In Game of Thrones, movement is life. If you linger too long in the Sept of Baelor, for instance, chances are you won’t be around long enough for afternoon prayer. That’s why many of the characters in Westeros are constantly in transit, traversing from the North to the Riverlands or sailing across the Narrow Sea to hang out with Daenerys in Meereen.
Some of these characters must have their own private Hyperloops, because damn do they move fast! In the course of a single episode, people without access to working electricity or battery power can trek the length of an entire continent the size of South America and still discuss medieval politics in excruciating detail. We’re surprised the entire show isn’t just people sweating and hyperventilating all the time.
One of the showrunners just recently addressed this issue. Writer Bryan Cogman told Entertainment Weekly:
"The timelines between the various storylines don’t necessarily line up within a given episode. For instance, the ‘Northern Tour’ Jon and Sansa embark on would probably take a couple weeks, but Arya’s storyline over the past few episodes only spans a few days. We realized a while ago that if we tied ourselves in knots trying to make all the ‘story days’ line up between all the characters the momentum would suffer."
However, Winteriscoming.net makes a valid counterpoint: because of how the show is edited, it feels as if all the storylines are happening at the same pace. But a counterpoint to that counterpoint: we're not that interested in seeing people set up camp for the night along the Kingsroad, so it’s certainly a smart editing move. Traveling is tedious, and there are only so many precious minutes available per episode.
Still, since we witnessed many knee-aching journeys this season, we decided to break down the characters’ travels in terms of plausibility. Inspired by one of my favorite interactive tools on the web, the Interactive Game of Thrones Map with Spoiler Control, we’ve chronicled the paths of many prominent characters in season six and rated them on a believability scale from 1 to 10: from "We live in a magical realm of teleportation" to "Dragons aren't real, magic is fake, and fun is for children."
Greyjoys go to Meereen
Kaitlyn: Theon leaves the outskirts of Winterfell in episode two. By episode four, he is at Pyke. Pyke is on an island. So I ask: Where did Theon — who was very recently "Reek," who had and still has absolutely no money and barely even half of a Yeezy sweater to his name — get a boat?
Yara and Theon leave the Iron Islands with most of the Iron Fleet in episode six — Theon gets some boats, finally. By episode seven, they’re hanging out in a brothel in what appears to be the Free City of Volantis. This means they sailed around the entire continent of Westeros in one episode. I know they’re pirates, but there’s only so much that a "what is dead may never die" can-do attitude can really do before basic physics thwart you.
In episode nine, the siblings sail into Meereen, either while there’s a battle going on in the harbor or immediately after. This seems… risky? They team up with Daenerys, who didn’t barbecue them in the water because she was having some well-earned me-time and changing into her Hogwarts robes. Phew!
One episode later, the fleet they’ve decided to build together is complete, and it’s been decorated with hundreds of hand-painted Targaryen sails. I would give the whole crew a 0 for believability (yes, I see you, Martell and Tyrell ships from where in the hell), but the shot of Team Dany finally zooming towards Westeros is incredible so everyone involved gets a free pass.
Believability Score: 1
Jon and Sansa’s tour of the North
Loren: For most of season six, Jon and Sansa pretty much just stick to the North, which makes their travels more believable than most. We meet up with Sansa right outside Winterfell in episode one, where she is conveniently saved by Brienne who must have some kind of Stark homing beacon. They decide to go north to meet up with Jon, but don’t reach Castle Black until episode four. That seems like a decent amount of time to cover a relatively short patch of land, though it is cold up there, which probably would have slowed their progress. Maybe there’s still some lingering global warming leftover from the burning of Shireen.
The part where Jon and Sansa’s journey makes a little less sense is when they go on an impressive field trip to meet up with the former Stark bannermen. All in a single episode, the pair go from Castle Black, across the water to Bear Island, then to Deepwood Motte. Remember, the North is the largest kingdom of the Seven Kingdoms. How are they not exhausted? Pretty sure Jon Snow would not be showing that amount of stamina at the Battle of the Bastards given all the blisters on his feet — and the whole living dead thing.
Believability Score: 7
Arya finally goes back to Westeros
Loren: After two seasons of training montages, Arya finally makes it back to Westeros to exact some super satisfying revenge on House Frey. That revenge was also served up super quick. Arya tells Jaqen that she’s outie in episode 8, then manages to find passage across the Narrow Sea and trek across the Neck to the Twins all in episode 9. To be fair, she's an assassin now, so she probably has some special powers of persuasion that help her acquire boats and horses. Also, she did grab a face or two on her way out the black-and-white door, which is going to be super helpful on her tour-de-revenge of Westeros.
But let’s also remember that Arya was STABBED IN THE GUT REPEATEDLY just a few episodes prior. I pretty much don’t leave my apartment when I have a stomachache, so I’m impressed with Arya’s fortitude. Then again, getting stabbed didn’t seem to deter her from doing somersaults throughout the streets of Braavos. Perhaps I need to get my prescriptions from the Faceless Men.
Seeing Walder Frey get his comeuppance was unbelievably fulfilling, though, and it helped to ease the pain of just losing Margaery, so I can’t complain too much about Arya’s rapid Westeros return.
Believability Score: 5
Sam and Gilly go to Oldtown
Kaitlyn: We check in with Sam and Gilly on a boat southbound from Eastwatch-by-the-Sea in episode three. Sam is yakking, and Little Sam is large now, which indicates that they’ve been on the boat for a while already. They arrive at Horn Hill in episode six, which isn’t the most reasonable or the most unreasonable thing I’ve heard today. They had to circle a continent, so the odds were against them, but the odds are always against these crazy kids and they’re scrappy. (I have such nice dreams of them in the series finale, relaxing to a Paul Simon song and holding hands while Little Sam teeters around a moor.) The frequency with which Sam brings up his White Walker slaying may be a little much, but it actually is Very Impressive and so is he!
Perhaps more exceptionally, it takes them four episodes to get from Horn Hill to Oldtown, two towns which are at least on the same side of the continent and actually extremely close together. Sam stole a very angry man’s prized possession and then skipped town, but he honestly didn’t skip far enough. Also, he said where he was going. I don’t know, I wouldn’t sign up for this road trip.
Believability Score: 6
Sand Snakes’ quick jaunt to King’s Landing
Loren: Look, I understand that most of the Sand Snakes’ journey happened in the nexus between season five and seasons six, but I feel like the absurdity of their trip to King’s Landing needs to be addressed here. At the end of season five, the four ladies of Dorne watch from the shore of Sunspear as the doomed Myrcella sails away with Jamie and Trystane. But Obara and Nymeria must have immediately hopped on the Acela Express right after that, because they somehow catch up with that boat as soon as it gets to King’s Landing. Thank goodness they did so that we could hear the Sand Snakes make jokes about killing their cousin.
Believability Score: 3
Jaime tours the Riverlands
Kaitlyn: Jaime arrives in King’s Landing with Dead Myrcella in episode one. What he does between then and episode six is an utter mystery to me, but after pissing off little Tommen Baratheon he is finally told to get to stepping.
He leaves for Riverrun, a beautiful law enforcement agent in a golden suit. In episode seven, he arrives at Riverrun. This is reasonable, because he has a horse (unlike many of our participants) and because Riverrun is a cute kitty corner from King’s Landing. After doing almost nothing for three episodes, Jaime leaves Riverrun in the middle of episode 10, and arrives back in King’s Landing at the end of episode 10. I’m docking two believability points here because there was no real reason for Jaime to hurry like that. He thought everything was cool as a cucumber throughout the realm. He definitely stopped at a farmer’s market or had a nice day trip to Tumbler’s Falls with Bronn. Since when does Jaime try this hard? I don’t 100 percent buy it, even though it falls comfortably under the "physically possible" umbrella.
Believability Score: 8
Sensible Brienne is sensible
Kaitlyn: Brienne, the voice of reason as ever, took very logical trips throughout the Seven Kingdoms this season. She found Sansa outside of Winterfell in episode one, and travelled with her to the Wall — a trip which spanned a respectable three episodes. She and Sansa took a quick jaunt to Mole’s Town to meet with Littlefinger, making it there and back in one episode, which also makes sense. Please think of Mole’s Town as Gotham to The Wall’s Metropolis. Thank you.
In episode five, Brienne leaves the Wall, and in episode eight, she arrives in Riverrun. She rode quickly, but she did not use a wormhole to cut through time and space. Brienne’s dedication to doing impressive but humanly possible tasks is truly admirable. She leaves Riverrun at the end of episode eight, and we don’t see her again for the rest of the season because she’s in a rowboat and she doesn’t expect to get anywhere relevant to the plot. Bless you Brienne, you good and normal horsewoman.
Believability Score: 10
Varys goes to Dorne then… back to Meereen?
Loren: This has to be my favorite character journey of the entire series. Varys, as we know, has been chilling in Meereen, helping with the one-liners since Tyrion has been struggling with his lately. In episode 8, the buddy cop duo split up when Varys goes on a secret mission to help boost Dany’s polling numbers. Sometime prior to episode 10, Varys makes it to Sunspear in Dorne via ship to secure an alliance with the Sand Snakes and Lady Olenna. I guess that’s not so crazy, seeing as how Sunspear is the closest Westeros city to Meereen, so I’ll give it an initial pass.
But what is crazy are all of his next moves. Just within episode 10, Varys manages to wrangle up a bunch of Dornish ships, travel back to Meereen, and then sail out again with the rest of Daenarys’ fleet. Perhaps Westeros has finally entered its version of the industrial revolution and equipped all the boats with motorized propellers! Evidence:
Believability Score: -5
Daenerys' field trip to a renowned historical site
Loren: Dany started off this season already in transit with the Dothraki, since Drogon couldn’t be bothered to intervene when an approaching horde showed up to kidnap his mom. The horse lords then take her to Vaes Dothrak, which is pretty far from Meereen. But Dany was probably already pretty far out herself thanks to air travel by dragon. Plus the Dothraki don’t reach their sacred city until episode three, which seems like a fairly reasonable travel time to me.
After redoing her fiery party trick (you’d think surviving an inferno once was enough to impress people), Dany finally leaves in episode six with some new buddies. Oh and Drogon is conveniently back to speed things up! Our queen makes it back to the great pyramid by episode eight, which is not only reasonable, but maybe even a little slow? I feel like Dragons are the Airbuses of Essos. Sure they’re great for smiting your enemies, but I bet they’re also perfect for quickly taking you to a tropical getaway.
Believability score: 9
The slow trudge of the White Walkers
Kaitlyn: The last we saw the White Walkers, in episode nine of season five, they were in Hardhome. By episode six of this season, they’ve gotten to the Three-Eyed Raven’s Tree Cave, which most people place slightly east of the Fist of the First Men. They made it from slightly east of a tree to a tree in seven episodes. We’ve been asked to consider them an imminent danger for six seasons now, but they move at about the pace of a shopping mall that was built on top of a swamp. That is when they aren’t hurling themselves off cliffs.
Believability Score: -1000