From sword battles to cosplay, Philly is ready for ‘Game of Thrones’ final season

The first episode of the fantasy saga’s final season airs Sunday night. People are hosting viewing parties from their businesses and living rooms.

Vienna Enos is hosting a watch party as the final season of “Game of Thrones” premieres Sunday night. There’ll be prizes for winners of the trivia contests.

Oh, and tissues.

“I feel like people are going to cry,” said Enos, who works at Atomic City Comics on South Street. “We are going to see a lot of characters we’ve come to know and love over the years meet their end, so it’s an emotional time.”

Atomic City Comics on South Street will host free viewing parties of Game of Thrones throughout the rest of the final season (Emily Scott/WHYY)

Throughout this last season, Atomic City will host free “Game of Thrones” screenings every Sunday at 9 p.m. The store is among dozens of businesses that plan to celebrate the end of eight years of the groundbreaking fantasy series.

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Atomic City has had “GoT” screenings in the past. But this is the first time Enos, a longtime fan of the series who’s worked at the store for a year and a half, will host.

Screenings are a great way to provide “GoT” access to people who normally wouldn’t be able to stream the series on HBO, she said.

“For lack of a better word, it’s part of nerd culture at large, so we like to celebrate that and offer something free,” Enos said. “Plus, HBO is expensive, right, so if you want to watch it and you have access to HBO, why not host it for free somewhere?”

Over the next six weeks, Atomic City will also feature cosplay contests. You can dress up like your favorite “Game of Thrones” characters and literally take a part in the fandom community.

Vienna Enos, a sales associate at Atomic City Comics who’s hosting the viewing party, holds copies of George R.R. Martin graphic novels that are sold in the store. (Emily Scott/WHYY)

For this first episode, Enos said, screening guests will be able to make predictions about the season: Who will die? Who will end up on the Iron Throne as leader of the Seven Kingdoms? For the series finale, scheduled to air May 19, those predictions will be revisited to see who was right and who was wrong.

“One of the quotes in the earlier seasons is, ‘This is the Game of Thrones. You win or you die,’ so George R.R. Martin has not shied away from killing off major characters, and sometimes resurrecting characters,” Enos said. “But mostly just killing characters. So at this point, people are guessing who is going to die.”

Some Philly-area followers have their own HBO accounts, of course, and will host watch parties from the comfort of their couches.

Megan Marino, a longtime “Game of Thrones” fan who lives in Northern Liberties, is waiting for Episode 3 to have her watch party. That night’s storyline supposedly will be the battle for Westeros and its seven kingdoms — probably the one in which many of the most beloved characters meet their demise.

Marino runs a Meetup group for “Game of Thrones”-themed Quizzo events in Philadelphia. Just last week, she and her group won $275 at Fado Irish Pub in Center City.

In the lead-up to the final season, Marino said, she’s seen an “explosion” of Quizzo and other GoT-related events in the city. A few weeks ago, she went to a Quizzo at Punchline Philly in Fishtown, where 70 teams competed — the best-attended event in Philly she’d ever seen for the show.

“It’s been almost two years since we’ve had the last season of `Game of Thrones,’ and there’s always an increase when a season is coming up, but I think that it’s also the end,” Marino said. “It’s been such a great story, so it’s going to be really sad to see a really good show come to an end.”

Battlesword Philly, which runs an open battle-sword fighting space in East Falls, plans to open  the space at 6:30 p.m., so people can come and practice their skills before the business hosts its own screening of Sunday night’s episode.

Battlesword Philly is an open platform sword fighting gym in East Falls. (Emily Scott/WHYY)

“We’ll be teaching sword fighting so we can better appreciate the swordsmanship in the show,” said owner Scott MacKinlay.

He sees a connection between people’s interest in the show and their coming to the space for sword fighting. MacKinlay said he even sees some connections to the show itself — in their protective gear and such.

“We all kind of are a bunch of dorks here,” MacKinlay said. “We’re big fans of sword fighting, and, with all of the black suits, we kind of saw ourselves as the Night’s Watch. We thought since we are going to be sword fighting that day anyway, we might as well premiere the show and all of us enjoy that and getting a few fights in at the same time.”

At Battlesword Philly, visitors use swords made from poly-propylene and wear pads and plates to protect from injuries. (Emily Scott/WHYY)

Battlesword may host more screenings as the season goes on, depending on interest. If anything, it’s likely to stream the final episode in May to say some goodbyes.

MacKinlay said he’s surprised to see the show reach a much wider audience, being so tied to the fantasy world.

“With the way it was written, in this revolution about making it more about the people than the fantasy, it’s really incredible to see that something that is a little bit more niche, the fantasy genre, is able to reach so many more people.”

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