The problem with being able to watch television whenever you want is that there’s no set time for discussing it afterwards. You might have arranged your life around the new series of Game of Thrones, staying up late to watch the first episode of series seven at 2am on Monday morning (the time in BST that it premiered simultaneously on HBO in the US and Sky Atlantic in the UK), but there’s no guarantee that your colleagues and friends did the same. “I’ll catch up on the weekend,” they say as you try and engage them later that day on the subject of Ed Sheeran’s weird cameo as a singing campfire chef. “Don’t spoil me in the meantime!”
Conversations on social media are similarly fraught with spoiler-based angst. It isn’t that surprising, therefore, that dedicated GoT fans are turning to podcasts as a way of accessing instant analysis. Listening to a Thrones-themed podcast has two benefits: it can satiate the desire for speculation and rumour that solitary watching doesn’t deal with, and it provides access to a community of other people who want to have the same discussions. In addition, the content of a podcast isn’t searchable online, so nobody can complain about being spoiled accidentally. You have to opt in to listen, searching for and downloading an episode, so the only people listening to the show are the ones who want to hear it. It’s a safe space.
A brief glance at the Apple Podcasts chart for the TV & Film category confirms that lots of fans are taking this route – at the time of writing, 14 of the top 25 shows are about Game of Thrones.
As I’ve written about before, podcasts that analyse TV in depth have been around for a while, with popular shows like The West Wing Weekly, Gilmore Guys and Talking Dead gathering big fanbases. Yet there seem to be more Thrones-based shows, and they are collectively charging up the charts in a way I haven’t observed around the launch of other series. What is it about this show that had inspired so many podcasts?
Of course, it’s partly a matter of scale: Game of Thrones is a huge international hit, and the more people that watch a show, the more people there are who are going to feel inspired to podcast about it. Quite a few of the podcasts near the top of the charts are produced by media outlets, reflecting the interests of their readerships: baldmove.com, geeklyinc.com, The Ringer, the Guardian and Entertainment Weekly all have GoT shows. As a franchise, Game of Thrones is big enough that news outlets report on castings and character deaths like they’re actual real-world news, which all provides extra content to be dissected on a podcast.
But there’s more to it than that. The show itself is uniquely suited to the podcast form, with its distinct character arcs, sudden plot twists and vast sprawling universe. It is written with the aim of rationing how much information viewers have at any given moment, to fuel speculation and keep us hooked from episode to episode. The chatty, non time-limited format of a podcast is ideally suited to this – hosts can hop between each storyline without the time pressure or need to explain the basics to the lay audience that a conventional broadcast radio show would have. They know they are talking to listeners who already have a high level of GoT knowledge and an appetite for in-depth analysis.
Above all, though, the podcast form is enabling fans to find each other and solving that Monday morning “why won’t anyone at work talk to me about Game of Thrones?” problem. Who needs friends when you have headphones?
The five best Game of Thrones podcasts
Despite the fact that hosts Jim and A.Ron identify themselves as “the Gods of Tits and Wine” on baldmove.com (I know it’s a quote from the show, but still, really?), this was my personal favourite. Their “instant take” episode on S7E1 was the most fluent, laidback yet charming one I encountered, and I appreciate their doing a quick reaction episode (for the Thrones junkie who can’t wait), followed a day later by a very detailed scene by scene analysis episode that includes lots of listener comments.
Sagal is a beloved US public radio host (even though I’ve never listened to Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me) and he’s a delightful presence on this show alongside hosts Greta Johnsen and Tricia Bobeda. I particularly enjoyed their takedown of Euron Greyjoy in their “Dragonstone” episode.
This podcast hasn’t updated for the new series and we’re not certain it’s coming back for series 7, but I still enjoyed going back and listening to Spencer Ackerman and Laura Hudson’s season six predictions, plus their “powerful women and power grabs” episode from earlier in the show’s run.
Update: The Citadel is back, with a new home at the Daily Beast. Hear their first series 7 episode here.
This show is a veteran of the GoT podcast space, having been going since 2011. Their episode recaps are a little on the long side for my taste, but they augment their feed with interviews. Recent highlights have included Paula Fairfield, GoT sound designer, and Iwan Rheon, who played Ramsay Bolton.
A straight-forward recap show, but with a swift update schedule and great chemistry between the hosts. Who knows, maybe there will be actual dragons on The Wall before series 7 draws to a close?