Aaron Rodgers has won a Super Bowl and two NFL MVP awards. In one area, however, he’s going through the same thing as millions of people: Game of Thrones, an obsession of his, is over, and he needs a new television show to watch. A Thrones obsession does not stop at simply watching the show—it involves reading about it, talking about it, and thinking about it, which Rodgers, like most fans, continues to do three months after the finale of the massively popular HBO show. He has new things he’s watching (much more on that in a moment), but he’s also still processing the show’s ending. In this way, Rodgers is just like everyone else.
I sat down with Rodgers in Green Bay over the weekend and what followed was one of the best conversations I’ve had during a three-week training camp tour. It started out as an even-handed evaluation of the last season of Thrones, somehow veered into the tiers of Quentin Tarantino movies, and ended with a nuanced look at the differences between the British and American versions of The Office. It was not a conversation I typically have in an NFL locker room, but that is to be expected with Rodgers. There are spoilers ahead and, it goes without saying, a lot of takes on Thrones.
“Jon deserves honor,” Rodgers said, when I asked him about his hopes for Jon Snow, whom viewers last saw go north of the Wall with a band of free folk. “He did the right thing all along the way and he got kicked to the proverbial curb.”
Jon is one of the two Thrones characters whose story line Rodgers seemed most interested in seeing in a potential spinoff. “Arya, west of Westeros, and then Jon and the wildlings, that’s what I care about.”
“Don’t care what’s going on at King’s Landing. Bronn … I don’t really care about. Don’t care about the Unsullied, especially after they caved. Don’t care about Sansa.”
This, in particular, piqued my interest. I asked how he could not care about a Sansa spinoff.
“I think Sansa, I think it would have been epic Thrones to have Sansa on the [Iron] Throne, or Dany on the throne, or Tyrion on the throne. I’m not saying Jon didn’t deserve the throne, but I think it would have been a little anticlimactic.
“I think Sansa would have been super Thrones because she got into the game and she played it. She survived a lot of crap—Ramsay Bolton, all that garbage—but she played the game well. She told Tyrion what was going on with Jon—knew it would get back, knew that would stir some crap up. That would have been epic Thrones to have her on there after all that. I also think Arya, in her moment of triumph, there with the Hound, it would have been epic for her to take out Cersei, who I think got a soft [landing].”
I ask Rodgers how long he thinks it will take before the Six Kingdoms descend into civil war under Bran’s rule. He said he didn’t care about that story line, either.
Rodgers watched the Thrones finale at home on television at the same time as everyone else. Unlike everyone else, he was an extra in Season 8’s fifth episode, “The Bells,” playing a citizen in King’s Landing. He said the experience was “spectacular.” The scene was shot in Belfast, and Rodgers noted how connected the production felt to the community. “The cool thing about location shoots is how much it impacts a community. The energy around the set was pretty awesome.” he said. In the offseason, he visited New Zealand and saw where the Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed. “You see how important it is to the fabric of the community,” he said.
The last season of Thrones garnered a 58 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes after the previous seven seasons received almost uninterrupted praise from critics and fans. I ask Rodgers how he feels about the show’s conclusion three months after the finale.
“I think there was such a buildup that some of the stuff wasn’t as believable or maybe as Thrones-y as it has been in previous seasons, such as the big battle with the White Walkers [in Episode 3]. I feel like that should have been a multiepisode one, possibly,” Rodgers said. “Or, more people should have died. Because they had so many characters left to resolve so they had to slam everything quick, quick, quick, because episodes were not two hours like we originally thought they were going to be.” Still, even as he described the show’s flaws, Rodgers repeatedly reiterated that he loves it.
OK, I had one more important Thrones question (this one suggested by my colleague Mallory Rubin): Dragons or direwolves?
“Dragons, definitely dragons. I thought it was an awesome thing for the Night King to get one of the dragons. But I felt like maybe the death of the second dragon—I don’t understand why the second dragon was terrible at dodging the Iron Fleet. And then the third dragon, they couldn’t touch it. Were they that bad with their aim? That was, again, something where it’s mmmph.” Rodgers is referring to a particular fandom flare-up during the season when Rhaegal was killed, rather easily, by Euron Greyjoy’s scorpion, which many fans pointed to as an example of poorly explained plot developments from Season 8.
“Then a lot of people have talked about the potential foreshadowing in the new intro they made for the last season that there some other dragons that Drogon had birthed,” Rodgers said, referring to a popular theory among fans. “They had talked about in the books how dragons can switch gender and have babies if they need to. I love the dragons. I love the direwolves, too. I grew up watching Iron Will and I actually, I was in a sled dog race in Alaska years and years ago. Obviously [the direwolves] played a big role in saving the Stark family.”
One thing Rodgers notes is how much he’s enjoyed seeing the cast members gain worldwide fame over the years. He said he saw Kit Harington, who plays Jon Snow, after the show’s second season at the Spike TV’s Guys Choice Awards and the hype and celebrity hadn’t quite popped as it would later. “It’s spectacular because the show meant so much to so many people,” he said.
So, yes, the show meant a lot to many people for years. Now the question is what to consume in its absence. Let’s start with movies. “Have you seen Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood?” Rodgers asks me, referring to Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie starring Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Margot Robbie. I tell him I have. “I thought the acting was just outstanding. I thought Brad and Leo were incredible and Margot was, too. It’s so Tarantino. You never know what’s going to happen. It’s climaxing to this last scene and it’s not what you think.” Rodgers said he’s read “a lot” about the Manson family murders from 1969, on which the film is based, and was thrilled by the unpredictable nature of the movie. This gets into a side of Rodgers I didn’t know about: He is a “huge, huge Tarantino guy.”
OK, let’s rank his movies.
“Not many people I talk to who really like Tarantino are as high on Hateful Eight as I am. Maybe it’s because I really like Kurt Russell, and Sam Jackson is so good in it. If you look at what Tarantino has done in the movies, in each one there’s such a standout performance. I don’t know if there’s a better performance than Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds. His ability to switch between French, German, Italian, and English, it’s one of the greatest characters in movies. I think, as great as Hateful Eight was—Jennifer Jason Leigh was great, too—what Brad and Leo did is right up there.” Rodgers said. “Pulp Fiction was the first [Tarantino movie] I saw so it’s tough to beat that one. I like all of them, I just gravitate towards incredible individual performances.” Rodgers places Pulp Fiction, partially because it was the first Tarantino movie he saw, and Inglourious Basterds a tick above Hateful Eight and Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood, which are safely in the second tier, he said.
So, what comes next? That’s the question a lot of Peak TV consumers are asking at the moment. He mentions Netflix’s After Life, starring Ricky Gervais. “I’ve watched it twice through,” Rodgers said. “It’s a phenomenal show. It’s some of Ricky’s greatest work. It’s amazing acting and writing.”
Rodgers’s teammate, center Corey Linsley, recommended the IFC mockumentary show Documentary Now! “It’s Fred Armisen and Bill Hader. It is unbelievable. I have rarely laughed that much watching any TV show and I’ve been watching it, repeating episodes over and over again. It is incredible.”
There are two episodes he watches over and over: “Kunuk Uncovered,” an exploration mockumentary that features John Slattery and Tim Robinson, among others. Then there’s “DRONEZ: The Hunt for El Chingon,” a Vice-style mockumentary about the hunt for a Mexican drug lord.
“Jack Black,” Rodgers says of that episode before laughing hysterically just thinking about it. “He plays Jamison Friend. Oh wow. So good.”
While these are worthwhile comedies, they are not a fantasy epic in the same manner as Thrones, nor do they necessitate the type of deep exploration that Thrones fans love. “I’ve seen one episode of Stranger Things and that’s kind of in that genre and it also brings some ’80s [culture] into it and growing up as a real young kid in the ’80s, I’m loving the outfits and the logos and colors. Thinking about getting into that,” Rodgers said.
We move back to The Office. Rodgers has long loved the British version of the show and has lately gotten into some more non-American, quirky comedies, like Summer Heights High, which led me to the most important question I would ask him in our interview: Does he prefer the British or American Office?
“I don’t want to pick between the two of them because they are so different. Because I loved the British Office so much I didn’t get into the American one until the second season. Then I went back and watched the first season. I just think the writing and acting is outstanding. I love them both,” Rodgers said. “Typical Ricky [Gervais], he only did two seasons and the [American version] did nine. The last two episodes of the American Office are just fantastic. The first six seasons [are incredible], seven and eight are not as meaningful and the last season of the Office, especially the way they ended it, was really well done.”
I ask him what show he’s most anticipating next, and he says next year’s release of Season 2 of After Life. Rodgers will be fine without Thrones to watch. He’ll be tied up on Sundays the next few months, anyway.