“Game of Thrones” fan Travis Stevens experienced a familiar mix of feelings while watching the most recent episode of the HBO fantasy series: dread (during the horrific death of a young character), exhilaration (when a screaming dragon swooped in) and low-level confusion (Who in the heck was that creep in armor that budding assassin Arya Stark was stalking?)
Mr. Stevens, a 42-year-old film producer in Los Angeles, turns to Wikipedia and online recaps to identify second- and third-string characters in the sprawling series. “Maybe it has just too many white guys with beards,” he says.
“Game of Thrones,” which will leave multiple story lines dangling for a year with Sunday’s season finale, is notorious for befuddling even ardent fans with its many clans, lands and simmering subplots. But it’s just one of many shows taxing the memories of audiences who have been flooded with complex story lines and crowded character ensembles.
“Orange Is the New Black,” which returns Friday for a third season on Netflix, uses more than 20 characters to populate a fictional women’s prison with inmates and staff. On “Orphan Black,” finishing its