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'Game of Thrones' ratings dip against playoffs


Game of Thrones ratings took a slight dip this week against heavy broadcast competition.

Last night’s Battle of Castle Black episode delivered 6.9 million viewers at 9 p.m., down from last week’s all-time peak tie of 7.2 million. Through the night, the episode got 8.1 million over the two plays. Thrones faced heavier than usual summer competition with high-rated NBA playoffs on ABC, along with the Miss USA pageant on NBC and the Tony Awards on CBS.

For our coverage of last night’s “The Watchers on the Wall,” here’s our recap, our interview with director Neil Marshall on pulling off the big battle and our interview with last night’s departing castmember.

'Game of Thrones' director Neil Marshall: How he pulled off that battle


When Game of Thrones goes to battle, the producers call Neil Marshall. The director of season two’s Blackwater episode returned Sunday night to helm the most ambitious war sequence in the show’s history: The Battle of Castle Black. Below the director (The Descent, Centurion) takes our questions (spoilers) about episode nine, “The Watchers on the Wall”:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: That was amazing. You had so many epic moments, plus the action remained remarkably coherent despite all that was going on.
Neil Marhsall:  Yeah, that’s always the trickiest part, to keep your handle on the geography.

What was the toughest scene to pull off?
Probably the mammoth. Everything else exists in some form or another. Even the giants are like 8-foot-tall actors that we film against green screen and make them bigger. But the mammoth is 100 percent CG. So you have to plan out these sequences where you have stunts and then you’re going to put this giant and mammoth there, and leave room for them. Easily the most complex effects work I’ve done on anything. And like you said, it’s about people understanding what’s happening where, which is kind of why I put in that one crane shot that goes all the way around Castle Black and it links all the characters together. The reason for doing that is, one, it was going to look cool, and two, because it helps the audience understand who, where and when.


'Game of Thrones' team on [spoiler's] tragic death during Castle Black battle


Warning: This post contains spoilers from Sunday’s Game of Thrones


'Game of Thrones' showrunners tease The Wall episode: Biggest battle yet


Sunday night’s Battle for Castle Black promises to be the biggest war scene in Game of Thrones history, with the entire episode focused on Jon Snow and the Night’s Watch fight with The Wildlings. Below, Thrones showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss tease up (spoiler free, of course) the epic confrontation, as well give some insight into last week’s Red Viper vs. Mountain fight and Sansa Stark’s big transformation. Note: The following answers are culled from two interviews, one conducted last week via email where the producers replied with joint statements, and the second by phone shortly after episode 9, “The Watchers on the Wall,” finished filming.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: [Last Sunday’s episode was] your first arena fight, a trope of the genre from Gladiator to Spartacus. Was there a sense of challenge to make this scene stand out vs. the ones we’ve seen in the past? 
David Benioff and Dan Weiss: Yes, we’ve had a few other trials-by-combat, but this is the first time it’s been in a proper arena setting. A lot of what sets this one apart is the specific situation that led to it, one that ties the fates of the fighters and spectators together so inextricably. The intimacy of the smaller, VIP arena adds to this feeling. There was also something unique about the contrast between the Mountain’s and Oberyn’s very different fighting styles. We were looking forward to watching this massive, powerful monster fighting this lightning quick showboater. The real trick was finding actors capable of embodying these characters in physical performance. We got very lucky on that score — Pedro [Pascal] and Hafthor [Björnsson] are both gifted fighters, and they both worked their asses off. More than anything else, they’re what sets the scene apart from other scenes in the “arena fight” genre  — how invested we are in them, and in the other characters whose fates are linked to theirs.

Looking back at making that fight scene, anything in particular you recall that was memorable about shooting it? 
Benioff and Weiss: Hafthor is an extraordinarily nice young man. He’s also 6’9”, 420 pounds of Icelandic muscle. There is no stunt double in the world big enough to match his size. Which meant that Hafthor had to do all his own fighting, while wearing a full suit of armor in the hot Croatian sun. After approximately twenty straight takes where he hacked at Oberyn with his great sword, a drenched Hafthor tore off his helmet and shouted, “Armor off!” Believe me, no one on set was going to argue with him. READ FULL STORY

'Game of Thrones' whacks 'The Sopranos' to become HBO's most popular show ever


HBO has crowned a new ratings king. Fantasy hit Game of Thrones has officially surpassed mob drama The Sopranos to become the most-watched show in the premium cable network’s history, HBO confirmed for the first time Thursday.

With two episodes remaining in the fourth season, Thrones has an average gross audience of 18.4 million viewers across all platforms. That surpasses the previous record set by the 2002 peak season of The Sopranos, which had an average gross audience of 18.2 million viewers per episode. Last season of Thrones had an average gross audience of 14.4 million viewers per episode. The news comes as Thrones has set several recent ratings records for its own performance this season. READ FULL STORY

George R.R. Martin clarifies his publishing plan, talks 'Thrones' changes


The Thrones-verse rumor mill went into overdrive Tuesday as outlets jumped on a comment attributed to George R.R. Martin’s editor that hinted the New Mexico-based fantasy author might write eight books for his epic Song of Ice and Fire saga instead of the long-planned seven.

The distinction is a big deal since HBO’s Game of Thrones is based on his novels, and the show’s assortment of character narratives is rapidly reaching the point where it’s catching up the stories chronicled in his bestselling books (of which five have been published). We turned to Martin to clear things up. The author explains he’s not secretly plotting eight books and that seven books remains his plan. As always, however, he leaves himself wiggle room in case his tale unexpectedly expands.

“My plan is to finish in seven,” Martin says. “But my original plan was to finish in three. I write the stories and they grow. I deal with certain things and sometimes I find myself not at the end of a story. My plan right now is still seven. But first I have to finish Book Six. Get back to me when I’m half-way through Book Seven and then maybe I’ll tell you something more meaningful.”

Martin has been consistent on this subject, giving basically the same answer when we asked if he was “firmly committed” to seven books back in 2011 (“I’m as firm as I am,” Martin said, “until I decide not to be firm”).

The author also chatted briefly about the current fourth season of Thrones, for which he has high regards.“It’s been a great season,” says Martin, who specifically praised Pedro Pascal for his performance as the doomed Prince Oberyn Martell. “Though by and large we are seeing more differences from the books and I’ve been predicting that from the beginning. There’s a certain snowball effect of making changes and I think that will continue.” READ FULL STORY

'Game of Thrones': Arya's shocked laugh explained by Maisie Williams


You don’t hear much laughing on HBO’s Game of Thrones, especially from brave fan-favorite survivor Arya Stark — who seems condemned to wander Westeros from one soul-hardening misfortune to another. So in Sunday’s “The Mountain and the Viper,” when Arya burst into near-hysterics after finding out yet another relative was dead, it was perhaps the most unexpected reaction possible…and, somehow, also the most fitting.

Fans had various theories about The Laugh. We assumed Arya was cracking up because of the increasingly tragic absurdity of her situation. But actress Maisie Williams had a different take on the scene: “I loved that,” she told EW. “That was my favorite reaction of Arya’s ever. There’s so much speculation on the Internet, whether she’s laughing at The Hound and how ridiculous he now looks because he doesn’t have a plan of action, or whether she’s laughing at the fact that she now really has no one, or whether she’s just that messed up now because she doesn’t really know how she feels inside, and just laughs and goes with it.

“When I was doing it, it was more a reaction to The Hound. This whole time he’s been giving her such a hard time. He’s so in control, and he’s this tough guy, saying he’s going to take me to my aunt in the Vale and ‘I’m going to get my money and I don’t care about you, I just want my money.’ And all of a sudden this happens, and Arya completely loves it. And through laughter, she’s saying, ‘Now what are you going to do?’ It’s fascinating to see this little girl giggling in the sunlight.” READ FULL STORY

'Game of Thrones' ratings strong for Mountain vs. Viper


For once, the holiday didn’t hurt Game of Thrones.

No matter how much anticipation there is for an episode of HBO’s fantasy hit, the episode that airs after Memorial Day weekend typically takes a notable ratings dip. Coming back from a two-week break, Sunday’s “The Mountain and the Viper” averaged 7.2 million viewers for its premiere airing and 8.2 million for the night including repeats. That basically matches the show’s series high, which the drama has now reached three times this season.

We have a ton of related Mountain vs. Viper coverage: Our recap, our interview with Pedro Pascal, another with Emilia Clarke and our TV Book Club discussion.

Also Sunday: HBO’s season finale of freshman comedy series Silicon Valley finished with 1.7 million viewers (2 million for night) and Veep had 1.1 million (1.3 million for night). New talk show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver took a dip from two weeks ago with 1 million viewers and 1.2 million for the night.

'Game of Thrones' Pedro Pascal on his fight's brutal ending


Warning: This contains spoilers from Sunday’s Game of Thrones episode “The Mountain and the Viper”…


'Game of Thrones' Emilia Clarke talks Dany's harsh break-up with [spoiler]


Warning: This post contains spoilers from tonight’s Game of Thrones READ FULL STORY

'Game of Thrones': 6 photos from Sunday's big fight episode


Our countdown to the Rumble in the Capitol continues. Here are six images from Sunday night’s episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones, where Prince Oberyn Martell takes on Ser Gregor Clegane in an arena battle to the death — with the fate of fan-favorite Tyrion Lannister hanging in the balance. Be sure to check out our spoiler-free five burning questions that we expect Sunday’s “The Mountain and the Viper” to answer, plus the Thrones showrunners teasing up the episode. Plus, we’re going live recap the episode starting at 9 p.m. ET, and have a post-episode interview with the fight’s winner. Here are your pics: READ FULL STORY

HBO: Why 'Game of Thrones' gets robbed at Emmys


When it comes to the industry’s biggest awards, Game of Thrones is almost always the bridesmaid. The HBO fantasy hit has racked up a hugely impressive 42 prime-time Emmy and Golden Globe nominations across its first three seasons. It’s also won 11 of those awards, mainly for categories like visual effects, make-up, costumes and sound effects. Yet in the major categories — best series, acting, writing and directing — Thrones has taken home just two statues (a Globe and Emmy for Peter Dinklage as best supporting actor).

What gives?

We asked HBO’s programming president Michael Lombardo about this topic during a Thrones interview, and he suggested the show’s fantasy setting and high production values might distract from the talent on display. READ FULL STORY

'Game of Thrones' showrunners tease Oberyn vs. The Mountain: 'The fight delivers beyond our expectations'


When Game of Thrones returns after the Memorial Weekend holiday, fans will witness what is arguably the best fight scene in the show’s history of gripping fight scenes.

It’s a Trial by Combat grudge match to the death between Prince Oberyn Martell (aka The Red Viper) and Ser Gregor Clegane (a.k.a The Mountain That Rides), with the life of fan favorite Tyrion Lannister (a.k.a The Imp) hanging in the balance. As viewers saw on Sunday’s episode, Oberyn volunteered (“I will be your champion”) to fight for the unjustly condemned Tyrion against the crown’s formidable victor The Mountain, whom the prince believes killed his sister Elia and her children many years ago. On a show that typically delights in moral complexity, the stage is set for a gladiatorial spectacle between a Dornish prince who has charmed fans since his introduction in the fourth season premiere and one of the show’s most barbaric longtime villains.

Showrunners Dan Weiss and David Benioff teased the bout (without spoilers) after shooting the sequence last fall. “It’s one of the best — if not the best — combat scenes we’ve done so far,” Weiss said. “It’s not just people hacking at each other with spears and swords. It’s the culmination of 20 years of anger and hatred and thirst for vengeance coming to a head in this amazing set piece that [stunt coordinator Paul Herbert and swordmaster C.C. Smiff] have put together. The fight delivers beyond our expectations.”

Plus, Tyrion’s neck is on the line, so the stakes are very high. “And there’s that,” Weiss said. “One of the most important characters in the show will live or die based on this fight.” READ FULL STORY


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