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You Can Actually Measure How Bad the Writing Became on "Game of Thrones"



HBO's Game of Thrones may be over, for better or worse, but the post-mortems are still going strong. And while the last episode has left fans and critics split between the two major camps of "That Sucked" and "Eh, It Was Fine," there is a pretty broad consensus that at the time of the final season came around, the quality of the show's writing had definitely deteriorated

And it turns out that's not just a critical critique: it's quantifiable. According to data from OpenSubtitles.org, the rate of words per minute declined sharply and steadily over the course of the whole show, from a high of 70 words per minute in the first season to a low of 1

0 in the last. Vanity Fair writer Joanna Robinson shared a graph on Twitter:

Now, by itself this is not necessarily the mark of bad storytelling. The world of Game of Thrones has a lot of complicated politics that the audience needs to understand from the very beginning. While author George R.R. Martin can write that history into the narrative, for a TV show the only way to deliver that exposition is to have characters just, well, say it. Sometimes that makes dialogue clunky and not believable, like when King Robert is explaining to Ned in the very first episode all the reasons he trusts and battles they've fought together — things that, presumably, Ned is already aware of but the audience isn't. It's also important to consider how the show's success as it goes, meant that even more money could go into its spectacle. Before the last few seasons, most of the action of major battles happened off-screen, and the show's lowest point for spoken words came during "The Long Night," which was an episode-long battle.

But even accounting for that , the last couple seasons were filled with rapid-fire plot developments without much connective tissue. The ratio of scenes with characters things versus scenes with characters plotting to do those things, or discussing their aftermath, got super lopsided. And it culminates in the final episode, with long, lingering silent shots of the Starks and other survivors sailing, riding, or sitting down to their fates.


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