#GameOfThrones used to be something of a slow-burning fantasy drama punctuated by moments of violence. Schemes would last for multiple episodes before ending with an abrupt, bloody mess. Whether it was a beheading on the steps of Baelor or the events of the Red Wedding, fans ultimately had to wait a long time before finding out how a scheme would ultimately impact fan-favorite characters. However, that's all about to change in season 7, as the show looks to dramatically pick up the pace. This is something we had a taste of with season 6's finale, "The Winds of Winter", and it looks like this episode has set the pace for the upcoming season. While this is an exciting prospect, how will this ultimately effect the viewing experience for Game of Thrones devotees?
Jaime Lannister actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau spoke to Entertainment Weekly about the show's significant change of pace, describing it as intense, fast, and drastically different from every other season that's come before. He said:
“I feel like I’d been lulled into a different pace...Everything happened quicker than I’m used to … a lot of things that normally take a season now take one episode."
There was a definite sense of momentum in season 6, with characters fast-cutting to destinations that might once have taken several episodes of travel. Kit Harington, who plays the recently declared 'King in the North', expanded on this, pointing to the leaps and bounds of plot development in the previous season of Thrones as a reason for the ramped-up pace:
“This season is really different than any other season because it’s accelerating toward the end, a lot of stuff collides and happens much much quicker than you’re used to seeing on Thrones … it’s so different than what everybody is used to. It’s quite exciting.”
Despite delivering several huge payoffs, the pace of season 6 caught some fans by surprise as the fast-paced plot was not typical of the show's previous seasons. For example, characters seemingly leapt across areas that once took several episodes. Arya Stark spent much of her time on the show meandering through the Riverlands, but now characters flit across the middle of Westeros as if borne on the wings of dragons. Yet with so many interwoven plot threads still dangling and only two seasons left to go, some acceleration was necessary when leading up to a final showdown.
Season 7 has also been condensed into seven episodes as opposed to ten, so this season doesn't follow the show's traditional format. That being said, co-showrunner Dan Weiss says that this isn't the reason behind the show's newfound urgency, claiming:
“Things are moving faster because in the world of these characters the war that they’ve been waiting for is upon them...The conflicts that have been building the past six years are upon them and those facts give them a sense of urgency that makes [the characters] move faster.”
However, it wasn't merely the change of pace that threw viewers off, but also the satisfaction derived from some massive moments of fan-service. Given that the show has tormented viewers with heart-wrenching twists for so long, it was almost too difficult to believe that Dany would really make it to Westeros, or that Sansa would ever be safe again. 'Once bitten by dragons, twice shy' - as they probably say somewhere in Essos.
In terms of how this will impact the show's character developments, David Benioff claimed that the change of pace won't take away from that saga-defining focus on characterization:
“For a long time we’ve been talking about ‘the wars to come,'...Well, that war is pretty much here. So it’s really about trying to find a way to make the storytelling work without feeling like we’re rushing it — you still want to give characters their due, and pretty much all the characters that are now left are all important characters. Even the ones who might have started out as relatively minor characters have become significant in their own right.”
Still, the change is bound to have a definite effect on the tone of the show as it transitions from a long-gestating political thriller into a medieval fantasy war saga. Needless to say, fans have faith in the old Gods and the new that HBO are shepherding Game of Thrones towards a satisfying conclusion - as battle lines are finally drawn between the living and the dead.
Game of Thrones returns on July 16, 2017.
Who will ultimately sit on the Iron Throne?