Why Was the ‘Game of Thrones’ Finale Blocked In China?

May 20, 2019, 2:54 PM UTC

While the Internet squabbles over the merits of the series finale of Game of Thrones, many Chinese citizens are still trying to avoid spoilers after Tencent, which airs HBO programming in the country, delayed airing the episode.

It’s unclear how long the delay will last and the reasoning behind it was vague at best.

Officially, the company said, the delay was “due to a media transmission problem.” But the state of the global economy and some of the themes of the episode are prompting speculation that other factors may have been at play.

🚨 **Warning: Major spoilers for Sunday’s episode follow.** 🚨

While some U.S. customers reported technical difficulties with HBO Now and HBO subscriptions purchased through Amazon, those issues resolved themselves quickly before the initial credits ran. So Tencent’s official reasoning seems thin, unless that transmission was blocked by the state for other reasons.

“The Iron Throne,” as the episode was called, made a strong case for democracy. After Jon Snow kills Daenerys Targaryen, the leaders of the great houses gather to, among other things, determine who will rule Westeros. Samwell Tarly, who has always been the center of decency on the show, suggests that the ruler should be chosen by the people, not appointed or picked by a small group of powerful people.

He’s laughed down, but given China’s anti-democracy stance, that could have been enough to delay the episode, if only to edit out Sam’s well laid-out case, which underscores the absurdity and outdated nature of dictators.

Another potential reason for the delay? The ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China. Officials have increased both rhetoric and tariffs in the past week and that has begun to spill over into entertainment content. Also on Sunday, a Chinese drama shot in the U.S. with American actors was abruptly cancelled. Chinese production companies with ties to the U.S. are also reportedly facing pressure.

CCTV, China’s state-run movie channel, has also been airing fewer western films and airing more that center around the defeat of American invaders.

Regardless of the reason, the delay of the Game of Thrones finale left millions of fans in China upset, with many slamming Tencent on Chinese social media. (Even more awkward, many members of the State Council have admitted to being fans of the show.)

What’s as yet unknown is if this resulted in an escalation of piracy for the episode. The season premiere of the show in April was pirated 54 million times, with China being the second-largest hub of those illegal views.

More must-read stories from Fortune:

—3 ways China is beating Trump at his own trade war

—Why the next Game of Thrones book isn’t coming soon

—Where Google’s ban will hurt Huawei the most

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