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Just five more days! Ready for some more tease of HBO’s Game of Thrones season 7? We asked co-executive producer Bryan Cogman (who wrote “The Broken Man” and “Blood of My Blood” last season) a few questions about the new episodes, particularly from a writing perspective. Here are his spoiler-free thoughts… (Note: A couple of his remarks have appeared previously).
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Overall, what excites you most about the new season?
Bryan Cogman: The most exciting thing is the new alliances and that the war has finally come that we’ve been teasing forever. Dany in Westeros makes Game of Thrones a new show — it has this amazing ripple effect throughout every storyline and that’s very exciting to explore. It’s a season of new pairings and reunions. A lot of storylines and relationships are starting to come full circle this year. And just the momentum of the storytelling feels different. Winter has come, White Walkers are coming, Dany has landed and the momentum of the story has increased. There is a pace and urgency to the storytelling that’s very palpable. This is the end game.
With characters are coming together it opens up such intriguing new avenues of drama. Wasn’t there a temptation to have them spend more time together than 13 episodes allow?
It’s true, but there are White Walkers and dragons and once they come together, the story has to go where it goes. There’s probably a world where we could have milked this thing for another eight seasons, and that would have been very lucrative for all of us. But [showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss] really wanted to go out on a good high point and I think we’re doing our best to service all those relationships and character combinations. Characters are coming together for a reason and that’s because s–t’s going down and so the s–t has to go down.
Are there any characters who don’t meet before the end of the series that you wish did?
More than once we had a conversation where we were like, “Could so-and-so possibly ever have a scene with so-and-so?” But as fun as that would be it just wouldn’t make sense — they couldn’t be in a room together at this point without killing each other.
And there are still characters that are not in groups, however, such as Sam.
Yes, we still found room this season to introduce new worlds like The Citadel. Jim Broadbent [who plays a maester at the Citadel] is a wonderful addition to the cast, Sam is one of the few characters who gets his own mini spinoff. This is the anti-Harry Potter. Sam shows up to this amazing place where he thinks he’s going to get all the answers and all his talents are going to be put to good use. But this ain’t Hogwarts and the maester is not Dumbledore.
What were some of the biggest writing challenges this season?
How do you write a compelling show about a war when one of the sides has dragons? It should all be over. Ultimately Dany’s got nukes. But somebody who wants to rule effectively and be supported by the people doesn’t want to just come in firing nukes… Also, balancing the characters. We have some of our main characters sharing the space. So there’s some balancing and making sure everyone has their moments and making sure all the story arcs are serviced. Also: Resisting the urge to have characters recapping the show that everybody has already watched when they meet — this is a tricky thing because you’ll have a character who hasn’t seen another character in however many seasons and you want those characters to compare notes on everything that happens. And while that would happen, and would make sense, it’s not always the most compelling thing to watch. So in some cases, we have that but other times you cut to another time and they’ve clearly had that conversation off-screen.
As a viewer, like when Jon reunited with Sansa, I wanted to hear them telling each other what happened even though I know it’s not hugely exciting, per se.
When there’s a dramatic payoff we do it. But yeah, I think it’s going to be exciting for viewers. I would bring friends to set this year and they look at a scene where a certain character is meeting another character and they’re like [gasp!]. It’s going to be quite an arc for all these characters when it’s all said and done.
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For ongoing Game of Thrones coverage, follow @jameshibberd for the latest; subscribe to our GoT newsletter for breaking news alerts, and check out our GoT podcast (season 7 preview episode now up!). And be sure to come to EW.com after Sunday’s premiere for our recap and interview.