Well, season 7 is in the bag and we’re all gnashing our teeth again with the realization that another two years stares us all in the face before we’ll have another round of episodes to watch.
Now to start, let me get this out of the way: I enjoyed the hell out of this season. With the exception of the first couple of episodes, this damned show had me alert and engaged throughout the run of this season and there were tons of payoffs that I can honestly say I’ve finally been rewarded with after waiting for years. Originally, I griped pretty hard when I learned that the season’s episode count would be truncated but now, having watched it all, it’s really easy to see where all of that money went. Towards the end of this season, nearly every episode was an epic explosion of incredible effects, massive set piece battles, and ever increasing stakes. That kind of thing takes money, so they cut the number of episodes down to ensure that each entry for the season got the absolute maximum bang for its buck.
I noticed something, though, while watching the second to last episode. The continent of Westeros sure was seeming mighty small…
Yes, apparently, ravens and dragons can fly really freaking fast! Now, I’m clearly not the only guy to have noticed this. I had my argument all laid out and everything, ready to share the distances involved between the wall and Dragonstone, the average airspeed of a raven (not to be confused with a laden swallow), and so forth, but the guys at Nerdist have already done and incredible job of laying all of this out, so I’m just going to link their video here.
As stated in the video, director Alan Taylor addresses the issue by stating, “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.”
So, my problem with that statement is that he’s essentially stating that they hope the awesomeness of the action sequences help you to miss all of the plot holes.
The problem is, it didn’t. I didn’t know what it was specifically when I was watching the episode; I only knew that the world I was being shown suddenly felt incredibly small. I could see how fast that dragon was flying. It appeared to be about the speed of a WWI era biplane. So whatever flight she took had to happen in a time frame that those men stranded out in the middle of the frozen lake would be able to stand there, realistically, as they waited for her to arrive. Right away, I’m asking questions. Just how close is Dragonstone to The Wall, anyway???
This kind of thing drives me crazy in any kind of media. I get it; there are dragons in the show. As a story teller, you’re allowed to ask your audience to believe the impossible, absolutely. Zombies exist, dragons fly, dead men can be resurrected, and so forth. What you are not allowed to do is ask your audience to believe the improbable. They cannot and will not buy it.
The distances involved in this show should have been a major component in how the story works itself out. A major challenge in any conflict is the Fog of War, which is essentially defined by uncertainty due to a lack of information. In the GOT universe, this is compounded by the fact that any new information sent by courier would already be days old by its very nature. This alone could have constituted a major challenge within the framework of the season and been made into a major asset to the story telling in general. Instead, the creators of the show chose to ignore it in favor of fast, easy storytelling. Was it a good gamble? I leave it up to the viewers to decide but, for me, it was not. I’m made aware of all the possibilities that could have been had the writers just worked a little harder.
Here is a quick example that I can rattle right off the top of my head. At the end of the episode in question, the walkers are hauling the dragon out of the frozen lake through the use of several massive chains.
Now, before you nerd out on me, I’m well aware of the various theories stating that walkers can’t cross water, can’t swim, etc, etc. They seemed to even come out and state this explicitly in the final episode of S7, where the Hound stated that, no, they won’t cross water.
Putting that aside, the Hound only knows what he observed, and that was that the walkers wouldn’t walk across that lake when the ice was broken. Being honest, however, the rules are rather fast and loose on this show. Personally, I suspect they just sink to the bottom and can’t swim back up again. Having walkers be destroyed by the application of water would be idiotic (I’m looking at you, M. Night Shyamalan).
So the question here becomes: where did they get that chain? The forged the thing or just had it laying around or…?
The thing is, you can come up with all sorts of reasons why the walkers would have such a thing, but not a single one was actually given in the episode. They needed a big ass chain because the imagery would look cool for the scene; therefore a chain appears. Lazy writing.
And the issue with that is, again, the audience is now taken out of the episode wondering where the hell that chain came from rather than what a big deal it is that the Night King now has a dragon.
The frustrating thing is that a little rewriting and extra thought could have made this scene work just fine. The walkers are undead. They don’t need to breathe. I’ll assume this extends to the Night King. Can you imagine how cool it would have been if that scene opened up with the Night King silently slipping beneath the surface of that lake while the entirety of his army stood around the hole, motionless? Just quietly waiting for a drawn out, pregnant period; call it 20 or 30 seconds of real screen time. Following that period, the resurrected dragon bursts from the surface of the lake, clawing its way into the air, this time with the Night King perched upon its back.
Something like the above conveys the exact same information as what the show actually went with. It is arguably just as dramatic, if not more so, and has the added benefit of not inspiring the viewers to ask a bunch of uncomfortable questions. It keeps them in the moment, rather than taking them out of it and reminding them that they’re just watching a TV show.
And that should always be a concern on the forefront of any writer’s mind.