[This article contains spoilers for the Game of Thrones season 6 finale.]
Amid all of the major events that took place in the season 6 finale of Game of Thrones, and in season 6 of the series itself, you may have noticed something else: The characters seemed to move from castle to castle and even continent to continent at surprisingly fast speeds. This happened seemingly everywhere on the show, causing stir on social media after ‘The Winds of Winter‘ had aired, with many people wondering (jokingly) whether or not Varys had somehow developed teleportation abilities, or was somehow a Time Lord.
The examples during the episode are many, as characters seemed to move beyond their previous locations at disturbingly fast speeds that, all joking aside, did raise some serious questions about distance and time in Game of Thrones. For example, Arya Stark, last seen in Braavos, was shown popping up, two episodes later in The Twins in the Riverlands, with no explanation of how she got there — even though the same character’s method of travel to Braavos was a huge plot point a couple of seasons earlier. Meanwhile, Lord Varys was on the boat sailing to Westeros with Daenerys, Tyrion, and the rest of Dany’s closest council — even though the Spider been shown in Dorne — which is in the opposite direction — just a couple of scenes earlier. Additionally, while Lady Olenna was in the Dorne scene as well, talking about the events of the massacre in King’s Landing, Jaime Lannister — who had ridden in from much closer — seemed unaware it had happened until arriving at the Red Keep.
One Game of Thrones writer, Bryan Cogman, addressed these issues in a series of tweets after the finale, and his explanation was, essentially, that the story threads are not necessarily on the same timeline, and that it is simply easier to do it that way.
Oh, one thing since a few people have asked me. The timelines of the various story threads don't necessarily match up all the time.— Bryan Cogman (@b_cogman) June 27, 2016
This is to avoid things like, say, Arya spending four episodes on a boat.— Bryan Cogman (@b_cogman) June 27, 2016
@bartl_bee well, obviously we thought so. cuz we did.— Bryan Cogman (@b_cogman) June 27, 2016
We realized right quick doing so would kill momentum. So there you go. 2/2— Bryan Cogman (@b_cogman) June 27, 2016
Cogman’s explanations are defensible. Game of Thrones is an extremely complex show, one that is difficult to plot, structure, and fit into 10 hours per year, much less produce, even if adapting the books isn’t part of the complexity any longer. And besides, explaining the methods and exact chronology of characters’ travel may serve to avoid such loose ends, but it would also be sort of boring. And if the show had been following Arya on that boat, the great surprise that was her assassination of Walder Frey would have been ruined.
Sure, the Varys move may have initially felt a bit incongruous. But after understanding Cogman’s explanation, the moment likely took place weeks after his meeting in Dorne. And besides, it was probably worth it just for the reveal of Team Khaleesi standing together on that ship.
Game of Thrones will return on HBO in the spring of 2017.