'Game of Thrones' writer talks Tyrion's heartbreaking trial: What you may have missed

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The bulk of the episode was the trial, which feels like this year’s Emmy submission episode for Peter Dinklage. You got to do Thrones versions of two TV procedural drama staples this season — the courtroom drama and a murder mystery.
The writing of that scene is the most fun I have had writing anything. I love the courtroom drama as a thing. It was a lot of fun playing with the tropes of a courtroom drama without making it into Law & Order: Westeros. It was a tricky balance, and I know in my first draft I went too far — I never had the line, “Objection your honor!” but I might as well have. At one point, I had a stenographer in a corner with a quill and paper. That said, it was a lot of fun. If you look at the Jaime and Tywin scene, it’s not unlike a counselor meeting with the judge during court recess. I have enormous respect for Law & Order doing it all these years — the technical aspects of shooting those scenes with all those people reacting, it was exhausting to shoot. We shot it over four days. Sitting that long and reacting silently while staying focused on what’s happening for hours on end is very tiring; almost as tiring as shooting in the rain.

For Tyrion it’s like this nightmarish mix of everything he ever said against Joffrey and just enough outright lies to condemn him.
[Showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss] gave me notes before I wrote the scene and they were adamant that the testimony that you hear is essentially true. Almost everything they say is verbatim what Tyrion actually said and did, but just in the most damning context. Even Shae, most of what she says is basically true. Also the background actors — who did a great job — were huge part of the momentum of that scene and are what help drive Tyrion to his breakdown. The other big layer, and heart of the scene, which director Alik Sakharov really keyed on as well, is this is really a Lannister family drama between Tywin, Jaime, Cersei and Tyrion that is entirely wordless. It’s all in the looks between the four of them. It’s also no accident that “Rains of Castamere” is the last music cue you hear — this is the Lannister family drama finally boiling over. The trick was tracking those relationships under the surface of the courtroom theatrics. And another thing: This is the first Thrones episode in our entire run that doesn’t feature a Stark. It illustrates that the principal family of the show, in a way, has become the Lannisters.

Dinklage was particularly heartbreaking. When he tells Shae, “Please, don’t,” you know he’s not doing that to try and save his head. He’s saying that only to prevent his heart from being broken before he’s executed.
That’s exactly right. He knew his head was gone anyway. He knew it the minute the trial started. It’s a nice surprise when Jaime comes in and offers a glimmer of hope, then it all comes crashing down. You’re right, it’s not about him anymore, it’s about them. Also, he loved a woman as a kid and that was screwed up by his family, and now it’s happening all over again.

The scene with Jaime and Tywin. We get the feeling Tywin was waiting for Jaime to make the offer to resign from the Kingsguard to save Tyrion, and maybe even some of what is going on with the trial was all for that very purpose. Is that a valid read?
Exactly. That’s exactly what that moment is meant to do — for you to question every moment that happened leading up to it. Is Tywin really that good? How much of this has he manipulated? It’s no accident he instantly says, “Done.” Tywin knows his kids really well, he knows where their loyalties are.  Tywin is solving problems he’s had for many years with this situation. And Jaime knows his father well enough to know exactly what just happened. The idea for that scene came from Dave Hill, who is Dan and David’s assistant, and is joining the writing staff for season five.

Does Tywin think Tyrion is guilty?
Deliberately kept it ambiguous. I have my own opinion, I’m sure [actor Charles Dance] has his … but it’s not for me to say.

I wondered in the recap last week: Even Tywin figured out the Tyrells killed Joffrey, would it really change anything about the way he treats them or his plans?
That is a fascinating question! I’ve never thought about that. Maybe he wouldn’t. It’s certainly in his best interest to keep things how they are. Even if he had first-hand knowledge, I’m not so sure she would have done anything. What a bastard!

We get the feeling that Tyrion would have gone along with Jaime’s plan if it wasn’t for the low blow of putting Shae on the witness stand. I assume his motivation to demand trial by combat is that he rather take a chance on winning his freedom than do anything to cooperate with his father’s plans — which he figures would probably screw him over anyway.
I think that’s right. It’s not so much that she lies about Sansa and him planning [to kill Joffrey]. He knows they got to her. It’s when she starts using their personal connection with each other and the moments they shared. She didn’t need to do that. It’s that, and the crowd behind him laughing at him.

And in his outburst, he inadvertently acts like how they all assume he is — this vengeful person.
Yeah. Finally after years of being laughed at and abused and beaten down by almost everybody in his life, Tyrion would rather go out armed with a sword and be brutally murdered than give into his father one more inch. Then the final shot is father and son staring each other down.

Can you tease up what to expect next week?
Oh! Huh…

I’m stealing question that from Dalton’s weekly Jeff Probst interviews for Survivor. Seems to work for him.
I would just say it’s the aftermath of what you’ve just seen. Tywin’s plans, for once, were foiled, and now Tyrion has to deal with this rather rash decision he made. You’re going to see how that plays out. Also, expect the appearance of characters who you did not see this episode. That’s something we’re trying to do more this year too — less cutting back and forth to a lot of places. Do more quality vs. quantity.

I’ve heard the final three episodes are pretty amazing.
Yeah. It’s relentless from now on. There’s no going back now for a lot of these characters. The rest of the season is based on the last third of A Storm of Swords so it’s one big climax.

More: EW’s recap of this episode “Trial By Fury” is now live


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