Winter may feel like it’s never coming to Phoenix, but dedicated TV viewers can see it come to HBO by watching the final season of “Game of Thrones,” which starts Sunday, April 14. Superfan AJ Frost, for one, can’t wait.
“‘Game of Thrones’ is a singular entertainment experience,” said Frost, 30, the director of operations for Valley Beit Midrash. “It’s not just a fantasy show, but a masterful drama, soap opera, war film and cultural commentary all crammed into hour-long action-packed episodes.”
Based on the fantasy novel series “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George R.R. Martin and created by two Jewish showrunners, “Game of Thrones” has become one of HBO’s most popular shows and has breathed new life into the book series. The most recent trailer for season eight broke viewership records; it was viewed more than 81 million times in just 24 hours.
Frost and several former residents of Moishe House and other young Jewish professional groups, such as NowGen, are preparing for their return to the land of Westeros with a weekly viewing party for all six of the final episodes.
Right before season seven, a number of small Jewish viewing groups across the Valley coalesced into one larger viewing party, thanks to the connecting power of Facebook. Frost jokingly calls the group the Nerd Jew Crew.
Group member Scott Lorsch, 26, president of the real estate company Perfect Dimensions, said that the main group is around 10 people, but there can be more, depending on the night. One time, he remembers, there were 40 viewers huddled around a TV. Lorsch said “Game of Thrones” is great for group watching.
“When something happens, we all get excited at the same time,” Lorsch said. “Not every show gives that feeling. We watched ‘Rick and Morty’ and ‘John Oliver’ after sometimes and you wouldn’t have the same group participation you would with ‘Game of Thrones.’”
Because the show has such a complex narrative that spans so many seasons and years, everyone in the group has their own favorite moments from the series and theories about where the show is headed.
Joel Taubman, 28, project manager for the communications infrastructure company Crown Castle, not only loves the show, but is a big fan of the books as well. Although there are several differences between the show and the original source material, Taubman appreciates how the show has elevated the fantasy genre.
“It does not shy away from the terrors that people inflict upon one another, the abject horror of battles that follow speeches of glory, or the necessity of fighting some of these battles,” Taubman said. “In an intensely human and character-driven story, it shows the highest morals and lowest depravities, along with everything in between. It may be fantasy, but its success is in how it captures so many realities of the human experience.”
Of course, as with any show with such a loyal and large fan following, there is the dreaded fear of spoilers for group members who might have to miss a particular episode. Lorsch said that the group takes spoilers very seriously, and if somebody misses an episode, it’s up to them to inform everyone else that they missed it.
Taubman suggests that a person who’s missed an episode might want to avoid their phone for a little bit, so they don’t get the group messages. Group chats are just one of the ways the crew keeps in contact and shares theories, reactions and plans for who will host the next episode.
The first host for the final season is 23-year-old Jonathan Zur, a project engineer for Honeywell Aerospace, who will provide some “Game of Thrones”-themed beer from Brewery Ommegang.
While “Game of Thrones” is the hot ticket right now, the group has seen other shows and movies together, like the recent Marvel Cinematic Universe films. They re-watched all the Marvel movies in preparation for “Avengers: Infinity War” and most of them already have tickets for the highly anticipated “Avengers: Endgame.”
As “Game of Thrones” draws to a close, the group considers what they’ll watch next. Thankfully, there is no shortage of geek culture to get immersed in -- and no shortage of Jewish fans to get excited about it.
But Frost will miss the “Game of Thrones” experience once it’s over.
“There’s something magical about watching it week to week, and with people who speculate on every little detail,” he said. “It really creates a community.” JN