Game of Thrones is back, with season 5 having started on HBO in the US yesterday, 12 April, and simulcast in many other countries in the world. The first episode will also be shown on Sky Atlantic this evening for many UK fans to see it for the first time.
Not all UK GoT lovers will be as excited for the debut however. Indeed, they have probably already seen it. Not at the star studded premiere at the Tower of London last month, but through an illegally downloaded rip, which are now available en masse on torrent sites.
And not just the first episode either. Unfortunately for HBO and Sky, the first four episodes of the new series were leaked online before the opening episode even hit US screens for the first time. So if you head to Pirate Bay, KickAss Torrents or any of the multitudes of other torrent troves you will be able to download and watch episodes one to four of Game of Thrones season 5 right now.
But that doesn't mean you should. In fact, even though Game of Thrones is the most illegally downloaded and viewed TV show of all time, we have several good reasons why you should resist the temptation to watch the leaked episodes. Here they are... and none of them are the obvious.
1. They are in standard definition
A new series of Game of Thrones is one of the biggest TV events of the year and deserves to be viewed in the best way possible. If you don't give a jot about the sumptuous imagery and beautiful, cinematic presentation, you might as well read George RR Martin's books. That's a sure fire way to discover the plot and storyline for yourself without needing to look at the excellent vistas, costumes and detail the makers lovingly put into each scene. Watching it in standard definition is a crime against event television.
The leaked videos are encoded at 720 x 392, which means they need to be upscaled by more than two and a half times on a 1080p Full HD TV or monitor. And to keep file sizes down, they've been ripped at poor bit rates to boot, losing a lot of the colour information and detail in the process.
In a word, they look pants.
2. Audio is stereo
Like with the picture presentation, Game of Thrones is best watched on a 5.1 surround sound system. The leaked videos are presented in stereo and, again, at a low enough resolution to hamper the experience for those who really care about the show.
3. Blurred watermarks throughout
As it is suspected that the leaked shows came from a screener disc sent to a journalist for review, the bottom left hand corner of all four episode rips have a large blurred-out rectangle obscuring the view. This is most likely to hide text proclaiming the original rights holder or even a fingerprint company's sometimes put onto their review discs to determine which reviewer the source comes from in case of a pirated version appearing online. As is the case here.
While the blurred segment is not enough hide the action on screen significantly, it is off-putting and once again goes against the philosophy of watching the episodes in the best way possible.
4. You'll have to wait a month for episode 5
Unless there is a further batch of leaked episodes, you will have to wait four weeks until the next unseen chapter is aired for the first time. You might not particularly care about that, but we were at the world premiere of episode one in London and have had a comparable wait until the show is finally starting. For a start, it's a killer when you can't even talk about it with friends who haven't seen the show yet. And we'll have almost forgotten what happened before episode two is on.
So you have been warned. Regardless of the very act of downloading the shows being illegal, we strongly suggest you resist the urge to watch the leaked episodes of Game of Thrones season 5. You might think you're getting ahead of the game to watch them in advance of their official screenings, but you are only really spoiling it for yourself.