After a cyberattack on HBO led to the fourth episode of Game of Thrones’ seventh season being leaked online to various torrent sites, before tomorrow night’s airing, the pressure is there to watch it ahead of time.
Driven by our insatiable need to watch anything Game of Thrones the moment it’s available, we downloaded it. Not only is the episode covered in watermarks indicating that it’s for internal use only, but the video quality is terrible, too. Sure, you can make out what’s happening — it’s not like the faces are totally blurry — but this isn’t the way the episode was meant to be seen.
Without venturing into spoilers, “The Spoils of War” is an episode people will be talking about for some time, and it deserves to be watched the way showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff imagined it. There are Game of Thrones episodes where a lesser quality wouldn’t be as upsetting — ones that focus on dialogue or plot development more than cinematic spectacle — but this is not one of them.
This episode feels special. There are moments you’ll want to revisit right after it ends. Some scenes make others look amateurish in comparison. Characters experience things that we didn’t think would happen this early. There is a sense of magic to the episode; everything in it acts as reminder about why we love Game of Thrones in the first place.
I’m not trying to oversell it, either. Other staff members have also seen the episode — mainly those who operate as part of our Game of Thrones team — and all of them had similar reactions. We also had the same thought immediately after watching: We should have waited for it to air. We should have watched this on a very good television set so we could have experienced it the better way.
No one’s going to stop you from seeking out the episode and watching it if you want to. The episode is readily available — and it seems like HBO has conceded defeat. But if you really want to experience it in the best possible way, just wait another day.
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.