Does ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 7 Have a Serious Pacing Issue?

Matthew Loffhagen
(Photo: HBO)

You can’t please everyone.

It’s something that HBO is learning very quickly as season seven of Game of Thrones continues.

While most of us are thrilled by the faster pace of this season of the show – with events moving far quicker than the slow burn of previous seasons – some fans are complaining that Game of Thrones now feels rushed.

In a recent article for The Wrap, for example, Carli Velocci writes:

“Jon Snow arrives at Dragonstone from Winterfell in less than an episode, for instance, while Euron Greyjoy goes from King’s Landing to somewhere between Dragonstone and Sandstone, back to King’s Landing and then to Casterly Rock in three episodes. In the past, such moves would’ve taken all season, thanks to traveling on horseback or by boat. Nowadays, it’s like the characters invented the Hyperloop off-screen, which would’ve helped Daenerys instead of waiting six seasons to get her to Westeros.

“It’s not that the slow pacing is inherently better than the opposite. But this particular tale has long been defined by, and benefitted from, a pacing that is purposefully slow. As a result, the dramatic change in pace proves to be a needless distraction just as the show is (finally) getting close to the finale we’ve been waiting for since 2011.”

There is something to be said for this argument. The abrupt change in pace that has accompanied the arrival of winter in Westeros makes things feel a lot more immediate and sudden, which in many ways is harmful to the show’s tension.

It would have been fine if Game of Thrones had always been about quick-paced adventure and kneejerk reactions, but the fact that the show took so much time in worldbuilding and set-up, only to start blasting through events in a fever pitch in order to wrap everything up neatly by the end of the next season, is naturally going to make some fans feel like the show has lost much of the atmosphere that made it so enjoyable in the first place.

Part of the issue here is that, instead of following a large number of characters in their various political maneuvers, season seven only has a handful of storylines to focus on. The gaps between seeing what each character is up to has shrunk, which naturally makes it feel like things are moving faster even aside from the new teleportation powers that everyone has gained.

Arya Stark
Source: HBO

Perhaps this was inevitable. With Game of Thrones no longer following the events of A Song of Ice and Fire, the show has lost the backbone of its narrative. George RR Martin’s almost infuriatingly slow-paced storytelling was never going to be adequately replicated by Dan Weiss and David Benioff, and it could be argued that the pace of the first six seasons of Game of Thrones never really fit with an eight season show that doesn’t feature some kind of pace change.

So, season seven moves faster, and it is a little jarring to some fans.

At the same time, though, it’s definitely keeping the show fresh. Seven seasons in, there’s always a danger that a show might simply get dull – that audiences might feel like they’ve seen everything before, and decide that they just don’t really care anymore.

This makes the speed up quite a smart choice. Instead of dragging its way to the plot’s inevitable conclusion, Game of Thrones has started burning twice as bright, forcing viewers to sit up and pay attention just when the show could otherwise have been settling into a slump.

Or, to put it another way, there’s a reason why season seven of The Walking Dead suffered from a ratings slump, and similarly, there’s a season why that show’s eighth season is being billed as a faster-paced action thrillride instead of a slow, methodical waiting game.

Tyrion Lannister
Source: HBO

Now is the logical time to speed up Game of Thrones, and to allow its characters to jump around in space and time in order to keep things moving briskly. War naturally will move longer than the buildup to conflict. This faster pace is a natural result of audiences finally  receiving everything that the show has promised over its first six seasons on air.

The speedy pace of Game of Thrones season seven may not be for everyone, but if you’re able to overlook the continuity issues involved in providing Westeros with a videogame style fast travel system, there’s a lot here to keep you excited.

Sit back, and enjoy the ride.

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