'Game of Thrones' showrunners on season 2, splitting Book 3 and their hope for a 70-hour epic

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Is this season better than season one?
Benioff: It looks better. I think the cast is taking it to another level. I think the directors did an incredible job. [But] I don’t have any distance from it, so it’s impossible to know. I didn’t know last year if anything worked. I really didn’t know if people were gonna understand what was going on. I was generally terrified that people would watch it and be like, “Wait. Who’s brothers with who?” … From the beginning we’d always prayed we’d get to season three at least because, you know, two of our favorite scenes from the entire saga are in season three.

Of course. The Scene Which Shall Not Be Named.
Benioff: The scene that we cannot mention. I just remember reading the book before we’d even written the pilot and thinking, “Oh, my God, we’ve got to get this. We’ve got to get this show to happen because if we can make this scene work, it’s gonna be one of the greatest things ever on television or film.”

There’s more magic this season too. How are you handling not breaking the sense of realism in the show?
Weiss: We’re well within the bounds of grounded‑ness. When supernatural things happen, they happen infrequently enough that they’re still startling. By the time the next thing comes along, your roots in the story are deep enough that it doesn’t yank you out.

Also you’re using real wolves this season?
Benioff: There’s a difference. Just those wolf eyes looking at you. Those dogs did a perfectly fine job last season but there’s always a little bit of, “That’s not really a wolf, that’s a dog.” You know when a wolf is staring at you and it makes a big difference, so that makes me very happy.

Weiss: We’ll get to see what a bigger direwolf can do to a person.

How much screen time do the dragons get?
Weiss: Ideally you have enough of them and not too much of them. If you’re in a scene where you and I are talking and there’s a dragon sitting next to my water bottle, then you may as well be talking gibberish because no one’s going to see anything except the dragon. You have to be careful with that stuff and not use it when it’s going to be detrimental to what you’re trying to put across.

And you don’t want them to become mundane.
Weiss: And that also. There is a desensitization that happens. I’m not pointing fingers and naming names, but when I watch some movies where the sky’s the limit, I find myself not caring that much about the effects because I’ve already seen everything by the middle of the film. And then I’m also not invested in the people in the film because I’ve been spending all my time gorging on all this amazingly well‑done visual effects work, but to the exclusion of actually paying attention to what’s going on with the characters … When we’re writing, we try to write the perfect version [of the episode]. The version you would love to see. Bringing [the story] in line with [a budget then] actually forces you to think really hard about what’s important. People who have access to unlimited resources don’t have to make those choices. Sometimes maybe things are stronger for having to make them.

More or less deviations from the book this season?
Weiss: Definitely more, only because there are characters who are off screen in the book. A lot of the changes keep people front and center who are very important characters.

Benioff: We’re adapting “A Song of Ice and Fire.” So we’re bringing in elements from [Book 3] A Storm of Swords. We don’t think of this season as being strictly an adaptation of A Clash of Kings, it’s really a continuation of our adaptation of the series as a whole. For our purposes, moving some stuff forward helps a lot and pushing some stuff back helps us a lot.

Like Robb and Jaime, who didn’t have much to do in the second book.
Weiss: Richard Madden is just so great … we need to keep [fans] watching the most stylish man in Scotland… And Nicolai [Coster-Waldau] doing such an amazing job of bringing this character to life and so many people have gotten invested in him.

Benioff: Some of it is falling in love with the actors and what they’re doing. You know, Charles Dance [Tywin Lannister] is so perfect. He didn’t have a lot to do in book two. And we just wanted more of him.

Any characters getting more screen time this year?
Weiss: There’s more Tyrion, obviously, and there’s more Cersei. A lot more Cersei. The biggest increase percentage wise from last season is Theon. He has a major storyline and it’s one of my absolute favorites … He’s kind of like Gollum. He’s the one who’s the most shadowy, like you don’t know is he’s good or not, but he’s not really evil, either.

Is the end point of Season 2 the same as the book?
NEXT: New characters, changes from the book, season 3?, Emmys, more

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