Although we’ve known for a while that HBO would be turning some of its Ireland-based Game of Thrones sets at Linen Mill Studios into a vast exhibition now that the show has come to an end, new details for the Game of Thrones Studio Tour have emerged. According to Watchers on the Wall, the 110,000-square-foot “interactive experience,” set to open to the public later this year, will invite fans to immerse themselves into actual sets from the show’s production, as well as props and costumes, reliving the most momentous parts of the Game of Thrones saga.
That’s all well and good, but we have some concerns.
Not about the props, or the sets, those are probably going to be extremely cool. What sounds less cool is that the Thrones Studio Tour culminates with a dining experience that, well, sounds really dull. According to Watchers, fans shouldn’t expect to wander into a great hall done up like Winterfell or the Red Keep’s finest feasting locales, or even a humble tavern for an ale and a bread bowl of sister’s stew. Instead, there’ll be “a restaurant and a ‘back-lot’ café, designed to replicate the studio catering experience that the cast and crew of the show enjoyed.”
Huh. For those of you who’ve never had a “studio catering experience” before, think of a school lunch but a bit fancier. Less slabs of tater tots and cartons of juice, more, well, actual food, but still served in hot trays and scooped out onto your own little serving plate, and eaten side by side with folks on fold-out benches. It is not the fanciest thing in the world. But given the theming is right there, it seems bizarre that the approach for this studio tour wasn’t to replicate food or eating establishments from the show, but to instead…let people pretend they’re working on a studio lot and just sat down from a break between shoots? Please, for the love of god, tell me at the very least they’ll have lemoncakes. Or direwolf bread. Hell, get actual direwolf bread from actual Hot Pie catered in!
But beyond asking regular people to pay for a catering experience that is…well, food served out of hot trays and sitting on benches, and provided on a studio set, the weirdest thing about this is that food should be like, one of the things you nail at a Game of Thrones experience. George R.R. Martin’s books are laden with lavish descriptions of food, from the grandest feasts to the smallest bite of sustenance. Food is vital to the series, not just by what it tells us about characters that consume it, but the very act of the way food is served and presented in Westeros drives the political backstabbing and cultures we see on display. Remember, part of what made the Red Wedding so shocking was not just the bloodbath, but that the Freys broke the fabled guest-right—the tradition of sharing bread and salt with a guest that invokes a rule that no harm shall come to either party—in the process. And the vengeance for that ancient tradition being sullied? Arya bakes a pie of Freys and serves it to Walder before assassinating him.
The culture of food, how it is shared and how it is eaten, is one of the most fundamental aspects of our insight into the seven kingdoms. In a world where Harry Potter fans can venture to Hogsmeade for chocolate frogs and a butterbeer or six, or Star Wars fans can sup on milks blue and green while they contemplate a Ronto Wrap, HBO should be able to offer a Game of Thrones experience that’s so much more than studio backlot catering.
The show deserves better. Well, approximately seven seasons of it do, at least.