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Season Seven Of Game Of Thrones Stretches Believability To Breaking Point

Having watched the final episode of season seven in the Game of Thrones television series, I wonder if I am the only viewer struck by the irony that the closer the show moves to its explicit fantasy origins the less credible it becomes. While the typical tropes of the literary genre, magical events and creatures, may sit comfortably in the reader’s imagination, if you dramatise them on a TV screen… Well, plausibility takes a denting, even within the rules of the secondary universe as established by the show. Undoubtedly, GofT works best when it plays as a sort of revisionist Shakespeare in the Park, complete with modern language and sensibilities. And the odd bit of jiggy jiggy, as they say in certain parts of the country.

The latest episode, “The Dragon and the Wolf”, though impressive in some ways, did manage to stretch believability – and the special effects budget – to breaking point. A flying zombie-dragon shooting blue fire to bring down a gigantic, artificial wall of ice, while a Ray Harryhausen army of animated corpses looks on comes perilously close to parody. Of course, season five contained a similar episode, “Hardhome”, where a host of undead warriors attacked a snowbound harbour-town, but that one worked, giving us some of the best scenes in the programme so far. It is a balancing act, then, and perhaps a matter of personal taste too. But if things go awry the whole thing can look very silly indeed. When it comes to portraying the unnatural or the unlikely in genre movies or television shows, you should always follow the golden rule: less is more.


4 comments on “Season Seven Of Game Of Thrones Stretches Believability To Breaking Point

  1. Joe F Keenan

    One of Tolkien’s more salient points regarding the creation of a secondary world was, “Do not point out of the secondary world (the created world of the storyteller), back to the primary world (the real world).” Since, GRRM prides himself on being the Anti-Tolkien, I guess it logically follows that he would pride himself on pointing out of the secondary world to the primary. Reactionary thought not being all that creative, creativity thus suffers. Dropping F Bombs (know some tough guys, they don’t like people cursing in front of them, or their women), colloquial expressions, they all work to destroy the secondary world. GRRM destroyed his secondary world, which since he is Anti-Tolkien, I guess he was working for from the very beginning. That is his success.


    • One of the things I always liked about Tolkien was that on one level the magic/fantasy was almost an irrelevancy – people got on with their lives, it might have little or no impact at all (even if it was a framework within which that universe existed) – indeed it was almost a narrative virtue, the quiet life was what Tolkien seemed to value above all else and the rest, the wars, the evil, was a sort of massive disruption of that which was taken on unwillingly. Granted there were different ‘races/species’ but bar the Elves they seemed largely unimpacted by magic too. Hobbits, men, dwarves managed to get by. And largely there was a coherency to it all. I suppose for GRRM it’s the opposite, there is no quiet life in GOT – everyone is always being pushed around by someone else.

      I’ve always felt that GOT’s fantastical elements seem pasted onto the narrative in some way. Moreover they don’t feel entirely cohesive. When I see the dragons I want to get back to the politics. 😦


      • Yes, when you think about it, in the Lord of the Rings the “magic” is relatively subdued or low key. There are magical beings, wraiths, elves, and so on, and magical objects, the ring most obviously, but explicit acts of magic are relatively rare. Gandalf heats the ring in Frodo’s sitting room fire to bring forth the inscribed writing, a very domestic setting.

        Most magic stems from objects imbued with power, such as the ring, the sword Sting, or the Palantír of Orthanc. They are mediums for the supernatural, like Gandalf’s staff, or invested with it, like the Ring of Doom.


    • I agree. The modern day American slang, which creeps in every now and again, is jarring. Whether read or heard, given the pseudo-Medieval setting, it knocks you out of the story. Tolkien had a better ear for this, keeping the language simple, not archaic as such but not obviously modern either.


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