As we’ve mentioned previously, some fans of Game of Thrones have been feeling a bit confused and even annoyed at the incredible teleporting powers that various characters seem to have developed in season seven.
We’ve gone from a slow, methodical pace for the show that relies primarily on intrigue and suspense to build up the drama in Game of Thrones, to a season where everything moves so fast that it’s almost hard to keep up with.
The geography in particular makes no sense anymore – a journey that used to take characters weeks, can now be done in a matter of hours.
As the season has progressed, things have gotten progressively harder to believe, culminating in Beyond the Wall, which shows time moving at two completely different speeds for two different groups of characters.
Spoilers follow, by the way.
In Beyond the Wall, Jon Snow leads an expedition up into the frozen north which, let’s just say, doesn’t go well. Not long into his little jaunt, Snow finds himself and his men stranded on a frozen lake, surrounding by White Walkers, and about to freeze to death.
Gendry then runs to Eastwatch, and sends a raven to Daenerys, who in turn sends her dragon to go save Jon and his men. Despite the days of time this should have taken, the men are all more or less unharmed, even though by this point they should, by all rights, be popsicles, having spent days without food or shelter on a frozen lake.
As it turns out, even the director of Beyond the Wall has issues with the timing of all of this, and has admitted that, in all fairness, it really doesn’t make sense. In an interview with Variety, Alan Taylor tried to explain why everything is a little fuzzy:
“We were aware that timing was getting a little hazy. We’ve got Gendry running back, ravens flying a certain distance, dragons having to fly back a certain distance…In terms of the emotional experience, [Jon and company] sort of spent one dark night on the island in terms of storytelling moments. We tried to hedge it a little bit with the eternal twilight up there north of The Wall. I think there was some effort to fudge the timeline a little bit by not declaring exactly how long we were there. I think that worked for some people, for other people it didn’t. They seemed to be very concerned about how fast a raven can fly but there’s a thing called plausible impossibilities, which is what you try to achieve, rather than impossible plausibilities. So I think we were straining plausibility a little bit, but I hope the story’s momentum carries over some of that stuff.”
It’s all fair and good talking about “plausible impossibilities” in a show filled with zombie dragons, because that’s part of the fun. To many people, this probably just seems like yet another stretch of the imagination that’s needed in order to suspend disbelief and enjoy what’s going on.
That said, it’s important for even a fantasy show to follow its own rules. The way to allow audiences to start caring about impossible characters and events is to show them, very clearly, how the universe makes sense, what the stakes are, and what everyone is capable of doing.
The first six seasons of Game of Thrones work on the principle that travel is slow, and that you can’t cheat death. Unless, of course, you’re Jon Snow.
Audiences have learned that things don’t just happen in Game of Thrones, and that big events take time – travelling is an important element of the show’s pacing, and skipping over it for the sake of a big battle or a huge plot point means breaking the established rules of the narrative.
Once time loses its sting in Game of Thrones, much of the show’s heavy lore stops making sense. Audiences can no longer follow what’s going on and make logical guesses at where the story could be going, as the showrunners have proven that they’re willing to fudge the details for the sake of making a big statement.
This isn’t good for suspension of disbelief, nor for the show’s storytelling as a whole. Setting up a big, important rule and then breaking it means that audiences can’t keep everything organized in their heads, and stop being able to invest quite as clearly in the narrative.
Maybe this is a lot of noise to be making over something relatively minor, but Game of Thrones has always been sold as a gritty, realistic fantasy world. If characters can now teleport around at will, it robs the series of much of its dramatic tension.
In future, we may well be talking about Beyond the Wall in the same way that Tolkien fans poke fun at the gamebreaking power of the eagles.