Ever since it was announced the seventh and eighth seasons of Game of Thrones would close out the series with seven and six episodes respectively, there has been a mix of excitement and concern in the fandom about what this could mean. On the one hand, it means there will be more of a budget for each episode, which will surely reflect on our screens… Yet, on the other hand, this change could also make the story feel rushed.
Indeed, those of us who have closely followed the production of season seven are convinced a change in pacing is coming. There is no doubt about that. But is it because of these shorter seasons? That has been the assumption, but apparently that may not be the case after all, according to two main cast members and the writers for the show.
“I’m like, ‘Already? Now?! What?!’,” Nikolaj Coster-Waldau told Hibberd, mimicking his reaction to reading the scripts for this season. “I feel like I’d been lulled into a different pace. Everything happened quicker than I’m used to.” If there is any doubt about the Kingslayer’s words, the following should make for a shocking realization: “A lot of things that normally take a season now take one episode.” That is a big change!
“A lot of stuff collides and happens much much quicker than you’re used to seeing on Thrones,” concurred Kit Harington. “It’s so different than what everybody is used to. It’s quite exciting.” Why the change? According to the actor who plays Jon Snow, season seven “is really different than any other season because it’s accelerating toward the end.”
The understanding that we are firmly heading to the end of this story appears to be key. It’s not that they suddenly decided to speed up the pace of this narrative for the sake of it, or because there are fewer episodes in which to cram the plot. According to showrunner and writer D.B. Weiss, if things are moving faster is “because in the world of these characters the war that they’ve been waiting for is upon them [and that gives] them a sense of urgency that makes [the characters] move faster.” Co-showrunner David Benioff followed on from his writing companion’s words: “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.”
Or, as co-executive producer and writer Bryan Cogman put it: “There are White Walkers and dragons and once they start to come together the story has to go where it goes.”
The end of Game of Thrones approaches, and that may be quite sad for many of us. But, if the story we have been watching for seven years now has a planned ending, I’d rather watch that than something I love being stretched out into something unrecognizable. Each act of a story has a different rhythm, and Game of Thrones is no different just because it’s so sprawling: as middle chapters of George R.R. Martin‘s septology, A Feast For Crows and A Dance of Dragons were slower books, which was also reflected in season five. But now is the time for the third act! The fact that there will be a quicker pace with more action and a convergent plot focused on fewer key characters doesn’t mean the story is being dumbed down or rushed — it means it’s heading to a climax.