Is it OK to lie to your partner to avoid TV spoilers? I hope so, or I’m a monster | Patrick Lenton

When my partner recently decided to watch Game of Thrones for the first time, I concluded that the best way to help her enjoy it would be to lie my head off

For the past three months, I have been lying to my partner: routinely, systematically and often extremely creatively. I’ve been appalled by how good I am at it, while also being thrilled at the results. Every moment spent whispering poisoned words to the love of my life has simply confirmed a terrible lesson to me: sometimes lying is good.

One of my fondest memories is watching Game of Thrones in a bar in New York. It was when there was peak excitement around the show, when water-cooler conversation was dominated by sunken-eyed fans decompressing the various traumas we’d gone through the night before. Sitting in this bar, I was lucky enough to accidentally experience one of the show’s bigger twists. Watching everyone gasp in unison, scream and applaud was a brilliant experience.

So when my partner Eilish decided to watch Game of Thrones for the first time recently, in order to prepare for House of the Dragon, I was shocked to find out she knew absolutely nothing about it. Like a child raised by wolves, or someone who has woken up from a coma, she’d completely missed all the culture-defining discourse around the show. The horror of the Red Wedding? Ned Stark and his fragile neck? That time a takeaway coffee cup was spotted in the medieval world of Westeros?

I immediately made a vow (which is a very fantasy boy thing to do, and involved cutting my palm with a big sword and swearing to, I dunno, a very fancy tree) to try and keep her spoiler free. I wanted her to watch Game of Thrones like the rest of us had: gooped and gagged by the horrific twists and turns. I wanted her to enjoy herself because I care about her happiness. (And also, because I wanted to watch House of the Dragon.)

As we watched, Eilish ventured opinions and theories she had, which were sometimes based on vague recollections of things she’d heard, facts gleaned from SNL sketches and half-remembered memes. I couldn’t simply agree with her, because then the tension would be broken – but I couldn’t disagree either, because often that was even more revealing.

If you know, you know … Michelle Fairley as Catelyn Stark and Kelly Ford as Joyeuse Erenford in the Red Wedding scene.
If you were there, you know … Michelle Fairley as Catelyn Stark and Kelly Ford as Joyeuse Erenford in the Red Wedding scene. Photograph: Helen Sloan/© HBO

What I learned, in case you also want to successfully bamboozle someone who trusts and loves you, is that the trick lies in smoke and mirrors. For example, in the season that the sadistic boy-king Joffrey dies, I muttered, “Gosh, it sucks how we have to wait for the final season for Joffrey to die.” Similarly, when she was baying for Ramsay Bolton’s blood, I declared that it was a shame, for “he’s one of the only characters who never gets his comeuppance”. Imagine me cackling devilishly, fingers steepled, a creature of lies and shadow.

The biggest hurdle was Jon Snow’s death and his subsequent resurrection. Somehow, the only event Eilish knew about beforehand was that Jon Snow died, which was a huge moment in the show when it first happened. However, when she saw it, she turned to me with the look of a budding Hercules Poirot in her eye, about to uncover the old-timey train murderer. “Wait, I SWEAR I’ve seen photos of him and Daenerys kissing,” she said. “Oh my god, he must be resurrected by the Red Woman!”

This is exactly what happens. I had to nip this in the bud. “Oh, I wish,” I said. “That was just a press shot – they were the two biggest actors, so magazines did shoots of them kissing.”

In the end, it was worth it. During the Red Wedding, she sat bolt upright, barely breathing, glued to the screen. When Joffrey choked to death, she threw her hands into the air. When Jon Snow was resurrected, she had been so convinced by my lies that she actually shrieked. It was joyous to watch. I felt that I had given her a gift: a genuine Game of Thrones-watching experience. There are so many other iconic shows that we could do this with, I thought, flushed with Machiavellian success. Did she know the twist in The Good Place? Lost? What other cultural experiences could I give her through lies?

But as we neared the end of Game of Thrones, I found the consequences of my actions began to present themselves, the inevitable reaping of what I’d sowed. When answering even the most straightforward questions, I was met with a look of doubt. “It worries me how good you are at lying,” she said.

I started to feel like Littlefinger, who used his scheming and plotting to present Winterfell back to Sansa Stark after a spree of lies and murders. I started to relate to him more than I wished. And when his throat was slit as a consequence, and Eilish said, “Good! That’s what he deserves”, I felt myself sweating.


Patrick Lenton

The GuardianTramp

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