A leaked ‘Game of Thrones’ episode was just one part of HBO’s bad week


On Friday, posts began emerging on social media from people who claimed to have already watched “The Spoils of War,” better known as the yet-unaired fourth episode of “Game of Thrones” Season 7. The spoiler-laden tweets were the surest indication that what HBO had feared was true: an advance, albeit low-quality, version of the highly anticipated fourth episode had leaked online and was circulating in advance of its Sunday air date.

The missives from Those Who Had Seen Things Beyond the (fire)Wall were tinged with pride and shame, awe and regret, and everything in between.

“lowkey just watched season 7 episode 4 of game of thrones but imma watch it again on sunday,” wrote one Twitter user who seemingly had zero reservations. “it was a masterpiece.”

Another pointed out that anyone who watched “The Spoils of War” early would now have to wait even longer for the fifth episode, and attached an image that announced “Congratulations, you played yourself.”

While many “Game of Thrones” fans seemed thrilled to have been able to watch the rabidly-awaited episode in advance, HBO executives and their partners vowed to crack down.

Star India, HBO’s distributor in India, confirmed Friday that the fourth episode had been leaked through their systems and issued a statement calling the breach a “grave issue” that would result in “appropriate legal remedial action.”

But the leak of one of the few remaining episodes on HBO’s most popular show was just one of the numerous hits the network took this past week. For starters, it followed on the heels of another security breach — one so close in timing that many people might have assumed the leaked fourth episode came from the same batch of compromised data.

Last Monday, hackers managed to access and steal “proprietary information” from HBO’s computers, including new episodes from “Ballers” and “Room 104″ and a script from an unaired episode of “Game of Thrones.” The network is still struggling to determine how bad that first hack was, as The Post’s Brian Fung and Craig Timbert reported:

The hackers, who went by the handle little.finger66, claimed to have stolen 1.5 terabytes of data — though only an estimated 300 megabytes have actually leaked on the Internet, according to one person familiar with the matter who insisted on speaking anonymously in order to discuss details of the investigation.

… HBO officials said Wednesday that they are continuing to look for evidence that the hackers accessed company communications.

“At this time, we do not believe that our e-mail system as a whole has been compromised, but the forensic review is ongoing,” wrote chief executive Richard Plepler in a memo to staff. When reached, HBO declined to comment further.

If “little.finger66″ is to be trusted (and, is he?), the HBO hack still falls short of Sony’s breach in 2014, when hackers reportedly made out with up to 100 terabytes of data, including sensitive company emails.

But perhaps HBO’s biggest headache from last week had nothing to do with leakers and everything to do with its own programming plans. The network had announced last month that the creators of “Game of Thrones” would be working on a new drama series that would play out what would have happened had “the South” won the Civil War — and slavery were still legal.

“CONFEDERATE chronicles the events leading to the Third American Civil War,” the network said in a statement. “The series takes place in an alternate timeline, where the southern states have successfully seceded from the Union, giving rise to a nation in which slavery remains legal and has evolved into a modern institution.”

The backlash was immediate. As The Post’s Fred Barbash reported, activist April Reign organized an online protest to coincide with the airing of the third episode of “Game of Thrones” Season 7. She was successful; last Sunday, the hashtag #NoConfederate was a top trending topic on Twitter for most of the hour the episode was broadcast.

HBO responded that night, urging people to “reserve judgment until there is something to see” and promising that “Confederate” writers would handle the topic with sensitivity.

However, in a piece for the Atlantic magazine published Friday, Ta-Nehisi Coates eviscerated those arguments by asserting “Confederate” creators don’t grasp a fundamental point: that “the war is over for them, not for us.”

“At this very hour, black people all across the South are still fighting the battle which they joined during Reconstruction — securing equal access to the ballot — and resisting a president whose resemblance to Andrew Johnson is uncanny,” Coates wrote. “Confederate is the kind of provocative thought experiment that can be engaged in when someone else’s lived reality really is fantasy to you, when your grandmother is not in danger of losing her vote, when the terrorist attack on Charleston evokes honest sympathy, but inspires no direct fear.”

The third episode in Season 7 of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” finally brought Jon Snow and Daenerys together. (Erin Patrick O’Connor/The Washington Post)

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