So by cosmic chance it turns out that Avengers: Endgame and the Battle of Winterfell on Game of Thrones will be presented to the world three days apart. This is truly a #fanmageddon. All your ships, all your headcanons, all your problematic faves are facing death and…nothing will be the same.
We will barely have had time to process the trauma of losing (?) some of our favorite Avengers when Endgame opens this Friday before Sunday’s Game of Thrones epic, longer-than-Helm’s-Deep battle between the undead and the forces marshaled at Winterfell. A battle that is sure to winnow the cast to just the “endgame” players.
In other words, Kleenex stocks just shot up.
Endgame has its world premiere in LA tonight, so spoilers will be floating out there. Having already killed off half of their universe, Feige and the Russos will now try to undo those deaths – but we’re all pretty certain that more permanent deaths for the MCU will take place along the way.
The likelihood of this happening is greatly enhanced by the fact that actor’s contracts are up, and Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans in particular, seem like they want to move on. Chris Hemsworth says he wouldn’t mind playing Thor for a while, though, and Thor is a god anyway so maybe he’s harder to kill. Black Widow/ScarJo has her own movie supposedly in the works, but it’s thought to be a prequel. Hawkeye is getting his own streaming show but that could take place any when.
We’re almost certain to see a few MCU bit players get redshirted, though, just like Agent Coulson in the first Avengers. Great catharsis demands true sacrifice, so…expect some casualties. Whatever it takes.
Meanwhile, over on Game of Thrones, no one really expects to make it out, so the whole Good Guy Crew – now usefully gathered in one place for the first time – spent all of the pre-battle episode 2 getting drunk, getting laid, talking about old times and getting their affairs in order, i.e. handing out Valerian steel swords to those who needed them, telling your Auntie you’re stealing her throne after you slept with her, and so on.
The MCU and Game of Thrones are really the biggest things in our shared pop culture universe right now. Indeed, GoT is so huge that it may never be replicated. Critics are already musing over whether we’ll ever have a shared TV-watching experience like it again – and with streaming the way of the future, that’s a very good question.
As much as Game of Thrones seems to dominate our consciousness, the official numbers are still paltry compared to past shared experience. The GoT season 8 premiere was viewed by 11.8 million people in the traditional, turn on your TV set at 9 p.m. method. By contrast, the finale of MAS*H in 1983 was watched by 106 million people and had a 60.2 rating, a number as much an unbelievable relic of the past as the dragon skulls beneath the Iron Throne. In 1999, Seinfeld‘s final episode was watched by 76.3 million viewers.
Of course with today’s more cable channels, more internet, social media, streaming, video games and so on, it’s impossible to compare these numbers directly. It would seem that those 11.8 million GoT fans includes absolutely EVERYONE on Twitter, however, giving it an outsized presence for those who use that platform.
As #fanmageddon plays out, enjoy this week. Savor the moments of drama and emotion and, if it’s your preference, avoiding spoilers and being surprised. In May of 2005 Revenge of the Sith wrapped up the (then) Star Wars canon and the last episode of Star Trek Enterprise (the last show before Discovery 12 years later) also happened within a few weeks of each other, giving a similar “what shall we do with ourselves?” vibe.
However, unlike 2005, there isn’t much question of what we’ll do after this. We’ll fanfic it, fan art it, subtweet it, retcon it, and angrily storm off in a huff over it for years to come.
§ Getting back to Game of Thrones – since that’s all anyone in my circle wants to talk about – “Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” was a sort of bottle episode that was also a classic “night before the battle” episode and it was also as fan service as this show has ever been, and, yes, it whipped everyone into a frenzy. As I noted when season 6 began to deviate from the books, the show suddenly became Just Another TV Show, with bad guys getting their comeuppance as dog food, people suddenly meeting up instead of missing each other by hours, and everyone making decisions and sticking with them. In Martin’s book’s everyone is still far apart and vindication is just a myth.
But with this final season, we’re really getting into crowd pleasing territory. You wanted all the fun characters – Tyrion, Tormund, Podrick – sitting around a fire drinking? You got it! You wanted Arya and Gendry to hook up? The clothes are on the floor! You wanted this character or that character to clear up all the stuff that has gone on between them over seven years in a brief scene as they both face death? Right away, m’lady! You wanted Jon to tell Danaerys she’s shit out of luck on that claim to the throne business at the WORST POSSIBLE TIME? Right there on script page 66.
Or as director Ava DuVernay put it:
When #GOT gives us:
Arya + Gendry
Sansa + Theon
Greyworm + Missandei
Sam + Gilly
Sansa + Dany
Lannister Brothers Reunion
Mormont Fam Reunion
Tormund + The Giant’s Wife
Aegon + Daenerys
But all I can think about is…
“Arise, Brienne of Tarth. Knight of the Seven Kingdoms!” Yas! pic.twitter.com/rZxuKya5vV
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) April 22, 2019
While all of this seems incredibly non-GRRM-esque, it does make for some satisfying television and even better fan involvement. With all the noble struggle and tragic death yet to come in the Battle of Winterfell, there is so much more to come.
Finally, the moment Gendrya became real, I wondered if people would lose it on the Internet. Dumb question. I did see many people thinking it was icky or unnecessary for Arya to suddenly decide a relationship was for her. I’d hardly call an anvil-side roll in the hay with looming death a relationship, but her interest in Gendry was well-established back in the day, and honestly, wanting to experience a normal part of human life is a lot healthier than learning to gouge people’s eye’s out, robbing dying men, and baking guys into pies.
She baked guys into pies, people.
If I were Gendry, I’d be…very careful.
Anyway, enjoy #fanmageddon Week. It will never ever come again.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.