GAME OF THRONES showrunners talk about season 6 finale; reveal only 13 episodes left

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SPOILER WARNING IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE SEASON 6 FINALE OF GAME OF THRONES

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I don’t know about you guys, but I’m still reeling from “The Winds of Winter”, this week’s extra-sized season 6 ender for Game of Thrones. I never thought anything could top the absolutely vicious “Battle of the Bastards” in the previous episode, but showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss proved me wrong. And they did it right from the start when they kicked off the finale with a bang. Literally.

In a gigantic green explosion courtesy of a hidden stash of wildfire under the Sept, Cersei eliminated all her enemies – and a whole district of King’s Landing – in one fell swoop. Unfortunately, her triumph was short-lived because while she was getting her gloat on and getting some revenge on a nun courtesy of the Mountain and his… eagerness, her son, King Tommen, overcome with grief with the recent destruction, promptly did his own King’s Landing as he defenestrated himself from the Red Keep.

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But would Tommen have been able to commit suicide if Cersei and the Mountain had been there to watch him instead being obsessed with vengeance? That’s definitely what Benioff and Weiss were trying to highlight, as they explained to Deadline in an extensive interview.

We had intended the connection you just made, so we’re glad you made it. If she had been more focused on her family, and less on enjoying her revenge on someone who had done her wrong, then Tommen’s suicide probably never would have happened.

And with Cersei now completely without living family except her brother/lover Jaimie, what is her ascension to the Iron Throne going to be like?

Not to give a frustrating answer, but that’s what so much of next season is going to be about; finding out what Cersei’s mind-set is. Who is she? While Cersei has certainly done a lot of horrible things in her life and she could be a very cruel person, the one thing that was redemptive about her was that she genuinely loved her children. Now they’re all gone, and I think that is very interesting for us. Who is she without her children? The answer is something you’ll find out next season. That’s so much of what is to come that I’ll just give it away if I start delving into it now.

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Of course, much like with this sixth season, the upcoming season will see readers of George R.R. Martin’s original books uncharacteristically as in the dark as the regular TV viewers as the TV series has now gone past the books in terms of the story. So what do Benioff and Weiss find to be the most difficult aspect of having their story now occupying this new narrative territory?

All of it. The first season was incredibly faithful to the book, and then subsequent seasons each diverges a little more from the books. It’s  something George talks about; when you make a few changes, those changes multiply. And now, we get to the point we’re beyond the books. The biggest challenge has been just not having the books, they’ve in the past even in Season Five where we were different from the books in many great respects, we always had these big set piece scenes we could use as anchor points for the season. Whether it was Cersei’s walk of shame, or the attempted assassination on Dany where she’s rescued from the gladiator pit by the dragon, we knew we had these great moments to count on. Cersei’s walk of shame, the walk of atonement is almost identical to what it was in the book.

This season we didn’t have that. With the exception of a couple of beats. On the Iron Islands, and the things that happened there, and the great reveal with Hodor, which George told us about. Other than a few key things, we were really beyond the books and to me it’s a testament to George’s characters and the world he created. At this point, after so many years writing for these characters and spending time in George’s world, we had to be able to walk on our own feet. A lot of people go in and have to create their own characters and they do fine with it. At a certain point, if we weren’t able to do it, then shame on us. George gave us an incredible gift with probably more fantastically drawn characters than I’ve seen in pretty much any book ever. If we weren’t able to do that, we weren’t the right people to be running the show here.

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And that’s a very good thing, because with the glacial pace at which Martin writes at, there’s just no way he would be able to finish telling his version of this story in any reasonable time for the show to adapt it. Which means that Benioff and Weiss need to have their own endgame in sight. Luckily they do.

We’ve been talking about the ending, from the beginning. It’s a strange phenomenon, we’re in this territory where you are walking on your own and can’t rely on the written material anymore. As we get close to the ending, we’ve been talking about that for so long, things come into better focus. Once we get to the final end game, we’ve got very specific ideas that have grown organically over the past six plus years about where everything will end up.

But how long will that endgame take? Apparently not long at all. In fact, even quicker than we might have expected, for while we’ve heard talk before that the show will probably go up to season 8, these last two seasons could be really short!

It’s two more seasons we’re talking about. From pretty close to the beginning, we talked about doing this in 70-75 hours, and that’s what we’ll end up with. Call it 73 for now.

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With season 6 wrapping up, that’s already about 60 hours in the bag. Which means that potentially there’s no more than 13 hour-long episodes left. That’s really quick, seeing as each season thus far has always had 10 episodes each. So are they planning to have shorter seasons or perhaps to stop deviating from the 40 minute running time standard as they’ve often done in the past? Well, we really just don’t know. What the showrunners will give assurances for though is that they definitely won’t be dragging out the story unnecessarily just to meet some kind of expected quota.

It’s not just trying not to outstay your welcome. We’re trying to tell one cohesive story with a beginning, middle and end. As Dan said, we’ve known the end for quite some time and we’re hurtling towards it. Those last images from the show that aired last night showed that. Daenerys is finally coming back to Westeros; Jon Snow is king of the North and Cersei is sitting on the Iron Throne. And we know the Night King is up there, waiting for all of them. The pieces are on the board now. Some of the pieces have been removed from the board and we are heading toward the end game.

The thing that has excited us from the beginning, back to the way we pitched it to HBO is, it’s not supposed to be an ongoing show, where every season it’s trying to figure out new story lines. We wanted it to be one giant story, without padding it out to add an extra 10 hours, or because people are still watching it. We wanted to something where, if people watched it end to end, it would make sense as one continuous story. We’re definitely heading into the end game now.

And damn does that endgame look exciting! You can check out the full interview to read more on the making of the episode, some insight into Arya’s storyline and more. And speaking of which, if you’re wondering how Arya could suddenly teleport herself from Bravos to Riverrun in what appears to be the blink of an eye – the same going for Varys who in one scene was visiting the Tyrells and the next was part of Daenerys’ fleet – it’s simple: She didn’t. Lots of time actually passed between those moments, they just didn’t show everything, as writer Bryan Cogman explained.

Makes sense. You can expect Season 7 to drop sometime in the second quarter of 2017. Which suddenly feels really faaaaaaaaar away right now.

Read  George R. R. Martin to adapt Who Fears Death into a TV series for HBO

Last Updated: January 19, 2017

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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