'Game of Thrones' producers talk season finale surprises

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Warning: Game of Thrones finale spoilers below…

No wonder HBO renewed Game of Thrones so fast — the network would have a subscriber riot on its hands if the network folded the show after Sunday’s closer. With Jon marching beyond the wall, Tyrion appointed to rule Kings Landing, Arya traveling to Castle Black, Robb declared King of the North, Sansa promised to wed her father’s murderer and Dany hatching a trio of dragons, the stage is set for all sorts of drama in season two. Below executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss answer a few of this season’s burning questions:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First, the question on everybody’s minds: Why did Hodor randomly run into a scene naked?
DAVID BENIOFF: Equal opportunity nudity. There’s a line in the book about him having the blood of giants, and you need to see him for that line to play. And we didn’t want to do the coy Austin Powers joke where he’s covered up by a french baguette or something.
D.B. WEISS:  I just feel, what’s so scary about d–ks? Half the people in the world have them, why not put them on television? Now if we ever show [the eunuch] Varys naked…
DB: Good idea, write that down.

Obviously Ned Stark’s death received a huge reaction from viewers. What was that like for you guys last week?
DB: We’re in Belfast, we were thousands of miles from all the screaming in America. We don’t have a sadistic reaction, we’re not taking pleasure in people’s pain because we get it — we had a similar reaction when we read the book. But we wanted a strong reaction and we got one. I think apathy is the worst thing when making a show like this. If people are infuriated, it’s great that this fictional world has such an impact. There was never a moment of doubt about doing it this way.
DW: For me, reading the book, it was the moment when I was like, ‘We have to do this.’ It epitomizes this whole world.
DB: For me, that moment was Hodor’s penis.
[Laughter]
DW: We both got our way!

What would you say to some viewers who are writing in the comments, “Ned and Drogo were my favorite characters, I’m never watching this show again.”
DW: It’s like when you throw the book across the room and then you run back and pick it up again.
DB: If you’re just watching the show for Ned Stark, I’m not sure which show you’re watching. Clearly there’s a huge number of characters and Ned and Drogo have been vital parts of the story. But it’s crucial for us we create a world where you’re constantly in fear for these characters — that was our experience reading the books. It creates a huge amount of suspense. You kind of cling to the characters when you know you can lose them at any moment.
DW: It’s not something [author George R.R. Martin] does willy nilly. Ned dying is telling a hard truth about the price of honor and the price of morality in a world where not everybody has the same values as you do. It’s not a simplistic redemptive message, where you sacrifice yourself and it saves the day. At lot of times sacrifice ends up being futile.

Ned’s execution was shot perfectly. One thing that seemed really smart was adding in Arya and Ned seeing each other.
DB: There’s a reason [director] Alan Taylor is sitting 20 feet from us: We dragged him back to Belfast to shoot another four episodes for season two. In the book, Yoren happens to see Arya, and it’s a bit of a mild coincidence. For us, it was more important that Ned be the one to see her and says that one word to him, “Baelor.” We had the statue of Baelor and had the name “Baelor” carved into it and thought we were being all smart. But we failed to realize the crowd would be right in front of the word when we shot it. Luckily people seemed to figure it out anyway. It’s the one last thing Ned can do to protect this girl he loves so much. And when he looks out there and sees she’s gone, hopefully now she’s safe, but it’s also now just a sea of angry faces and that’s all he’s left with. I just loved Sean Bean — he conveyed so much with no dialog whatsoever.

In the opening of the finale, you ended up showing Ned’s severed head, the blood, the corpse. Can you talk about that decision?
DB: There was no way to do that in episode nine without obscuring what the moment was supposed to be about. But on the flip side, there’s something harsh and incontrovertible about what just happened and we didn’t want to shy away from that. There’s also a parallel in first episode where Ned beheads a deserter, and we’re seeing it from Bran’s perspective. Bran’s told very specifically “don’t look away” and we see the whole thing. In episode nine, we shift from Ned to Arya and she’s told “don’t look, don’t look” and Yoren restrains her from seeing — she’ll be scarred anyway, but he doesn’t want her to have this image in her mind. So we don’t see what Arya doesn’t see.
DW: There was a bunch of viewers who had a denial reaction — that Ned can’t really be dead. But in episode ten we make it clear he’s dead. There was a lot of discussion over how many frames of sword-into-neck to include. We had very high-pitched arguments about whether to add another twelfth of a second of a beheading.

In the books, characters occasionally have flashbacks to moments with Ned Stark. Did you shoot any additional material with Bean that might be used in later seasons?
DB: I wish I could tell you that we did.
DW: A lot of those flashbacks take place years ago, and Sean’s stuntman looks uncannily like a young Sean Bean, so that may work.

I don’t know if you’ve seen this online, but Thrones has inspired a new word, “sexposition” — the combination of expository dialogue and a sex scene. 
DB: We’re really admiring of the cleverness of that word.
DW: Unfortunately, we didn’t actually invent using sexposition.
DB: We might have to come up with a new expository tool for season two — like using dragons.

Some fans were bummed they didn’t see anything from the battles, even though they’re not very detailed in the book either. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say there’s a big battle in the second book. Will you be able to show that?
DB: There was never much discussion of shooting The Battle of Whispering Wood [Robb vs. Jaime's army]. We did have plans to show Tyrion marching into battle behind The Mountain. We had a whole way we wanted to shoot it following Tyrion’s eye level as The Mountain is just (cutting soldiers down). Ultimately we had to make some really tough decisions. We ran out of time to shoot it properly and we much rather have a great scene with our characters than a crappy version of the battle. We want to have some great battles, we’re working very hard to have great battles in season two. We’d like to have more direwolves too.
DW: There’s so many things we can do so much better than films. But there are a few things like battles and creatures where there’s a brute force financial component to doing those well, and it involves being very creative and selective about how you show those things to make them achievable. We don’t want them to look like a Playstation 2 game, we want it to look at the same level [of quality] as the rest of the show.

Those looked like very realistic, big-summer-movie-quality dragons. How are you going to afford to keep doing that though season two?
DB: I have no idea. It’s going to be a season of tough choices. We have dragons, we have direwolves growing, we have massive battles. Despite the various character deaths, we have a growing cast of characters — all this with the same amount of time to shoot it.
DW: There’s going to be a lot of smoke.

Will the direwolves be created with CGI in season two?
DW: It will be a combination of real dogs and visual effects and any other way we can make it work.

What are some lessons you’ve learned from shooting the first season that might influence season two?
DB: Any time you have a horse in a scene, it doubles the shooting time. We know the cast really well now and writing for those actors is a huge advantage. We know, say, John Bradley (Sam) is going give an incredible line reading of this line. It makes it a lot of fun writing for these people we’ve come to know so well.

READ MORE:
Game of Thrones season finale recap! Plus: We list the best & worst episodes, acting, fights and sex scenes from season one
‘Game of Thrones’ finale dragons photo
Game of Thrones warlord Jason Momoa talks finale

PREVIOUS: ‘Game of Thrones’ shocker! Producers explain Episode 9’s horrific twist

If you hung through the finale credits, you saw this little season two tease (notice the green fire…):

Comments (144 total) Add your comment
Page: 1 2 3 4
  • Stannis

    First!

    I can’t wait to make my appearance..

    • RyanK

      I can’t wait for your red priestess to make her appearance.

      • Renly

        Neither of you are invited to my party.

      • Loras

        Hey Renly, wanna pray together later?

    • Red Wedding

      People look forward to red priestesses, but never to me.

      • Walder Frey

        I kinda am

      • Robb Stark

        Red w-hat?

      • Breanne

        What about me! I kick a s s

      • Fate

        I’m looking forward to you! I really want to see how many tv show message boards crash after this! Those who haven’t read the books are gonna go insane!

      • Tywin Lannister

        Oh, i’m looking forward to you…

      • Roose Bolton

        I’m sure a great time will be had by all.

      • Daenerys

        Walder Frey – I thought you only liked Red Weddings. (book 3, sorry)
        Brienne – YES YOU ARE AWESOME
        Tywin – I can’t wait till the end of 3/beginning of four.
        Roose – hopefully all will keep their skins, yes?

    • Qhorin Halfhand

      I’m so looking forward to season two!

      • Jon Snow

        You sure you want me to do everything they say? Everything?

    • Tyrion Lannister

      I hope you like chains!

      • Ygritte

        You know nothing about looking forward to Season 2

      • Hodor

        Hodor

      • lara

        best comment thread ever. I love you guys.

      • the goat

        SPOILER ALERT! Manhoods will be fed to me.

      • Drogon

        dracarys

    • Trenton

      Stannis – Rufus Sewell (bad guy from A Nights Tale and other stuff)or James Purefoy (Rome)

      Davos – Chris Eccelstien (Doctor Who) or David Tennet (Doctor Who)

      Melisandre – Indira Varma

      • Lyanna’s Ghost

        Loving this thread – keep an eye out for my son Jon on the Wall Stannis

      • KPW

        I see Chris Sarandon as Stannis…a little bit older, thinner and battle weary. he could totally do it. Although i do like both of your suggestions as well.

      • Daenerys

        Lyanna – hopefully I won’t roast him accidently with dragonfire, especially because I think Rhagar and you being his parents would make me like his aunt or something…

  • John C

    Those dragons did look quite good for a show that you can tell doesn’t have a spare no expense budget. Looking forward to Spring 2012, but I might have to read the books because I don’t feel like waiting. Dany is going to be a bad ass.

    • M

      The books are so good….read them!

    • Liz Lemon

      Definitely recommend the books. Can’t wait to see Dany’s and Arya’s storylines in Season 2.

    • Ang

      I will also add that you should def read the books.

    • bookstheread

      Read the books

  • Davos

    Looking forward to season 2!

  • Melisandre

    Me too!

  • David W.

    That last scene rocked it, great finale…. and LoL at D&D’s comments on Hodor’s Hodor.

  • Sam J

    ” Mother says a King should never strike his woman “, ” Otherguy “, WHACK – SLAP. I knew this kid would be bad news from Ep 3 and on. Good Show!

    • Angie L.

      I hope he gets slapped a lot when Tyrion shows up to do his job as The Hand!

      • Lils

        Gives a new meaning to the title, ‘Hand’. Maybe he can show the queen his Hand too.

      • Ilayda

        The wifi range issue on the new iPad (3) is a real pain. I was really aoynned when I tried my new toy and this happened to me.I’ve searched endlessly on Google, in the hope that someone would figure out on how to solve this, once and for all In the end though, I found a couple of reviews of Pong Research’s cases, that convinced me to give it a try. This case is built with an antenna in between layers of the back cover, which redirects and boosts the power of the signal and increases the range of the wifi antenna on the iPad. After getting one, I couldn’t be happier with my new toy! This finally fixes my problem with the .

  • RyanK

    Despite having read the books, I was absolutely giddy upon seeing the dragons. I loved the reveal too. Dany naked, and you’re trying to figure out what happened. Then you see the dragons. Sooo well done. Then with the music and the sweeping crane shots at the end. Great stuff.

    • aleksa

      I was DREADING the dragons, because I didn’t think they could do it justice. I felt like a little kid watching that ending.

      • RyanK

        I have to clarify. I was giddy watching them, but I too was really scared about them actually pulling off the CGI until the moment I saw them.

      • Liz Lemon

        I think the CGI problems will come when the dragons actually grow up. Hopefully they will get a bigger budget.

      • ks

        Me too, a little afraid but it was very well done.

  • E-Hustle

    Amazing Season 1 Finale. The ending with the Dragons was epic. Can’t believe we have to wait until Spring 2012 for season two! Damn,… only 10 episodes for the 1st season. It was a great ride.

  • RyanK

    Did anybody else notice the green fire in the little shout-out to season 2 after the credits? Nice little touch for those who have read book 2.

    • aleksa

      Now I need to re-watch that….

    • Chris

      spoil me…what does the fire mean?

      • Emma

        It’s a kind of magical fire that will be used in an upcoming battle.

  • RyanK

    BTW, great interview James!

  • Penny

    Spring 2012 can’t come fast enough.

  • Ruth

    Why wasn’t she nursing the dragons? I was looking forward to that.. as a mother

    • RyanK

      I wondered if that was a little too hard to do CGI-wise?

    • Nate S

      She was nursing one of the dragons, just like in the book. If you go back and rewatch you will see that she is right as Ser Jorah is walking up.

    • Liz Lemon

      She was definitely nursing the one she was holding in her arms.

    • Nama

      This wasn’t the best VS show. 2005, 2006 and 2007 were all great! But after 2009 this is probably my least fvairote. Kinda boring. But I’ve never seen so much lingerie at a VS fashion show before lol.

  • Eric Guido

    Maybe I don’t understand how it works, but I’d assume they would have a bigger budget after how popular the first season was…?

    What an amazing show, it’s literally the only show I watch on TV. So well done!!! I can’t wait for season two.

    • RyanK

      Yeah, you’d expect that to be the case. And it very well may be. I don’t think anything they said in this interview refutes that logic.

    • John C

      I hope so. Especially if there are important battle scenes. I don’t want to just see the aftermath because they couldn’t afford to show the battle.

    • James Hibberd

      Good question. I asked that, actually. The success of season one has no impact on season two budget.

    • Neptuny

      If HBO is smart, it’ll feed ‘GoT’ loads more money.

    • CK1

      The sets are already built, so more money can be diverted elsewhere. Shaggydog’s appearance seemed a bit augmented with either camera tricks or cgi. Probably the best direwolf appearance of the season. That and the dragons will be big.

      • mike

        actually the dragons will not have grown much…also they really dont physically appear a whole lot in the book…sure they’re talked abouta bunch, but honestly a couple fo good puppets in cages or for mounting would probably be enough…I was actually pretty disappointed they used CGI for them…building quality puppets would have looked better and been cheaper…especially on the re-use

    • Mike

      It’s not always budget…time is also a factor. They don’t have long to write, shoot, edit, and put in the CGI everywhere.

    • Sal

      If HBO is smart, they will release the DVD’s/BluRay before the end of the year (preferably Aug or Sept) so that they can put the revenue they receive from those right into the S2 budget!

    • Norma

      Harry’s Law is pretty bad. Kathy Bates is a super acetsrs but the show tries to pull from the audiences that might still long for a West Wingish slightly leftish drama w/a few laughs. The problem is those folks are in bed at 9 pm these days to get up at 5 am so they can get to the first of their 2-3 jobs, and its just too old for the HS/college crowd. The Cape on the other hand was a show for cable. Had a strong loyal audience but not an NBC audience. Maybe its time for NBC to just admit that they are the reality show channel and pack it in as far as scripted.

      • Auth

        Gastroenterologist would be the field that I don’t think interests me very much. The stieuds, diagnosis, treatment, and disorders of the stomach and intestines is not something that I am completely grossed out by. I think the field I want to go back to is Orthopedics. I worked for an Orthopedic knee surgeon and loved it. I was the receptionist there but I was still allowed to go into the rooms and learn from the Medical Assistant and the Doctor. I would like to now go back as a Medical Assistant and Medical coder because I think with all the knowledge I have now it would help the patients more and this is exciting for me.

  • John C

    I knew that song that minstrel was singing was going to piss Joffrey off before he even finished it.

    • ks

      Wasn’t the bard the one who sang for Sansa after her father was beheaded, Joffery made him sing that song for Sansa’s sake, to torture her-litlle crazy guy he is.

      • Johnny D

        Actually the bard got caught playing the song in a tavern and was brought before the king to play it for him so he could hear the treasonous words of it

  • grapien@yahoo.com

    1. Hope the direwolves get more screen time next year..the only one that is shown regulary is Ghost. Summer and Greywind are just as important.
    2. Why are Renly and Loras portrayed as lovers- seemed pretty gratuitous to me. there was really no place for it.
    other than that I think its a great adaption. Cant wait for season 2!!

    • Daniel

      Renly and Loras are hinted at repeatedly in the books. its hard to get that kind of thing over subtly on TV, and without it its harder to make sense of why House Tyrell do what they do next season.

      • Johnny D

        it was so subtle in the book and they definitely went over the top in the series. If they had just left it at the comments from the tournament that would have given the audience a good enough idea without making them seem so flamboyant

      • mike

        yea….i totally missed that on my first three reads of the books, but when re-reading in prep for Dance, I noticed it thanks to the show making me think about it.
        I knew there was a reason I hated those two characters, I just didnt realize what that reason was!

    • JonBean

      @2 …Cause they WERE lovers. We just didn’t have any chapters from Renly’s or Loras’ perspective so we only got subtle and not-so-subtle hints at it in the later books.

      • No one special

        I would argue more on Renly’s part than Loras. What I got from book four was more of Loras as an impulsive hothead with a lust that a certain commander of the kingsgaurd finds too much of a reminder of himself.

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