When Chris Cole moved back to Northern Virginia last fall, he had one very important item on his to-do list: Find a group of friends to gather and watch "Game of Thrones." So he and his friend Jenny started a group called "The Night's Watch" on Meetup and started looking for the perfect spot.
A tip from the Going Out Guide back in March (service journalism at its finest) led Cole's group to Little Miss Whiskey's on H Street, which has hosted weekly viewing parties for the popular HBO show during each of the last two seasons. They'll gather Sunday night for one last viewing party this year, as Season 4 ends with an episode called "The Children" (on HBO at 9 p.m.).
The viewing parties started at Jimmy Valentine's Lonely Hearts Club during the show's first season in 2011, but the layout of that bar wasn't ideal for such a gathering. Owner Mark Thorp (he's a big fan of the show) moved the watch parties to Little Miss Whiskey's, his newer, two-story bar on H Street NE, before the start of Season 3 in 2013.
Little Miss Whiskey's hosts the viewing parties on its second level, which usually serves as a dance floor. On "Game of Thrones" nights, a six-foot screen drops for the projector, folding chairs hit the floor and the upstairs bar stays open. Cole says between 30 and 40 people show up each Sunday (not all of the people at Little Miss Whiskey's are a member of his Meetup group -- anyone can come by to watch the show). When the bar runs out of chairs, people stand and watch. And it's an intense crowd, according to Cole. There are whispers and murmers leading up to the epic theme song, but these fans watch the show: "People are focused and quiet," he says.
Why the whispers? (Varys would be so proud.) Not everyone has read George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" books, on which the television show is based. Those who have, naturally, want to chat about what they might see, or what they know they're going to see, such as King Joffrey's "Purple Wedding" in Episode 2 of this season. But the readers don't want to spoil the fun.
"Half to two-thirds have either read the books, completely finished them or are in the process of reading them," Cole says. Among the members of their Meetup group, Cole says they've been encouraging the non-readers to catch up, so the readers don't let spoilers slip. "We want to be respectful," he says.
But when something big hits the screen -- think Joffrey's fateful wedding or the Viper's recent battle with the Mountain -- the crowd erupts with cheering, shouting and applause.
The Season 4 finale should elicit a wide variety of responses, according to early reports from the "Game of Thrones" showrunners. “It’s the best finale we’ve ever done, bar none,” David Benioff and Dan Weiss said in a statement released this week by HBO. The episode has a little more than an hour (the finale is expected to run longer than usual) to advance -- or end -- story lines for such characters as Tyrion Lannister and his dysfunctional family in King's Landing, Arya Stark and the Hound, Jon Snow and the Night's Watch, Bran Stark and his friends wandering north of the Wall, and of course Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons across the Narrow Sea.
And after a last round of shouting and clapping, the whispers about Season 5 can start.
"Game of Thrones" viewing parties at Little Miss Whiskey's, 1104 H Street NE. 202-555-0666. www.littlemisswhiskeys.com.