‘Game of Thrones’: 5 Ways HBO Could Make the Show Better

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys in Game of Thrones
Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones | HBO

Game of Thrones is one of the most popular TV shows ever created — but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. In its time on HBO, the series has been criticized for everything from its brutal use of violence to its treatment of women. And just like with any series, it’s had its share of clunkers when it comes to both characters and storylines. With the show greenlit for two more seasons, many fans are already speculating about the series’ future. But as we wonder which characters will survive the coming episodes, there’s still room to take a bigger look at how to improve the series’ shortcomings. Here are five things the GoT creative team could consider doing if they want to make Season 7 the best yet.

Warning: Spoilers ahead for all seasons of Game of Thrones!

1. Let the dead stay dead

Jon Snow (Kit Harington) comes back to life in a scene from Game of Thrones sixth season.
Game of Thrones’ Jon Snow | HBO

We were shocked and horrified when Jon Snow died at the hands of Alliser and his Nights Watch cronies. We spent months mourning his loss and simultaneously trying to figure out ways in which he could come back. So while many fans breathed a sigh of relief when Melisandre brought Jon Snow (Kit Harington) back from the dead, his return to the land of the living was one of the worst-kept secrets in TV history.

And Jon Snow isn’t the only Game of Thrones character to become recently un-dead; both the Hound and Benjen Stark have made surprise returns after we assumed they had perished. These narrative twists serve a purpose, yes. But they also undermine the emotional impact of watching beloved characters die. And they condition us to be wary anytime a new character bites the dust; so when the Waif stabs Arya, we don’t panic at the prospect of her loss, we roll our eyes and say, “There’s no way they’re going to kill her.” If Game of Thrones‘ creative team wants us to stay invested in characters’ survival, they’ll need to re-examine how they’re handling death and revival from now on.

2. Let characters without anything to do take a break

Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) in 'Game of Thrones'
Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen | HBO

The wide range of fascinating characters has been a key component of Game of Thrones‘ success. But that doesn’t mean we need to know what all of them are doing all the time. Maintaining suspense and keeping viewers interested has to involve propelling a story forward, even when it’s balanced against other plot lines. Game of Thrones has a hard time with that. Fans have consistently complained that some story lines — like Daenerys’s quest to become a worthy ruler, or poor Theon’s time as Ramsey’s captor — have been far too drawn out. We learned, with Bran and Hodor’s absence in Season 5, that it’s possible to lose track of characters for a while and still care about them when they come back. It would make more sense, especially at this point, to condense some of the story threads — even if it means not seeing Tyrion or Jon Snow for an episode or two.

3. Tell smarter stories

The Waif stabs Arya Stark in a scene from 'Game of Thrones'
Arya Stark in Game of Thrones | HBO

One of the best things about Game of Thrones is that its core cast of characters is exceedingly savvy; whether they’re trying to worm their way out of a life-or-death situation, or simply putting pieces in play for an elaborate political scheme, the men and women of Westeros know what they’re doing. At least, most of the time. Some of the characters we’ve admired for this very reason are doing some pretty stupid things — so much so that it calls the plausibility of their decisions into question.

Was Stannis seriously unprincipled enough to kill his own daughter at Melisandre’s bequest? Does anyone really believe that Arya would be so stupid as to walk around Braavos completely in the open when she knew she had a target on her back? We know that these characters are smarter than that — so it feels like we’re being cheated when they make such egregious mistakes.

4. Shake up the narrative

The 'Game of Thrones' title sequence showcasing Winterfell
Game of Thrones opening credits | HBO

For six seasons, Game of Thrones has told its stories using a solid and consistent formula. Each episode features vignettes that take us through the Seven Kingdoms, checking in with a handful of the characters on their various adventures. And it works, yes. But in some ways, it’s led to a narrative structure that bows to creative complacency.

Think back to some of the most exciting GoT episodes so far; they often end up mixing the formula up considerably. Season 2’s “Blackwater” focused entirely on one location; Season 4’s “The Watchers on the Wall” did the same. More recently, Season 6’s “The Broken Man” switched up the pace a bit, spreading out segments in smaller pieces throughout the episode. To avoid the tedium that builds up from time to time, why not play around with the narrative structure of the series? Give us another chance to spend an entire episode with a single character or group; offer up a whole hour worth of flashbacks. It would be a bold choice, but one that could serve to reinvigorate the series and keep fans on their toes.

5. Give the fans more moments worth savoring

Jon Snow and Sansa Stark reunite in Game of Thrones Season 6
Jon and Sansa finally reunited | HBO

No series should bow to the whim of its fans — that’s for sure. And we’re not saying that Game of Thrones should change from a high-stakes political fantasy to a feel-good comedy. But the series is at its best, without question, when it delivers moments that make us feel something. Whether it’s Brienne and Jamie confessing their sins to one another, Joffrey getting his due, or Jon Snow and Sansa finally reuniting, these scenes remind us why we watch in the first place.

We haven’t stuck with Game of Thrones for six years because we want to see dragons (well OK, maybe sometimes), or because we enjoy watching characters suffer with seemingly no end in sight. We’ve stayed because we care deeply about the characters and what will happen to them. It’s what made the Red Wedding and “Hold the door” instantly unforgettable moments in television history. Sometimes these moments are hard to find, with the challenge of keeping track of so many characters and the challenge of translating George R. R. Martin’s vision to the screen. But they’re still an integral part of Game of Thrones‘ success — and one we’d love to see more of as the series progresses.

Follow Katherine Webb on Twitter @prufrox.

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