Since its premiere many years ago, 'Game of Thrones' has been a smashing success, captivating viewers across the world with its gritty fantasy setting, stunning sets, costumes, and engrossing story. But as the show races towards its conclusion in the final two seasons, the story has suffered, even as the show itself becomes more exciting to watch. Of course, spoilers up to the most recent episode, Eastwatch [VIDEO], follow.

Rushed Plot

Due to the constraints of a shorter season, it is understandable that the writers would seek to rush through the less important aspects of the plot in order to get to the more exciting, action-packed scenes.

Some of the actors even cautioned viewers about the accelerated pace before the season began. Indeed, many of the criticisms of earlier seasons (and indeed of the later books in the series) were that the show sometimes plodded along too slowly. Despite this, the show has fumbled too far in the other direction, often racing ahead so quickly that characters and plot suffer. Part of the appeal for many viewers of the show was the realism in earlier seasons; characters would have to travel vast distances in order to reach their goals, facing obstacles and dangers and often being changed or killed along the way. The travel in recent seasons has become so inconsistent as to be laughable; Littlefinger somehow arrives at Winterfell with the army of the Vale, thousands of miles away, only several days after being called upon by Sansa; Euron manages to ambush half of Daenerys’ fleet, return to King’s Landing, and then ambush the second half on the other side of the continent even though they had a few days’ head start.

Of course, we can understand that these characters are not literally teleporting, and that the writers have simply decided there is nothing plot-relevant that happens on the road anymore.

But the issue this creates is that the world of ‘Game of Thrones’ loses its sense of space and realism. If the plot-points become inconsistent with the reality of the world in which they are set, the plot becomes non-sensical. Take the example from the recent episode ‘Eastwatch’. Daenerys and her advisors concoct a plan to capture a real wight that they’ve captured from beyond the Wall to prove to Cersei that there is a great and terrible Army of the Dead marching on the Seven Kingdoms, in order for the two queens to cease hostilities and fight the more existential threat from the north. Beyond the other obvious problems with this terrible plan, the rushed nature of the season completely ignores how much time it would take for all of this to happen. The journey from Dragonstone to the Wall would likely be at least a month and probably more due to winter weather, the mission to capture a single wight and escape would take weeks, and the journey back would again be a long trip.

Indeed, in order to achieve their aims of not having to fight two wars at the same time, it would be far quicker to simply capture King’s Landing in the time it would take to do all of this, as the show has established multiple times that Daenerys could easily win the war with a simple conquest if she wished. The characters give reasons for why this would be inadvisable, but they are unconvincing, as I shall discuss below.

Consequences

Part of what made ‘Game of Thrones’ so thrilling were the realistic consequences of the decisions made by the characters. While viewers were always shocked when a beloved character perished, there was always a reason for their deaths, usually caused inadvertently by their own actions and flaws. Ned, the honorable soldier, could not navigate the politics of King’s Landing. Robb betrayed a promise in favor of love, and his enemies took advantage of this mistake. Tywin mistreated his son and sentenced him to execution, and paid the price when Tyrion escaped. Joffrey acted like an unpredictable lunatic and was poisoned by one of his many enemies. The point is that these characters made decisions and faced realistic consequences for their actions.

But characters recently have not had to pay for their mistakes. Instead, the writers, who can no longer rely on the books for material, have created situations in which terrible things happen for non-sensical reasons. Ramsay Bolton easily defeats Stannis Baratheon by sending a dozen or so raiders into his camp, unseen, who manage to burn a substantial amount of his supplies. It is never shown how this happens; we are only told that the villain succeeded. Ramsay himself is defeated, not by being outsmarted or by being betrayed, which would make sense considering how many enemies he should have made with his wanton brutality, but instead is defeated by a Rohan-esque charge from the Knights of the Vale who, as mentioned, could not possibly have arrived in time if they had been obeying the rules of the world in which they exist. When Joffrey died, we saw how it was not only the heroes but the villains too who suffered the consequences of their actions. Ramsay avoided the consequences of his actions for several seasons, blatantly murdering and betraying those around him, with no hint of dissent in the ranks. When Robb broke a promise to Walder Frey to marry his daughter, he was killed for it. The rule of consequences cannot apply only to the good guys and ignore the bad.

Viewers were not attracted to ‘Game of Thrones’ because it killed people for fun, they were attracted because the world felt realistic; the story followed naturally from the decisions characters made. Jaime was captured in Season 1 when Robb Stark outsmarted him on the battlefield; in Season 7, he charges Daenerys and is pushed into the water by Bronn, in full armour, and somehow is pulled across the lake without being captured by Daenerys’ soldiers, who had full control of the battlefield at that point. Jaime suffers the consequences of events in Season 1, in Season 3 when he loses his hand, yet manages to escape completely unscathed from the consequences of charging at the Dragon Queen.

Perhaps the most frustrating example is Cersei. At the end of the last season, she blew up the Sept of Baelor and all her enemies, taking the throne not through right but through the fear her actions caused. It was bold, terrifying, and should have had hundreds of consequences for Cersei and King’s Landing. But it seems, other than the death of Tommen, she has lost nothing. The people of King’s Landing, many of whom had become ardent supporters of the High Sparrow, who had jeered and mocked Cersei months before as she walked naked through their streets in shame, now quietly seem to accept her rule. This in itself is not strange; fear will keep people in line. But this action means that no one should ever trust Cersei again; certainly not Tyrion, who knew his sister well enough before but now advises Daenerys that they should attempt a truce with Cersei. Moreover, we see a double standard appear, where Daenerys is told that burning down the Red Keep with Cersei in it will hurt her chances at being a ruler as the people will never forgive her, yet Cersei destroyed their place of worship, their friends and their family and has faced no repercussions for her actions. These inconsistencies, plot holes, and the lack of consequences some characters face have made the show feel less real.

In short, the writers are more interested in the epic scenes of battles or deaths than whether those scenes make any logical sense or have any realistic consequences for the characters. And the show suffers due to this because events no longer feel consistent with the world which we have become familiar with. Do not misunderstand, ‘Game of Thrones’ is still Fantastic television. But the story has suffered in the writers’ mad dash to reach the end.