‘Game of Thrones’ to tackle tough balance in Season 7

Max Molski

The Stark’s “Winter is Coming” mantra has taken its own meaning when it comes to “Game of Thrones’” longevity. Sunday’s premiere is the debut for the penultimate season, one slated with seven episodes compared to the 10 that make up its six predecessors.

“Game of Thrones’” final season will be even shorter at six episodes. Newsweek, among other outlets, have reported that these episodes could be feature-length epics. If the show take the Sherlock approach with hour-and-a-half long episodes, viewers will almost get as much footage as a typical season. The show’s watch is nearing its end, though, and the showrunners must budget out “Game of Thrones’” remaining lifespan.

Cast members have discussed a ramped-up pace to accompany the show’s shorter seasons. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays Jaime Lannister, says things that could have taken a season to develop come around in a single episode. This means that fans’ head will be on a swivel, but there is a fine line between fast and rushed.

Thrones has been meticulous in its character development. The amount of airtime someone earns gives the audience an idea of how important he or she is. This dynamic is what made the deaths of Ned, Catelyn and Robb Stark so heart-wrenching and shocking after the show crafted them as main characters. It is also what gives audience members the sense that characters like Arya Stark, Bran Stark, Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen have some greater purpose. All four have been mostly separated from the rest of the “Game of Thrones” universe, particularly King’s Landing. Viewers have the sense that these characters will accomplish and conquer since they have been built up since the beginning of the show.

It is not enough for these characters to simply meet their initial destiny, either. A Stark reunion seems imminent, but viewers would feel robbed if the show culminated with it. They want to see Ned and Catelyn’s (and Rhaegar and Lyanna’s) children team up and take on their enemies.

The line is even thinner with Daenerys. It has taken six seasons for her to reach Westeros. It would seem rushed for her to sit upon the Iron Throne in, say, the fourth episode of this season, but she will not have any time to rule if it takes her too long to reach the capital.

There are other reunions that fans are looking to drive “Game of Thrones’” final stretch. Tyrion Lannister has unfinished business with his siblings, Jaime and Cersei. Yara and Theon Greyjoy can expect a fiery visit from their Uncle Euron after they shipped off with his fleet. Sandor Clegane is still kicking it, too, and viewers are still eagerly awaiting a Cleganebowl duel between he and his brother, Ser Gregor.

Oh, and there is also an army unlike any other chilling above the wall. The Whitewalkers have been in the show since the pilot’s opening scene. Jon is not capable of stopping them by himself, so the show needs to find a way to introduce other main characters to the impending threat and leave enough time for them to square off.

“Game of Thrones” is as great as any show in television history in keeping viewers on the edge of their seats. Now that there is a finite ending in sight, though, viewers have expectations that certain loose ends tied. The stage is set when it comes to characters’ concluding objectives and the capabilities of the show’s war scenes. Fans are prepared for certain character get-togethers and more monumental battles, but also want twists for shock factor.

“Game of Thrones” has several tightropes to maneuver to appease its audience, but it is as proven and capable of any program in the history of television to seal the deal.