If you’ve never seen Game of Thrones, you can probably check out of this article, unless you’re super curious about my opinion the passing of time for television vs. books.
After this week’s episode, Beyond the Wall, I saw many of my friends post articles or have conversations about the increase in speed in the episodes, the time hopping or teleporting. It was interesting to read those insights. I saw a lot of comments about plot shenanigans and “The Wizard Did It” moments. (Note: The Wizard Did It refers to when characters are randomly or conveniently saved. “Standard all-encompassing explanation for any continuity errors”, according to TVTropes.com) We won’t be covering the plot shenanigans in this article, that’s a whole other topic.
I came into watching Game of Thrones a little late for someone like me, who enjoys fantasy and science fiction based entertainment so much. I didn’t have HBO in college. Then, I moved in with friends who had everything on DVD and HBO. I caught up in a week. I also never read the books (I know, I know, I’m horrible). I have this little, unspoken rule that, once I start watching a movie or a TV show based on a book and I really enjoy it, I usually don’t read the book until well after finishing the video version of it. I don’t want the book to ruin the show or the show to ruin the book. I give myself some space between so I can appreciate each for what they’re worth. Also, political intrigue in fantasy writing is totally not my thing. Give me heavy character development focused books any day.
One thing I noted when I started into the series was that a lot of people complained about how slow it was and how long it took for things to happen in the show. People were super annoyed at how long Daenerys was taking to get to Westeros. Now, people are complaining about how fast things are happening, how she’s zipping all over Westeros like a balloon losing air. I get it, you can’t please everyone.
I’m not sure how other writers feel about the pacing this season. There are some things that do feel like they are happening too fast. The “teleporting” feeling hasn’t bothered me too much. I do feel like there are some elements of the show that are rushed and some elements of the show that need to speed up. (*Cough* Someone kill Littlefinger already, for the love of all that is holy. *Cough* Looking at you, Arya).
I read a really interesting article that explained the pacing of Beyond the Wall, and how all the things that happened in the episode worked out mathematically.
Redditor MikeCNFI worked it out (via Hookmag):
“It took about five days for word to get to Dany and for her to get back to them. Which is about how long it would take for the ice to freeze enough to support the army of wights.
“Regarding Gendry, The Raven, and the timing of it all, it makes sense. I’m going to assume since they were looking for a lone White that they were not going in a straight line from East watch, they were probably going back and forth in a zigzag (rip rickon) so Gendry running at full speed back to the wall, let’s say that took about four hours.
“The trip from Castle Black to Winterfell is about 600 miles (a little farther from East watch), a raven going full speed (28mph) could probably make that trip in a little over a day.
“From Winterfell to King’s Landing is about a thousand miles according to Cersei in S5E6, so it would be about the same maybe a little more from Winterfell to Dragonstone. So let’s say it takes the raven four days to get to Dragonstone.
“Dragons, on the other hand, I couldn’t find much info about how fast they can go. So for the sake of argument let’s say they top out with a rider at about 175 mph.
“So that’s about a 12-hour flight straight to Snow Team 6. So the overall time it takes Danny to get to Jon, is about 5 days. This makes sense considering that they had to wait for the ice to freeze over the lake again.
“Considering that the ice had to support a huge hoard of wights, the ice would have to be around 8 inches thick. Assuming an average temperature of 10 °F (they’re not that far north) the ice would be growing at 1.5 inches per day. This works out to 7.5 inches of ice. Guys, the math works out.”
But, we’re not all mathematicians.
There are a few subtle clues to show that time passes in the episode and that not everything happens in succession. The lighting in the scenes changes, showing that it gets dark. Night has fallen when Gendry arrives at Eastwatch. When we see Tyrion begging Daenerys not to go, that doesn’t mean he’s begging her the next day or the next hour. Time has passed, time we didn’t get to see. It is also morning when we see Jon and his companions again, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the very next morning after Gendry went for Eastwatch. By now, the ice is solid, as MikeCNFI pointed out, it needed days to freeze.
The writers and producers of Game of Thrones spoiled us with endless traveling scenes. They taught us, season after season, to expect it to take a few episodes (or seasons) for the characters to get around. Now, we’re seeing them move so quickly from one destination to the next that it feels like it is cheapening the experience. I do have to wonder why the writers made the decision to move at lightening speed for the last two seasons. Perhaps it is their eagerness to move on to new projects (like The Confederacy)?
At any rate, not showing those traveling scenes has caused many fans to grow confused by the timeline of events. It does feel a lot like the characters are just teleporting. They aren’t, not really. Okay, maybe Davos did that one episode.
Another comment I saw concerned the evolution of Dany and Jon’s seemingly budding romance. It feels rushed to them. It feels like they fell too soon. I can understand that feeling if you look at it for face value and the scenes you’ve seen. If you look at it from just the moment’s you’ve witnessed in the show, they’ve only had a handful of conversations. It doesn’t make a lot of sense for them to suddenly fall for one another.
But, Sansa mentions that it’s been weeks since she heard from Jon. She heard from Jon when he sent word that he would be allowed to stay and mine the Dragonglass. So, weeks have passed since Jon arrived at Dragonstone and met Dany. We’ve only seen minutes of those weeks. We don’t know what’s happened in between. We don’t know how many dinners they shared, how many conversations they had, how many walks they had together along that very windy cliff-face. We haven’t gotten to see their relationship grow.
Which is why the pacing of the show at the moment is a bit annoying. The entire series has been developing these characters, showing us why they have become what they’ve become, revealing their motivations. Now, it’s just about the action, the pivotal moments, and less about the characters. Character development is taking a back seat to wrapping up the plot points they’ve been dragging out for years.
For someone like me, it is a little less annoying. I’m a writer. Just from writing my own work, I know that a lot happens when we aren’t looking at the characters. A lot happens between the lines, so to speak. Because of this, I can imagine what might have transpired in the time between scenes. Time passes when we aren’t looking at those characters. Events happen. Ravens arrive, ravens leave.
In books, it is easy to tell that time has passed since we last saw a character. Authors use time-stamping in the text to tell you. Just like Sansa’s verbal affirmation that it had been weeks since she last heard from Jon, authors tell you through writing like this: “After a year of mourning, Martha no longer wept.”, “Weeks later Naomi saw Victor…”, “On the morning of the fifth day, just as death realized the lake had frozen over, Daenerys arrived atop her dragon, with two others in tow.” Perhaps having the video editors time-stamp the episodes would ease some frustration and confusion?
At any rate, it is a bit hard, when a show has made such an effort to spell out every detail, to start using your imagination to fill in the gaps when it stops. Perhaps they’ve made us lazy watchers just as much as they have become lazy storytellers?