If you've been following Game of Thrones closely in season 7, you may have noticed that the show has almost completely abandoned a normal development of time. At times, events are either drawn out for 20 minutes or crammed into a space so short it seems like characters are teleporting around Westeros, which can make the fantasy show feel a little too unrealistic.
WARNING: Light spoilers follow.
In the latest episode, "Beyond the Wall," we saw a glaring example of this. After taking half the episode to travel from the Wall to within shouting distance of the White Walkers, Jon Snow and his crew find themselves in danger. It's at this moment they send Gendry Baratheon on a dead run back toward the wall in order to get a message delivered, and he's able to get dragons air-mailed in with a surprising degree of swiftness. More than a few observers raised their eyebrows at how quickly it all went down.
Turns out, the people in charge of Game of Thrones realize this, and they don't sound like they're all that bothered by it. Director Alan Taylor spoke with Variety on the timeline in "Beyond the Wall," and admits they had to "fudge" some details in order to make the episode come together.
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.
Admitting they have intentionally blurred the timeline, or at the very least, have tried to hand wave issues with it away, is a bit concerning. It got even worse when Taylor continued, as he seemed to excuse the timeline issues with a veiled request to check the ratings.
"It’s cool that the show is so important to so many people that it’s being scrutinized so thoroughly," said Taylor. "If the show was struggling, I’d be worried about those concerns, but the show seems to be doing pretty well so it’s OK to have people with those concerns."
This isn't exactly the right attitude to have about a major concern for many fans of the series. Yes, Thrones fans have a general willingness to suspend belief. But if the number of people who believe your story is starting to suffer as a result of sloppy writing, you probably shouldn't turn around and tell those fans, "Yeah, but have you seen the ratings though?"
A show like Game of Thrones relies on immersion, even if it's filled with fantastical creatures and people. Fans will love it if you continue to add dragon battles and intense sword-fighting scenes, but if the internal logic of the universe falls apart, it takes a decent portion of your fanbase out of the spectacle, and brings their focus toward the holes in the plot.
We're all sure to be entertained by the closing run of Game of Thrones no matter what, but it would be nice if the people in charge would acknowledge and sympathize with concerned members of their audience. They don't have to change anything based on the whims of their fans, but a simple message of, "We hear you," would go a long way, and sound much better than pointing to your audience size.