'Game of Thrones' showrunners talk season 5
Another epic season behind us, another promising season ahead. For the fifth season of HBO’s Game of Thrones, showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss will draw inspiration from the fourth and fifth novels in George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire saga: A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons. (Each novel focuses on different characters while covering roughly the same period of time.)
On Sunday night, we posted the showrunners’ answers to some burning questions about Thrones’ game-changing finale. Below, our conversation continues as we shift the subject to next year. Who else can’t wait to see Jaime Lannister bust out that jetpack? (Note: The first portion of this interview was conducted by email, with the producers answering via joint statements.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We’ve come to a huge pivot point. George R.R. Martin originally conceived of his books as a trilogy, and the end of A Storm of Swords feels like the first and only natural breaking point in the saga. It also begins a stretch of storytelling that some fans feel isn’t as compelling as what came before it. What’s your take on season 5?
DAVID BENIOFF & DAN WEISS: After finishing season 3, we were nervous about season 4—we’d been looking forward to the Red Wedding for so long that once we shot it, we feared everything beyond that would seem like an anti-climax. We grew less nervous when we outlined season 4, less nervous still when we wrote the episodes, and all nervousness evaporated when we saw the directors’ cuts and knew we had a great season in hand. For season 5, again, the fear started to dissipate when we outlined it and realized how much story we had to tell. Now that we’re nearly finished with the first drafts of each episode, we see no reason why the coming season shouldn’t be the strongest yet.
Each season has used material from books beyond where the bulk of that season’s story was set. Best I can figure, you’ll hit the end of Dance on most of the major storylines by the end of next season, if not before the end—and obviously you need to set up season 6, at the very least. Is the sense at this point that you know where the characters need to eventually end up, and so you’re just going to increasingly play your own game from here on out?
We have talked to George extensively about where he’s going with the books, and will continue to do so. His books are the blueprint for the world we’re building. Ultimately the show needs to work on its own terms, and keep on moving. Our job is to square that necessity with George’s work to the best of our ability.
Still thinking 7 seasons total?
The production is going to Spain, and leaked casting breakdowns are full of Dorne characters. So can just assume we’re spending time in Dorne? And if so, what excites you about the Dorne storyline?
There will be Dorne, and we’re excited about it. Who wouldn’t want to hang out in Dorne? They have admirable values and priorities. And have you seen Oberyn’s coat?
This season we saw both Littlefinger and now Varys quit the crown to become rogue agents with uncertain agendas. Can you tease what these two are up to?
Littlefinger has been open with a few people about what he wants: Varys, Sansa, a few prostitutes, us. He wants everything. He wants to sit on that throne. By necessity, his path there will be twisted and indirect. But everything he does in some way points to that goal. As for Varys: Early in the season, when speaking with Tyrion, Varys claims to be concerned primarily with self preservation. At the end of the season, though, his actions prove otherwise. He throws away the entire life he’s built for himself in King’s Landing to save Tyrion’s life. Now what? … “Now what?” will become eminently clear in season 5.
One of the big surprises this season was the White Walker scene with Craster’s baby. Is it fair to assume that from here on out, fantasy elements increase each season given that, you know, winter is coming?
The characters will always be the thing. The scenes that make us most excited are often the ones that take place between two people in a room. That said… the White Walkers aren’t going away. The dragons aren’t getting any smaller. Melisandre’s still sorceressing, the giants are more pissed than ever, and Jaime’s almost done building his jetpack. So… yeah, the fantasy’s not going away. It is a fantasy show.
[Note: The rest of this transcript comes from an interview conducted months ago via phone, with a couple of these answers previously reported….]
With Stannis and Jon coming together in the finale, for the first time the series has started to contract after expanding. The characters have been spreading out, and now they’re starting to pivot to come back together. Is that an accurate read?
WEISS: I think that’s really smart. It’s something we talk about a lot. It’s the mid-game point of working on the show; after having spent all this time developing all these divergent and separate interests, being able to bring people from disparate worlds together is intrinsically interesting. It’s almost like the engine that drives the middle ground of the show.
BENIOFF: It almost feels like this is the midpoint for us. If we’re going to go seven seasons, which is the plan, season 4 is right town the middle. It’s the pivot point, as you say. It’s been an expanding universe and will now start to contract. Which doesn’t mean we won’t meet any new characters in season 5, because we will. But it’s going to start to shrink for sure.
BENIOFF: We’re not going in strict order because we can’t. We can’t adapt Feast and leave out half our characters. We’ll be drawing heavily from Feast and Dance in season 5.
You know George’s ending for the saga. Non-specifically, do you feel the saga’s ending is creatively satisfying? Is it an ending you’re excited to work toward?
BENIOFF: Absolutely, yes.
WEISS: 100 percent.
BENIOFF: And I feel we have so many conversations about later seasons. And this year we’ve started talking about the very end. One of the lessons of Breaking Bad, which had a phenomenal final season, phenomenal entire series—you really get the sense [creator Vince Gilligan] went into it with a story in mind and achieved that. We want this to work.
Is there a character on this show whose loss would really zap a lot of the life from the series?
BENIOFF: There are some characters who will die that I won’t think people will predict. And as George has said, we’re killing off more characters than in the books and will continue to do so.
WEISS: There are several characters whose loss will do that. But it doesn’t mean they won’t die.
Martin also has a development deal at HBO, and there have been rumors of a project in the world of Thrones. Any chance of a spin-off, prequel?
WEISS: We have not talked about that.
BENIOFF: If that happens, it’s up to HBO and George. It’s not something I would be a part of. We’re interested in A Song of Ice and Fire.
WEISS: This is like three full-time jobs. The idea of trying to develop something in addition to that in this world wouldn’t make sense at this point.
Do you have a sense of what you guys want to do after Game of Thrones?
BENIOFF AND WEISS [in unison]: Sleep.
Which you both answer at same time…
BENIOFF: It’s the easiest question you’ve asked since we first met you.
For more on Thrones season 5, get this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly.
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