Game of Thrones’s sixth season bothered me on a number of levels, and the show has really been heading downhill since Season 1. I understand that when making a television show, some things from the original books need to be cut—that’s just the way things are—but there’s a huge difference between cutting material that’s not essential and taking shortcuts at every opportunity, no matter how detrimental to the story. The worldbuilding in the show really started to bother me during Season 5, but it wasn’t until Season 6 that I could put my finger on it: Westeros is small.
Innovative worldbuilding is the true backbone of all fiction which is celebrated by geek culture. Our most beloved authors, artists, and filmmakers create worlds in which we can imagine ourselves. There are plenty of things storytellers do to make a world convincing: use science or magic to explain (or enhance) strangeness, compose detailed descriptions of food or foreign landscapes, or even base it on our own. When most storytellers create worlds, unfortunately, they usually do a poor job of including any kind of religion. It’s either ignored altogether, or inserted via boring stereotypes. That’s a pity, because religion can be one of the most powerful tools in a writer’s arsenal to tie together a peoples’ culture, history, and motivations. One author that does a great job of exploring this is George R. R. Martin in his A Song of Ice and Fire series, adapted into HBO’s Game of Thrones.