A year ago, there was a show called After the Thrones, where grown men talked about Game of Thrones the way my mother’s friends once sat in the beauty parlor and gossiped about soap operas. This is the effect that fantasy has on its breathless devotees, first through the A Song of Ice and Fire books by George R. R. Martin and later by watching the series through six seasons on HBO. Simply put, it is arguably one of the best dramatic series on television in every way: acting, writing and special effects.

If you’ve come late to this party of feudal debauchery, there have been sixty episodes of pastoral scenery, snow and sand, cliffs and gorges, castles and battlements, filmed on location in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Malta, Morocco, Croatia and Spain. For your perusal are six seasons of medieval scheming, bloodiness, brutality, beheadings, boobs, brothels, bestiality, bastards and incest; dragons, giants, mammoths and zombies; and one literate, heroic, often wine-besotted dwarf. Through the high-functioning intrigues, mass murders, regicide and gamesmanship at play in this saga, all that would compare to old-style, daytime soaps is the level of buzz, via social media and the aforementioned companion show.

I’ve learned not to reveal any plot points from the series. I wrote a Facebook post about Diana Rigg as Olenna Tyrell, off-handedly mentioned an act she’d been responsible for, and I got a fusillade of profanity for my trouble. My fault, I suppose, because I watched this past season the old fashioned way, on the Sunday at 6 p.m., East Coast feed of HBO. As hard as it is to believe, there are those who hold out, wait a month or two, then spend a weekend with the curtains drawn, powering down large pizzas, a couple of two-liter bottles of soda, and every season of Thrones .

This is an important point to make. The millions who have watched the show overwhelm the number of those who’ve read the books. Several jolting scenes that were depicted between the pages years ago have left recent viewers shocked to the toes, as if to further remind us that to read and imagine is to wonder, and to see is to be assaulted by the imagery. What can be related without the dreaded spoiler alert is that the computer-generated special effects in last season’s final episode created the most breathtaking battle sequence ever filmed solely for television.

As season 7 starts (split into seven this summer, and seven to conclude the series next year) we’ll see whether Cersei, Daenerys and Jon Snow will join forces to take on the White Walkers, and whether Snow and Daenerys will know each other in Thrones’ accepted form of carnal acquaintance-making. Regardless, you’d be well-advised to remember this time in TV history for more than its fads. The effect of Thrones is no game.

Season 7 begins July 16 on HBO, HBO Go and HBO on Demand.

Out of the Box is a semi-regular column by VCReporter staff and contributors about television and streaming content.