Yes, ‘Game of Thrones’ Has Always Been This Slow (A Midseason Review)
[WARNING: Spoilers for all seasons of Game of Thrones are ahead.]
For whatever reason, the latest season of Game of Thrones has come under some serious scrutiny from even the most diehard of fans. Many have argued that it feels as though the show is spinning its wheels, and that the story has come to a grinding halt. Until very recently, much of what we’ve seen has been a series of pointed conversations, poor decisions, and slow maneuvering.
The unfortunate side effect of this: The more this feeling builds up, the more the stakes build for each episode. Each week that goes by without a major event is one that frustrates even more. All this would be upsetting, though, if this wasn’t exactly what made Game of Thrones the show it is.
Part of the beauty of the show is the way it follows the deliberate storytelling structure of its source material. Because it’s for TV and not a 700-page novel, it even moves faster the books (albeit not by much). In order for the major plot twists to carry any weight, they have to feel earned. The major sacrifice this makes is a feeling that the first half of the season drags. Here in Season 5, we’ve seen the same strategy employed, but for whatever reason, many fans are complaining like this hasn’t been the case over the entire run of the series.
So let’s first answer the question: Is this season of Game of Thrones slower than the previous four? Let’s take a look at where we were at this point in Season 1: Ned Stark was sitting in small council meetings, Bran is sitting in bed being sad, Jon is learning just how boring living at the Wall can be, and there’s a tournament. Admittedly, things ramp up a little faster to establish the characters in their inaugural season, but for the most part, the point is proven there at least. So, on to Season 2.
Four episodes into the second season, the Night’s Watch was holed up in Craster’s Keep, Catelyn Stark was trying to get Renly and Stannis to negotiate peace terms, Theon Greyjoy returned to the Iron Islands to find out his family is super mean, and Tyrion plays a game of telephone with potential suitors for Cersei’s daughter Myrcella. Not exactly The Avengers in terms of action and intrigue. Lest we forget, the season ended with the climactic Battle of Blackwater. But as we’re seeing once again, the first half of episodes crawled along on their merry way.
Seasons 3 and 4 tell a similar story, being based out of the third Song of Fire and Ice book, arguably the most exciting of the series in terms of major events (that one book included the death of both Joffrey Baratheon and Tywin Lannister, the Red Wedding and subsequent death of pretty much all the Starks, and Jaime Lannister getting his hand lopped off by the Boltons). Season 5 deals in the fourth and fifth books, and stories that deal with the aftermath of major power shifts in Westeros following a whole lot of death and destruction.
If anything, the current season of Game of Thrones has taken liberties to leapfrog the slower movements of the novels. We’ve already seen in set photos that Tyrion makes his way to Daenerys, something that leaves out a whole backstory of sidetracking adventures that had originally impeded the Imp on his journey. The covert buddy trip of Bronn and Jaime to Dorne further beefs up two roles that at this point hadn’t gotten nearly this far in their character development.
Basically, we really we should be grateful Season 5 is moving as quickly as it has been — it could have been far worse had they kept closely to the books. Now that we’re coming into the halfway point in the season, we can rest assured knowing that things will begin to heat up, as they always have to this juncture in the series.
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