Game Of Thrones nearly broke the internet when it killed off Jon Snow at the end of season five but come May 20 its final episode will dwarf that and will become the most talked-about television event in Australian history.
Talk about a water cooler moment — this will be not just the end of an amazing TV show but advance warning of how one of the great fantasy book series of all time will finish.
Thanks to the internet and social media, this is going to be endlessly discussed, analysed and criticised.
Author George R.R. Martin has famously said it will be a “bittersweet” ending. Given all the pain he has inflicted on his heroes — and viewers — that doesn’t sound good for at least some of the beloved characters.
Will Team Dany win? Team Jon? Team Sansa? Or even Team Cersei?
Every one has their supporters — Cersei probably less so — but people are going to be divided. You can even place a bet on who you think will win, with Cersei at worse odds than brother Jaime and Gendry Baratheon.
Dr Anthony Lambert is a senior lecturer in cultural studies at Macquarie University and is in no doubt it will be the TV event of the year — and maybe even the ultimate TV event, not just here but worldwide.
“I think M*A*S*H was probably the biggest-ever TV finale. I remember watching it as a boy in country Victoria and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” he says.
“But GoT has the ability to go past that.
“There’s going to be an incredible reaction. It will be such an event.
“Historically Australians have watched sporting and royal events and Game Of Thrones is playing into the same set of stories and ideas. It is the ultimate sporting event in a way.
“Why has it struck such a chord? Well, the interesting thing about GoT is that it touches a whole range of crucial themes … and it came along at the right time.”
He also says the rise of social media has allowed the fan base to discuss theories and opinions not just at work or school the next day but as they happen.
“Audiences can respond now in ways they never could before,” he says.
“It just needs a comment or a flicker of something to get the Twittersphere going.”
Can it live up the weight of expectations? And where does it rank in the countdown of the most-watched television events in Australian history?
10. WHO SHOT JR?
If there had been an internet in 1980, this TV event would have broken it. JR Ewing (Larry Hagman), the brother everyone loved to hate on the soapie Dallas was shot in the cliffhanger ending.
The world was dying to know who did it. Everyone had a motive and an alibi.
In the end it was revealed to be his sister-in-law and sometime mistress Kristin. It had such an impact, The Simpsons ran a tribute to it in 1995 called Who Shot Mr Burns? That ended up being Maggie, the baby.
9. M*A*S*H ENDS
It took 11 seasons to finish off this show — far longer than the Korean War. By the end in 1983 many of the originals were gone, while the jokes also seemed to be missing in action. But the farewell was a huge event. Even those viewers who had dropped off over the years returned to watch. Would there be a happy ending or would the tragedy
of war strike again, as it did when the show brilliantly killed off Colonel Henry Blake? We had to know.
8. SCOTT AND CHARLENE MARRY
In an explosion of pastel colours and hair spray, Neighbours married off Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan and just about the whole country wanted to be there in 1987. In fact, thanks to the size of the shoulder pads, you could both be there and be square. The couple soon went on to bigger and better things — well, Kylie did, anyway — but it felt like the whole country had been invited to their nuptials.
7. LIVE AID
The African famine of the mid-1980s had the whole world asking what could be done to help. The answer was, obviously, to watch a daylong music concert.
In 1985, the benefit concert went on steroids as Bob Geldof assembled just about every music star, including Australia’s INXS, to play Wembley Stadium. The whole world tune in — well, the bit that had a TV anyway.
6. HARRY AND MEGHAN GET MARRIED
When Charles and Diana married, it was huge news. When his older brother William finally married Catherine Middleton it was massive. But when Harry married Suits star Meghan Markle in May last year, it took it to another level.
The crazy relatives, the absent father, the celebrity guests, even the eccentric American preacher’s rambling speech were all analysed and dissected. It was soapie and royal wedding bundled into one.
5. MOLLY DIES ON A COUNTRY PRACTICE
Still hailed as TV’s saddest death, the viewer saw through Molly’s eyes as she slowly slipped away from her brave battle with cancer. The last thing we saw was her husband Brendan running towards her. Well, that’s what we thought. It was hard to tell through all the tears.
4. SYDNEY 2000 OPENING CEREMONY
We were justifiably proud when we won the right to host the 2000 Olympics. But we tuned in to the Opening Ceremony with a touch of apprehension. Was it going to be full schoolchildren dressed as lamingtons while the host did a bad Sir Les Patterson impression? But then out came the horses and we could safely rejoice.
3. JON SNOW DIES
Season five of Game Of Thrones was the moment it graduated from entertainment to pop culture legend. When that little rat Olly plunged his dagger into Jon Snow’s heart in 2015, we all felt it. But how could the hero of the show be dead (again!). The internet went crazy with theories and even Apple’s Suri had to be trained to give an answer to the question. Luckily, Melisandre brought him back and saved our nerves.
2. PRINCESS DIANA’S FUNERAL
Even if we pretended to hate the royals, we were fascinated with Diana. Her tragic story, from fairytale engagement to nightmare marriage and attempts at rebuilding her life had been played out in the public eye.
When she died in a car crash, apparently attempting to get away from paparazzi, it touched a nerve in the public. We felt we knew her and had to say farewell.
1. GAME OF THRONES ENDS
The last episode is going to be close to feature-film length. It will be at least 80 minutes long, so there will still be much ground to cover. Who will ascend the Iron Throne? Will there be an Iron Throne? Will there be a marriage, a baby or all of the above? It will be a defining moment.
* Game Of Thrones’ final season screens on Foxtel Showcase from April 15; fans wanting to refresh, and newbies wanting to discover what all the fuss is about, can binge the first seven seasons on Foxtel Now or On Demand