game of thrones timeline

Either Westeros shrank in the past season, or there’s something funny going on with the Game of Thrones timeline. And “Beyond the Wall” director Alan Taylor admits as much.

The sixth episode of season 7 of Game of Thrones featured some implausible travel by foot and by raven, in which Gendry runs to Eastwatch from Jon Snow’s little suicide squad battling White Walkers beyond the Wall, and is able to send a raven to Daenerys in Dragonstone on the other side of the country in less than a day.

For /Film’s own Ben Pearson, “Beyond the Wall” was the moment that Game of Thrones jumped the shark. Its disregard for geography could be brushed off as nitpicking, but considering the geography was such an essential part of the earlier seasons (season 2 had Arya traveling from King’s Landing to the Riverlands for a whopping 10 episodes, and she never even made it!), it feels disingenuous for the series to completely throw that out the window now.

The distance covered by Gendry (on foot) and a messenger raven (by air) in “Beyond the Wall” would have been roughly 1,500-2,000 miles according to journalists and internet sleuths. If Gendry could run at the speed of Usain Bolt and the raven flies at 40mph, it would still take about four days for the message to be delivered to Daenerys in Dragonstone and for her to fly beyond the wall and save the day. But the episode gave viewers the impression that this all took place in one night, not four days. And with the limited resources and freezing cold conditions that Jon and co. were facing on their rock, they would not likely have survived that wait.

Taylor is aware of the criticisms, telling Variety:

“We were aware that timing was getting a little hazy. We’ve got Gendry running back, ravens flying a certain distance, dragons having to fly back a certain distance…In terms of the emotional experience, [Jon and company] sort of spent one dark night on the island in terms of storytelling moments. We tried to hedge it a little bit with the eternal twilight up there north of The Wall. I think there was some effort to fudge the timeline a little bit by not declaring exactly how long we were there. I think that worked for some people, for other people it didn’t. They seemed to be very concerned about how fast a raven can fly but there’s a thing called plausible impossibilities, which is what you try to achieve, rather than impossible plausibilities. So I think we were straining plausibility a little bit, but I hope the story’s momentum carries over some of that stuff.”

Narrative momentum is important to be sure, but there’s a point where you’re sacrificing realism for spectacle, as /Film’s Jacob Hall wrote in his review of “Beyond the Wall.” Both Jacob and Ben previously wrote about season 7’s increased pacing, but this seems to have been the breaking point for many fans.

Indeed, this wasn’t just a problem in “Beyond the Wall” — though it was the most noticeable — but something that recurred throughout the season. Davos fetching Gendry in King’s Landing and taking him to Dragonstone where he joined Jon’s group to reach the Wall all happened in the space of one episode! It’s like every character gained Littlefinger’s mysterious kingdom-hopping abilities (aka a jetpack) from earlier seasons.

Yes, I’m aware how all of this talk can sound like that unladen swallow scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. But Taylor is a Game of Thrones veteran who has been working with the series since season 2, when the characters abided by geographical rules. And if we’re going to talk about “narrative momentum” let’s not even go into Arya and Sansa’s inexplicable animosity (maybe if Game of Thrones hired some female writers we wouldn’t have this mess).

The Game of Thrones season 7 finale premieres on August 27 on HBO.

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