Spectacle and Grandeur in Game of Thrones


As the penultimate season of game of thrones wrapped up, and we see the white walkers march south, what gripped audiences was the scale of destruction and the size of some of the set pieces in the show. Game of Thrones is perhaps the most ambitious TV Show of all time in regard the size of its set pieces.

Season by season, Game of Thrones morphed from a drama with intricate dialogue, obscure familial back references and whispers in the dark, to a show about physical duels and large monsters. By season 7’s ending, that subtle approach, (although not completely forgotten in the Little Finger and Stark sisters sub plot), has largely waned.

Instead, HBO as a juggernaut production company, showed us some of the greatest battles in TV history and portrayed swathes of characters and armies moving quickly throughout the land, moving from coast to coast within an episode at time, a speed we have not seen up to this point. The show has a lot to fit in, and despite fan complaints about the story overtaking, and often fast-forwarding key plot points, the show handles it well. When the wall drops, and hundreds of thousands of white walkers march onwards, with a blue fire spitting-corpse dragon, flying overhead, are we really complaining? It was handled superbly.

In a behind the scenes video, D.B Weiss one of the show runners tell us: “You start to scrap the history of it, and think how would these things interact with each other, in a way that is exciting and believable”, for them, the show must lose some of it’s calculated plot development, for drama, spectacle and combining characters in volatile ways. I see the key dynamic in game of thrones as being a tug of war. On one end there is feasibility, modesty, ponderous story telling and at the other is the spectacle, magic and entertainment. Surely but slowly the latter end of that dual begins to win out, and the storylines which have been slowly fermenting, finish with bombastic encounters.

I can see why fans are upset with the rapid pacing, and at times, ludicrous amounts circumstantial luck, but at the end it’s worth it. If executed correctly, Game of Thrones will go down as the greatest pay off’s in serialised drama. Almost a decade of plot work, layering characters and motives upon each other, which will all lead to gargantuan battles and furious plot climaxes.

If Game of Thrones teaches us one thing about story telling, it is that if you are patient and characterise and develop plot effectively, the audience are prepared to believe nearly anything.