Game of Thrones Season 6 is going to venture into uncharted territory when it premieres in April, because to nobody’s surprise, many more seasons will pass in Westeros before Winds of Winter finally comes. This could be reason for panic — after all, the writers don’t have the best track record when they’re inventing their own dialogue. But a cast member making an unlikely comparison to Inception gives us reason for hope.
Isaac Hempstead-Wright plays Bran, a.k.a. That Stark You Forgot About Because He Spent Season 5 in the Show’s Pool of Abandoned Plots (along with Gendry and Beric Dondarrion). Well, he’s back, and he offered some interesting tidbits in a recent interview: Namely, that there’s a reason the teaser for Season 6 looks more dreamlike than usual, and it’s not just to conceal Jon Snow’s clear non-death.
Wright told Entertainment Weekly,
“Previously Bran’s seen tiny glimpses of future or past but never has he been very much in control in the situation. Now we’re given looks into very important events in the past, present and future of this world and Bran is beginning to piece them together like a detective, almost as if he’s watching the show. Equally, he’s now discovering how crucial he could be in the Great War. It’s quite Inception-y.”
Game of Thrones meets Inception might sound like it’s jumping the shark, but this is actually the best news we could get. Think about it: What show that makes it to six-plus seasons is able to keep from growing stale? Supernatural is a joke past its fifth season; Sons of Anarchy’s writers forgot how to write after its third season; every Dexter fan tells late-adopting viewers to quit after its fourth season; True Blood lost its sense of fun halfway through its run; and even Boardwalk Empire started wearing itself out.
Still in its prime, we hope, Game of Thrones arguably has veered into the plight of long-running shows, as last season was one of its worst received, even though it contained one of its all-time best episodes. Season 5 caught a lot of flack for its gore and rape, even though Seasons 3 and 4 were actually higher in both counts. But we’re not here to berate all the people who dramatically announced they were quitting Game of Thrones after it went and shockingly did the same thing it’s been doing for five years, only less graphically. We’ll just let Arya side-eye them.
The fact remains that Game of Thrones is going to be at least an eight-season show and it’s flirting with the age at which long-running shows go stale. Traditionally, it has shied away from flashbacks or dream sequences — with the exception of that heartrending Khal Drogo dream-vision Daenerys has in Season 2 and the brief Cersei flashback at the beginning of Season 5. Both were solidly done and enriched the narrative.
Now more than ever, the narrative is traveling to a place where it’s impossible to ignore the past — to keep doing so would be a disservice to the show. Especially if Jon is going to return, we need to know what the deal is with Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. And merely hearing the story through a monologue while naked people gyrate in the background won’t cut it, alas — we need to see it in real-time. Bran’s words signify that David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are aware of this and won’t fall into the folly of too many long-running shows. If Game of Thrones is going to proceed for several more seasons, its narrative engine needs to be firing on all cylinders. Flashbacks and flash-futures are creatively rich spaces.
If a long-running show wishes to maintain quality, a show must continue transforming itself.