What is dead may never die — and what is Game of Thrones will never be defeated by leaks.

It’s been a rough ride for HBO recently. Like a White House administration that cannot stop leaking out of its “whatever,” the prestige TV mogul can’t seem to seal its faulty pipes. Yet somehow its most popular show stared those instruments of potentially devastating audience dropout and taunted: “What do we say to the god of death? Not. Today.”

Two weeks ago, hackers spoiled “The Spoils of War” by releasing one of Season 7’s most epic episodes a full two days before its official release. We urged true fans to wait until Sunday night to watch the dragonfire unleash — for their own good.

But the digital firestorm didn’t end there. 

The Faceless Hackers sent another virtual assassination attempt, sending HBO a threatening letter demanding a large Bitcoin ransom. HBO responded by offering $250,000 in real money, but the hackers counter offered with a demand for $6.5 million in internet money.

Yet the true cherry on top of this Song of Cyber and Terabytes came in the form of friendly fire. Yesterday, HBO itself accidentally posted the penultimate episode of the season early (before quickly taking it down from its Nordic and Spanish online platforms).

We can’t speak to what the most recent hacker hit will do to other HBO shows like West World or Curb Your Enthusiasm. But like an Unburnt Queen emerging from the fiery wreckage Game of Thrones has proven itself the Breaker of Leaks, First of its Kind. 

Or, at the very least, as immune to the flames of leaks as a Targaryen in a forest fire.

‘Game of Thrones’ rising from the ashes, unburnt

Rather than leading to a hit in audience rating, the leaked Episode 4 managed to break records with 10.2 million viewers on Sunday through legitimate avenues like DVR, VOD and streaming.

If anything, it appears the leaks have only fueled the show’s unprecedented fan firepower. And we can only speculate that the reason behind this inexplicable turn of events shows just how deeply the show has penetrated our pop culture habits.

Game of Thrones, one of the most pirated TV shows of all time, now feels like a phenomenon akin to Sunday mass. It even comes complete with prayers that our showrunner god will be merciful toward our favorite characters.

Gathering around the fires of our HD TV’s, Game of Thrones seems to have replaced storytelling rituals as old as oral folklore. Only instead of a small community holding its breath around the hearth, the entire world now sets aside busy lives to watch a fantasy show together in realtime.

Whether you attend viewing parties with fellow fans, or enjoy contributing online by live-tweeting funny GIFs and reactions, not watching Game of Thrones on Sunday kinda feels like sacrilege now. And binge-watching? That may be good enough for those Netflix shows, but the Thrones faithful has proven its fealty to a more emotions-friendly once-a-week dose. 

For that we thank our HBO gods, both the old and new. Because the joy of watching Game of Thrones has evolved far past just “tits and dragons.”

And funnily enough, a fantasy show looks like its grounding a global audience in the real world unlike any other before it.

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