Document Type


Publication Date



More than fifty over five complete seasons. Five books, thousands of pages. Seven kingdoms, seven hells, one Lord of Light, and one true king, and upwards of two hundred characters! Describing the Game of Thrones series as “epic” is an understatement. If you haven’t read George R. R. Martin’s series, A Song of Ice and Fire, or if you haven’t seen the very successful and critically acclaimed HBO television series, you may not know that each episode of Game of Thrones, like those novels, is comprised of a series of vignettes that focus on a particular character, charting each individual’s narrative journey in short bursts. While serialized, character-based storytelling is far from new, the epic scale of Game of Thrones balloons this method to new levels. The series comes to follow over thirty major characters and include over two hundred minor characters over the five seasons and five books…which are soon to be six and seven books, and who knows how many additional viewing seasons. While the television program’s creators, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, should be lauded for their attention to maintaining Martin’s written narrative style in a genre that has seen its share of paltry screen adaptations, the program’s storytelling, like the novels, fragments character and plot development. By the time viewers are midway through Season 1, which focuses mainly on the Stark family, there are already too many major characters to get “everyone” into a single, one-hour episode, and this practice continues (and snowballs) as the show progresses and more characters and complexities are added to the narrative. What are the effects of these fragmentary narrative characteristics for viewers, and what might their purpose be?


Originally presented at the Popular Culture Association of America Annual Conference in New Orleans, April 4, 2015.