When the rapper Common kicked off the festivities at the Game of Thrones Epic Fan Experience in Brooklyn by exhorting the crowd to shout the refrain "we came to party," he received a tepid response. The crowd, clad in dark leather and the occasional doublet (and bearded regardless) had not come to party. The crowd had come to watch television.
That fact rather plainly blew German actress Sibel Kekilli's mind. When the 33-year-old, who plays the prostitute turned handmaiden Shae, was handed a microphone for a pre-show Q&A, she looked out at the Barclay's center – full except for the roped-off top section – and said: "holy shit." Her sentiments were echoed in one form or another by other actors, including John Bradley, who plays Samwell Tarly, and Kristian Nairn who plays (and says) Hodor. George R.R. Martin, the series creator and writer of the books, was given a rockstar welcome, but still received less applause than the signature HBO static that announced the beginning of episode one of season four, which won't run on television until April 6.
The season got off to a quick start as Arya Stark picked a fight, Jon Snow argued his way out of execution, and Oberyn Martell, a new character played by Pedro Pascal, said sexy things sexily. The Lannister men, Tyrion and Jamie, received the biggest applause thanks largely to their sense of comic timing, something that does not appear to have been passed down from Tywinn, whose sense of humor remains best-suited to the gallows. Blood was spilled, there were dragons and, at the end, the crowd filed out like a bunch of orderly Unsullied soldiers.
The interesting thing about the event was that it featured very little ComicCon-style nerdiness. There were the hardcore fantasy guys in Nordic death metal shirts and leather bracelets as well as the would-be princesses with elaborate hair and worried-looking dates, but no one had come to party. With a slave army on the march, a pubescent tyrant wielding power like a styrofoam pool noodle, and Ygritte, the bonnie lass from The North, getting far too little screen time, an unrestrained celebration would have been unseemly.
Yes, the "Epic Fan Experience" was all about passively watching the Game of Thrones. But that's not such a bad thing. The show continues to be better than the idea of the show and that is a hell of an achievement.