Giant dragons, three-eyed crows, and conversations peppered with “Khaleesi” descended upon New York this week as fans of HBO’s smash hit series “Game of Thrones” geared up for its Season Four premiere on April 6.
On Thursday, the first day of spring, 7,000 devotees of the book and television series set in the mythical land of Westeros were thinking more of the swords-and-dragons-saga’s dread-inducing leitmotif: “Winter is coming.”
They thronged to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center to get a sneak preview of the much-anticipated new season of the drama, in which family clans battle in a treacherous win-or-die struggle for control of the Iron Throne – even as zombie-like white walkers threaten to descend from a northern winterland and overrun the unsuspecting realm.
Scalpers had been asking $73 to more than $5,500 for $15 tickets to the event, which featured costumes and props from the show’s traveling exhibition as well as an unadvertised appearance by four cast members – and by series author and creator George R.R. Martin – who all gave a brief Q&A before the sneak preview.
The Barclays Center event followed Tuesday’s official red-carpet Game of Thrones premiere at the Lincoln Center, where a dragon the size of a New York City bus crouched menacingly in front of the famed Metropolitan Opera.
Harumphing patrons of the opera house, startled by the dragon, had to be told, “It’s a TV show.”
In fact, it’s a TV show that drew an average of 14.2 million viewers to HBO last year, up from 13.6 million in Season Two, making it the second-most-watched series in the cable network’s history after the 2004 season of “The Sopranos.” Game of Thrones’ fourth season is widely expected to eclipse even that earlier HBO drama about a New Jersey mob family, which many say revolutionized the medium of TV.
At the Barclays Center fans donned costumes of their favorite characters, the most popular appearing to be Daenerys Targaryen (played by Emilia Clarke), the white-haired “Khaleesi” queen and the “Mother of Dragons.” Her loyal serpents were only snarling adolescents at the end of Season Three, and fans are anticipating their full fire-spewing power as the new season begins a week from this Sunday.
“Out of a lot of shows and movies, there is a lot more in the way of complex character-building," Nadine Fentner, 23, a Queens resident and Khalessi fan, told Reuters. “You can't say a lot of them are totally bad or totally good.”
The buzz in the Brooklyn stadium, home of the NBA’s Nets, surprised many of the actors who attended the Thursday sneak preview.
“I didn’t expect it,” said Kristian Nairn, the nearly 7-foot-tall actor from Belfast, Northern Ireland, who plays a feeble-minded giant named Hodor. “You feel all the love and it’s just – it gets me quite emotional,” he told The Wall Street Journal.
Fans also stood in line to have their photo taken on the show’s defining Iron Throne, a majestic seat made from a thousand swords of vanquished foes and forged with dragon breath. (And life-size replicas of which HBO sells for $30,000.)
Event organizers gave one of the replicas away in a random drawing before the start of the premier. Mike Ross, a 37-year-old resident of Hoboken, N.J., was selected to receive the 350-pound hand-finished fiberglass chair. “I have no idea where I'm going to put it," he told Reuters. "We'll make a little room for it.”
The creator of the show, Mr. Martin, 65, whose five fantasy novels provide the basis for the TV series, was supposed to play a cameo role in Season Four.
“The cameo we had planned would’ve involved me going to Croatia,” Martin told The Wall Street Journal, “and I just couldn’t find the time between all my other trips and my speaking engagements and the work I had to do to take off time to fly to Croatia.”
He is also currently writing a highly-anticipated sixth book for the series, titled “The Winds of Winter.”
But even Martin was stunned by the raucous standing ovation he received when he walked out onto the Barclays Center stage.
“You feel like Bruce Springsteen for a few minutes,” he said. “You walk out and they roar.”