Buzz, Entertainment, Game Of Thrones, Game Of Thrones Season 7

One ‘Game of Thrones’ finale scene made your heart race

What do you think would happen if you took 300 Game of Thrones viewers and hooked them up to cardiogram machines during Sunday’s season finale? 

Well, first of all, they’d probably say “what the hell, man, I’m trying to watch Thrones.” But after that, you’d expect their heart rate to increase the most at that moment many viewers have been longing for/dreading: Jon Snow and the woman he doesn’t yet know is his aunt, Daenerys Targaryen, getting hot and heavy in a ship’s cabin. 

But that steamy scene is not where viewers’ heart rates jumped up during the finale, according to Apple Watch app Cardiogram and the 300 brave souls who signed up for its ongoing Game of Thrones experiment

Nor, surprisingly, was the record set the final scene when the Night King and his undead dragon brought the Wall toppling down after 8,000 years. 

See that spike at 17 minutes into the show, where the average heart rate hit 98.3 beats per minute (a record for the entire season). What could that possibly be? 

Answer: Dany’s arrival at the Dragon Pit on the back of a roaring dragon, and Cersei’s cool-as-ice response: “You’re late.”

Why that? Sure, it was a pretty dramatic entrance, but that’s not entirely what this is about. As Cardiogram’s experiment has shown, our pulse quickens when the characters we’re following get into tense social situations. 

The show’s two strong Queens were meeting for the first time, and our poor primate hearts couldn’t handle it

For example, our collective hearts jumped earlier in the season when Dany gave Varys a verbal dressing-down in front of Tyrion and Missandei — the fantasy-world equivalent of everyone in the office watching you get picked on by the boss. 

Given our evolution as social animals who are hardwired to be hyper-concerned with everyone’s status in the tribe — why do you think people love to gossip so much? — this makes a lot of sense. 

“The data confirms that drama rather than action is what makes Game of Thrones viewers’ heart rate race,” says Cardiogram co-founder Brandon Ballinger.  

Dany’s dragon pit arrival was about as tense as it gets, socially speaking: it was her attempt to impress the heck out of Cersei. The show’s two strong Queens were meeting for the first time, they were jockeying for social status in front of practically every character we’ve come to know, and our poor primate hearts couldn’t handle it. 

The Dragon Pit meeting had all sorts of confrontation moments like this: The Hound squaring off against his brother; Euron Greyjoy taunting his nephew Theon; Jaime and Brienne sharing meaningful looks. That’s why our heart rates stayed pretty high throughout the first 20 minutes of the show. 

After that we pretty much calmed down — until Tyrion and Cersei got all emotional with each other in her office. “You love your family and I have destroyed it,” admitted Tyrion, and the average heart rate rose to 93.7 bpm. There’s our hardwired social animal programming at work again. 

This was only slightly outdone by the Jon and Dany sex scene, where heart rates rose to an average 93.9 bpm. However, this may have had just as much to do with the scene that was being intercut with it — Bran and Sam figuring out that Jon was actually Aegon Targaryen. 

The line where our hearts jumped was Bran saying “Robert’s Rebellion was built on a lie” — in other words, everything the characters thought they knew about their recent history and social status is wrong. There’s a new legitimate leader of the tribe. 

The next highest heart rate (92.2 bpm) came when Cersei told her brother Jaime that “no one walks away from me” and threatened to kill him. Social situations don’t get much more tense than that. 

Only then do we get our terror at the ice dragon destroying the wall, and possibly killing Tormund in the process. That got our hearts to beat 91.9 times a minute on average. 

Memo to HBO: all your expensive CGI will count for nothing unless you hook it up to tense social drama where we care about the characters and their status. 

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