Go through any literature course, even the sort you get in middle school, and you’ll be introduced to the idea that stories go up and down. There’s the rising action that moves like mountaneers ascending the Matterhorn, the climax somewhere up there on the snowy peak, and then things get wrapped up quickly as the surviving characters come gratefully back to earth.
But with many stories, and Game of Thrones is definitely one of them, the course of the work is better described in terms of scope, or space—of moving out and coming in. Of entropy. For the first five seasons of the show, and for essentially the whole of the work as it exists on paper, the story has been one of characters spreading out. The distance between the people we knew at the opening of the work—those still attached to their heads—has both literally and figuratively grown farther apart. They’ve
only scattered around the globe, they’ve each gone on their own version of the hero’s journey, even though it would take a fair degree of cynicism to describe many of them as heroes.
The narrative has gone out, and out, and out … if the stories told around that point, in both mediums, started to seem like they were running out of air, it’s because they were. The fuel that made things burn in earlier seasons—friendships, conflicts, family—had become so rarefied that it simply couldn’t sustain a nice blaze. In the books, Martin made an attempt to patch over this period of near-vacuum by introducing new characters and plot lines. Most of which, thankfully, we’ve been spared when it comes to the video version.
The separation of characters and the extreme differences between their various experiences also made it more difficult for the multi-viewpoint story to stay in sync. This led to experiences such as that of poor Sam Tarly, who spent the better part of a season crossing a stretch of water—a plot line so devoid of action that the show runners lifted a character death from another section of the story and dropped it onto the boat, just so something would happen. It was painful (and I say this as an author who once purposely got a character lost in a department store, just to kill time).
But, somewhere in the first third of season six, the wind shifted. That long, long outflow began to move inward. Characters who had been apart began rushing toward each other. Consequences of events that had seemed to happen without notice, became obvious. The dead hand of entropy was replaced by the driving force of plot. And now the only problem is that the inrush threatens to become a implosion.