“Game of Thrones” is a fantasy saga, of course, but it is also a mystery, one that has obsessed fans throughout its run. While many big narrative questions have been answered, like the one about Jon Snow’s true parentage, several remain as the show nears its end, including two of the most pressing: Who will survive? And who, if anyone, will take the Iron Throne?
Fans wrestling with these and other questions can find support on YouTube, which harbors a community of “Thrones” sleuths that is seemingly as populous and deep as the world George R.R. Martin created in his “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels, the inspiration for the series.
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Alt Shift X, Emergency Awesome, Gray Area, Ideas of Ice and Fire, Lucifer Means Lightbringer, Nerd Soup, New Rockstars, Talking Thrones — these are just a handful of channels whose creators scrutinize book chapters and TV episodes in search of bread crumbs and Easter eggs to help enlighten “Game of Thrones” devotees.
“There are so many good channels out there,” said Reuben Natal of Nerd Soup. “The show is overwhelming with all the information and the characters, the settings, the names, so that’s why it has opened the market for all of these channels to review it, to speculate and theorize.”
For many of these “Thrones” pundits, the urge to dissect the show on YouTube stemmed from not knowing what else to do with what had become a consuming obsession.
“Eventually I was like, ‘I have so many points, and I’m repeating them at work, and I’m repeating them with friends and with my girlfriend,’” said Filup Molina of New Rockstars. “‘I should just make a video and send it around.’”
MJ Johnson started Gray Area in 2017 partly to feel less alone in her “Thrones” fixation — her family and friends didn’t watch the show. “It’s an outlet, and the fandom and community are amazing,” she said.
Quinn Howard, who runs Ideas of Ice and Fire, echoed Johnson’s sentiment. “The community that has cropped up around ‘Game of Thrones’ fandom is a particularly great one,” he said.
To keep this community happy, Gray Area, Ideas of Ice and Fire and Nerd Soup are posting recap videos the morning after each episode this season. New Rockstars is releasing its talk show, “Westeros Weekly,” every Monday afternoon. All four channels supplement these recaps throughout the week with additional analysis and preview videos.
Other commentators don’t wait until Monday: Alt Shift X is hosting interactive chats on YouTube directly following each episode. Shortly after the Season 8 premiere, more than 23,000 viewers showed up for the channel’s live-stream Q. and A. session. They kept the chat window scrolling at a dizzying pace by adding their speculations, assessments and a multitude of sad face and elephant emoji; they seemed to share Queen Cersei’s disappointment that the pachydermal war machines would not be joining her armies.
Topics that surface during these sessions, based on revelations and questions raised in the episodes, then inform what is covered in the channel’s weekly analysis videos.
Over the past few weeks, “Game of Thrones” scholars have endured many sleepless nights, and even more await as their watch is ending. The analysis videos can take days to complete, and both Molina and Natal admitted to pulling all-nighters to post their recaps on time.
“I’m losing my mind with all the work we’ve already done, and I feel like the real work hasn’t even begun,” Natal said.
But their love of the “Game” keeps them going. “These are the best storytellers of our time,” Molina said. “These are the people who are the best in the world at what they do, and they are all coming together on one project.”
Howard was a fan of the books years before the television show debuted in 2011. “The series balances grittiness with elements of fantasy in a way that most other fantasy series just can’t,” he said.
Natal, who didn’t catch “Game of Thrones” fever until the end of Season 5, said: “This world to me is the pinnacle of fantasy writing. It’s just the greatest fictional universe that has ever been created.”
So when this wonderful world ends, what then? Nerd Soup and New Rockstars cover other pop culture obsessions, such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Star Wars franchise, and will continue doing so. Howard has been working on a collection of videos on Frank Herbert’s “Dune” novels in anticipation of Denis Villeneuve’s coming feature films on the series.
And even after the last episode of “Game of Thrones” airs, Martin’s creation will linger. The author has yet to finish “A Song of Ice and Fire,” and Johnson plans to post videos about its perpetually imminent sixth novel, “The Winds of Winter.”
HBO is also developing a “Game of Thrones” prequel pilot that, if all goes well, could appear as early as next year. Molina said that New Rockstars would resurrect “Westeros Weekly” if the prequel finds a similarly devoted audience. Johnson, Howard and Natal said that they would give it a chance, too.
“It’s like ‘Breaking Bad’ — whatever they do, I’m on board,” Natal said. (That AMC drama gave rise to the series “Better Call Saul,” and there is a sequel movie in the works.)
As for who will wind up on the Iron Throne, opinions are divided.
Howard and Natal believe it will be … no one. “The Iron Throne is a symbol of power,” Natal said. “It’s a symbol of a feudalistic society, and that has to be destroyed if they want to build a new world, if they want to build a better world.”
Johnson, however, is rooting for the show’s main female protagonist: “Daenerys Targaryen is my queen. In my opinion, she will be on the throne. I know the popular belief is that there will be no throne, but I disagree. George R.R. Martin said himself he knew in ’91 who would sit on the Iron Throne. Unless he was trolling, someone will sit on the Iron Throne.”
Ultimately, though, Natal said that he just wants the bittersweet ending that was promised.
“I just want something that is satisfyingly complex,” he said. “When ‘Game of Thrones’ rolls its credits for the final time, I want to feel empty in the best possible way, where, like, something has been ripped from me, but I can understand why I feel that way.”