I first read A Game of Thrones five years ago. A girl I had a crush on gave it to me and told me she was obsessed with it. We’re still dating today. I loved the books more than I’d ever loved any fiction before. They had everything I wanted. When the show Game of Thrones premiered I thought it was basically the perfect adaptation, a thing I’m a stickler for. It did everything right. It all became weirdly important to me; I got two Game of Thrones tattoos, and I even made a good amount of money writing about the series.
But things have changed, and I’m giving up. I refuse to watch Game of Thrones season 6. And it feels really, really good.
I wrote last year, when season 5 had ended, that my superiority complex regarding Game of Thrones had finally run its course. I didn’t realize at the time, but it has an epilogue.
There were points in the show that every book reader was looking forward to seeing: Ned’s beheading at the end of season 1, the Red Wedding and Joffrey’s death, the Red Viper versus the Mountain fight, Jon Snow’s Julius Caesar moment and others. Now those events have come to pass and there’s nothing left to look forward to.
Game of Thrones the show finally caught up to the Song of Ice and Fire books at the end of season 5, which means everything that happens on the show from here forward is new to everyone, even people who’ve been reading the books for more than 20 years. I’ve grown obsessed with these characters over the books’ several thousand collective pages, and their stories are about to be continued (and in some cases completed) in a different medium entirely—one crippled by the limitations that any TV show faces: actors who don’t live up to expectations, special effects that destroy any sense of realism, sets that aren’t as grand as you imagined.
A Song of Ice and Fire is limited only by author George R. R. Martin’s imagination. He famously has said that he conceived the series to be too large to feasibly adapt. Granted this was decades ago, and the audience and budgets for fantasy TV and movies have ballooned since then. But the show still can’t live up to the books. It never could, even when it was good; remember in season 1 when Tyrion got knocked out before the battle? There are only so many clever ways for a show to hide its budgetary constraints, and that wasn’t even one of them.
Every battle has been too small, every cameo from the dragons or the direwolves too short or cheesy. More than a few big events from the books were skipped entirely or changed beyond recognition (and not for the better; looking at you Dorne).
In fact, almost every time the show has deviated significantly from the books it’s been for the worse. Last season’s Dornish nonsense, its new characters paper-thin and the motivations for existing ones like Jaime and Bronn nonexistent, was hardly the farthest the show ever went off the rails.
Remember Sansa’s rape? Not in the books. What about Cersei’s, in season 4? Different in the books. Do you even remember Dany's—Khaleesi’s, to show watchers—rape by Khal Drogo at the very beginning? You guessed it: different in the books. The old knight Barristan and would-be King Stannis and his crispy daughter Shireen? All still alive. Characters in Game of Thrones have been shuffled around, killed and raped with abandon, even compared with the source material. There is a perfectly good reason for each of these changes, but collectively they make a trend: The story is being altered in ways that serve not the narrative itself, but those unfortunate limitations. And I’m sick of it. That’s not the version of this story I want to experience.
I’m getting bogged down in the details. (That’s a thing Game of Thrones fans tend to do.) But the point is: the show is fouling the books. Watching it is no longer an option for me. And it’s a huge relief. I’ll no longer feel the need to agonize over every change the show makes or whether George will be able to get the next book out in time for the premiere (he wasn’t). Instead I’ll just be pleasantly resigned. It’s a weight off my shoulders.
People have asked me whether I’m worried about book 6 spoilers, and my response is that I’d rather be spoiled on a couple of things accidentally on Twitter than an entire season of TV’s worth of things on purpose.
While everyone else is watching Game of Thrones for the next few months, I’ll simply be doing something else with my time and energy, happily oblivious and eagerly awaiting The Winds of Winter and all the intrigue, drama and heartbreak it will bring. Yes, I even look forward to that; at least it will be the heartbreak the author intended.
Mike Rougeau is Playboy.com’s Gaming Editor, in charge of all things video games. Yes, he will catch up on the show if and when the next book finally comes out. Follow him on Twitter @RogueCheddar.