know whether a specific action by a specific character is actually a major spoiler would have the ability to blurt it out.
Secondly, this complexity means that the people who know which things are important are, almost by definition, fans to some degree and are thus unlikely to try and piss in other people's breakfast by intentional spoilering.
I was pondering all this at about 3am this morning, whilst absent-mindedly burping my baby son after his middle-of-the-night feed. I skimmed blearily through my Twitter timeline, and was quickly confronted by Frankie Boyle posting a series of short, sharp spoilers designed to wreck the enjoyment of people following the show. Well, I think that's what they were - as soon as my sleep-deprived brain cottoned on to the apparent content of the tweets, I turned the phone off and sat in the darkness.
My first assumption was that what I'd just read probably weren't spoilers. The rise of the fake spoiler is another tedious addition to the crap bits of the internet. The logic seems to be "Haha! I've spoilered you! Only haha! I actually haven't!", although the fake spoiler is sometimes just as good at wrecking enjoyment of a show or movie as a genuine one can be. I remember reading someone posting the identity of the killer in Scream 3 in BLOCK CAPS on a comments thread the week before the movie opened. Only it wasn't actually the identity of the killer, it was a plausible guess (in fact, arguably, would have made a better denouement than the one that the film actually had). I spent the whole movie fuming that I'd been spoilered, right up until the point I realised that I hadn't been. At which point I shrugged. The whole dynamic of the experience had been changed, and if the movie itself hadn't been so miserably disappointing anyway I'd have been righteously pissed off.
So perhaps Boyle's GoT tweets weren't spoilers either? As soon as my wife woke up (which was probably after about ten minutes of me huffing and tutting - Sorry, Pip) I asked her to check the Twitter timeline for me. She's safe, see. She's read the books; right up to the most recently published one. She's got spoiler immunity.
She confirmed that, yeah, Boyle's spoilers were largely real.
Apparently I didn't see the worst of them, but it will be enough to make next year's viewing less fun than it should be. Tempted though I am to spend the next year standing outside his gigs handing out sheets of his punchlines to the queues waiting to go in, I'll just have to shrug and take it. The world's just a bit less fun, that's all.
If you haven't seen this week's brilliant episode yet, check it out as soon as you can. Preferably before reading anything else, speaking to anyone else, logging on to Twitter or even thinking too much about this post.
I might buckle and read the books. I can't spend another five years like this. Scrolling through my timeline on Twitter shouldn't feel like stepping through a Westeros-related minefield.