It’s been a crazy couple of days for Game of Thrones news, hasn’t it? The showrunners jump from Star Wars to Netflix; the prequel pilot is cancelled; and a prequel concept with no pilot is given a full season order instead! During all of this hullabaloo, there was also a controversial talk with showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss at Austin Film Festival, where they discussed their decade-long learning experience as producers and writers on the show. Why should that cause any controversy? Well, let’s find out!
The polemic wasn’t so much due to what Benioff and Weiss said, but more due to what as of a few days ago was the only existing account of the talk: a live-tweeted thread by someone with a rather obvious axe to grind. Personally, even before being able to listen to the original audio, I could tell some of the statements sounded strange coming from Beniof and Weiss; after a thousand interviews, they repeat themselves a lot. Once I got ahold of the audio, it turned out my suspicions were… not wrong.
Essentially, that Twitter thread showed them in the most terrible light possible, often by quote-mining the writing pair or mischaracterizing their jokes as genuine statements; and a few damning times even outright misquoting them. The audio that’s surfaced since isn’t of a great quality, but I’d argue it’s preferable to an erroneous account:
At the start, Benioff and Weiss are asked to explain how they broke the first season as writers and how they approached adapting George R.R. Martin’s books:
“When we were outlining season one, and at that point it was just the two of us and Bryan Cogman, we’d start putting scenes out in index cards on the board, as you do; with different colors for each plotline,” Benioff explained, and Weiss took over: “At one point we had 112 different colors on the board. I remember looking at it and wondering ‘Is this actually going to make sense to anybody? Is this going to be something people can follow?’ When we started, we knew what we were up against; George wrote these books to be unproducible. There’s a long story about why, which we discussed in the last panel we did, but the point is he didn’t write it with television producibility in mind, so we knew we were facing questions about the carrying capacity of the television show; how much can you have happening without losing people.”
“Later, when George’s books continued to grow, there were places where we just had to compress and condense to make it producible for television,” Weiss continues, “just because if we’d included all the characters that were in the books we’d be running up against a situation in which people would be dropping the balls of the Tyrions and the Danys and the Aryas; the characters they care about. At that point we stopped putting pieces on the board for the most part.”
In terms of the show’s faithfulness to the source material, Benioff argues “the first season was actually quite faithful to the first book. The second season maybe 10% less. Every season’s gotten a little bit less faithful, just because the scope of George’s story kept getting so much bigger and bigger.”
“I think Steve Martin said something to the effect of ‘Every adaptation process is like a marriage that ends in divorce.’ Sometimes they’re amicable divorces. Sometimes they’re ugly divorces. You always start with the best intentions, to be faithful forever, and then you start to have some other ideas, you start to stray a little bit. In a way, given the scope of what George created, I think we had with what ended up being a very amicable divorce from the source material; because we ran out of it,” he says jokingly. Weiss, in turn, then adds: “Even before that, the carrying capacity of a television show is not the same as that of a book.”
Regarding the original pilot, which famously had to undergo heavy re-shoots, Dan explained that “as a television show, it was the kind of show that was a film/TV hybrid, in a lot of ways [acting as a film] in terms of the production design, the shooting schedule, all of that stuff; but it needed to be done in a TV budget and timeframe. So everyone involved was figuring out how to make something like this for the first time, and it just took one more than one try. We were given a second chance, though they were probably about 50/50 on whether or not to give us that chance.” Though it was a new process for everyone, Benioff doesn’t want to pass the buck: “We were the showrunners, so if the show’s not working, we screwed it up.”
Though they were experienced writers before the show, David and Dan had to learn to communicate their ideas as first-time producers, as Weiss describes it: “We knew about story, we knew about character, and we knew tone, and how we wanted it all to feel, but all the rest of it we had to learn; and translate what we felt into words that would, say, lead a production designer in the direction that would produce the result we wanted.”
An age-old anecdote about the show is that the first season came up short and they had to write additional scenes, but I’m not sure it’s ever been said why that happened in the first place. It turns out the original scripts were timed correctly to fill what HBO required, and they only came up short because the production started running out of money for certain expensive scenes, such as the Battle of the Green Fork with Tyrion and the Mountain. Since they had to cut that and similarly expensive sequences, they had to resort to creating the famous one-on-one conversation scenes they added later, such as the private chat between Robert and Cersei:
“They tended to be two- or three-handers; people in rooms talking, scenes they could just shoot in a morning,” Benioff said. “It was terrifying at first, but then it became fun. Because of their nature, these scenes weren’t plot points; the plot-driven scenes were already in there. So these were scenes that had to be interesting enough to justify their existence but didn’t really move the plot forward,” Benioff said. “These scenes weren’t in the book. This was the first time we deviated at all from the central narrative. By that point, we’d gotten to know the characters a lot better, we’d gotten to work with the actors for months, so their voices were in our heads when writing.”
At this point in the talk, we arrive at a point whose reaction stumped me the most. The writers have often described how the actors’ performance has shaped their characters, which I see as a laudable artistic collaboration between writer and performer:
“As you get to know Maisie, as you get to know Sophie, and everybody, they find their way into the character,” Weiss illustrated. “It’s like they redecorate the house you gave them, and, after a couple of seasons, in some cases it doesn’t even resemble the house that they moved into. They’ve done their work on it. You’re following their lead as much as they’re following your lead. They’re creating the psychological nuances of their character as much as you are on the page.”
Unfortunately, some people apparently see this perspective as sacrilege; as if they were leaving sacred source material to chance. But that’s not the case. Actors aren’t just marionettes hired to perform a reader’s or writer’s imagined version of a character; part of their role is shaping the character, even if it results in deviation from the source material. I can’t help but see this as a positive element of cinema and television, which is made in collaboration between sometimes hundreds of artists, instead of a single writer.
Additionally, you may have heard that David & Dan wanted to “remove” as many fantasy elements as possible because that wasn’t “the type of fan” they wanted to appeal to. It’s also been reported that Weiss (rather misogynistically and paternalistically, if I say so myself) stated that they wanted to appeal to “mothers,” as if mothers were unable to enjoy fantasy. Thankfully, that’s very much not what they said:
“With the fantasy genre on television, tonally it’s very easy [go too] campy. Every scene, you change these two lines and it’s Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” Weiss jokes. “Also, in terms of fantasy exposition, with proper nouns, it’s almost like a game of Jenga, where you’re trying to plow as many of them as possible without the whole thing falling over. In the first pilot, we had one too many and the whole thing fell over. Going forward, we tried to keep that stuff to a minimum, because we didn’t just want to appeal to a fantasy fanbase. We wanted them to love it, and we wanted our parents to love it, and people who play professional football to love it. We wanted to reach a wider audience, and to do that keeping the tone [under control] was very important.”
Weiss later adds that when they first pitched it to HBO, they just didn’t tell them about all the fantasy elements, though David and Dan obviously were very much aware of them and in favor of including them: “We told them ‘This isn’t about a million creatures fighting a million other creatures. This is about people.’ We knew, having read the four books that existed at that point and also just being able to extrapolate the future of the story, that it was gonna turn into exactly what we promised HBO it wasn’t.”
In a similar vein, discussing Craster’s baby boy brought by the White Walker north and put on an altar of ice, in that famous season four scene that one could argue was the first to pass the books, the showrunners say they’ve never been more stressed; not because of the Night King, but because the baby was real. You might’ve read that Dan said that “the mother was not happy because Dan just kept talking about a close-up of the baby’s penis,” which is quite strange, or perhaps even concerning. What Dan actually said was a funny, self-aware anecdote about the fact that they had to establish that the baby was a male, since only Craster’s boys were taken by the White Walkers, so he loudly said so on set, which understandably made the mother uncomfortable.
“The two of us and [Director] Miguel [Sapochnik] talked a lot, exhaustively and exhaustingly, about the importance of shooting the battle from a point of view,” Weiss said about planning the famous Battle of the Bastards. “We wanted everything to be from someone’s potential point of view, if possible, because that’s what prevents a special effects-driven battle from having that certain video game quality. That happens because the camera can do anything; there’s no real camera a lot of the time, so when you can do anything, you do anything. You’re sweeping around with this God’s-eye point of view of a camera that doesn’t exist in a set that doesn’t exist, and it starts feeling fake. We wanted to pin it to a character and make it feel like this isn’t the experience of this battle; this is the experience of Jon Snow’s experience of this battle.”
As for the value of considering other people’s feedback, Benioff didn’t egotistically dismiss it outright, as you might have read, but instead said that they “realized at a certain point that it would drive us crazy” to check everyone’s opinions online, and that it wouldn’t have the intended effect. That’s not to say they believe themselves to be infallible: “Good things are done by groups of people: [the show wasn’t done by] two people or four people, but probably two hundred people, [all of them] essential, working together. But I don’t know about the value of a committee of ten million people.”
Finally, neither of them said they “didn’t try to understand the books’ major elements,” or dismiss themes per se, as Benioff has been quoted as saying before (out of context.)
“There’s this famous Russian poet who read his poem and someone in the audience said, ‘You mind explaining the poem?’, and so he re-read the poem, and that was his response. That’s it,” Benioff said. “[A Song of Ice and Fire] is such a complex story that I don’t think we ever tried to [boil it down.] You kind of have to have a prepared answer –‘It’s about power, and family,’ and that’s all true; it is about power, it is about family. But I think it’s also true that two shows can have the same themes and be wildly different, and one’s good and one’s bad, and honestly it’s about the complexities they try to depict, it’s the characters. To try to cram it into a single aphorism isn’t helpful for me. There are other writers I know and respect who feel very differently, and operate differently, but for both of us, it’s not the way we work.”
As I have said elsewhere, David Benioff and Dan Weiss are not my favorite people. I don’t want to be their friends. And it is undoubtedly frustrating to see them admit their producing inexperience (however self-aware and self-deprecating they may be) while having way more opportunities than anyone who isn’t rich, cis, hetero, white, and/or a man (I, for one, certainly hope “House of the Dragon” has a proper writers room with a diverse set of voices.) All of that is true. Perhaps more relevantly to this discussion, it’s always been true; even before the ending to their series was so disliked.
Despite that essential truth, the tone of that original account, in which David and Dan were made to look like they were speaking about their ignorance and inexperience with a frustrating, happy-go-lucky lack of self-awareness, is just not reflective of reality. If you don’t believe my transcription, feel free to listen to the original audio.
I don’t believe any reasonable person would conclude they are speaking mockingly, or lacking awareness about their failings. In fact, I would argue what anyone who’s ever listened to them before must have known before being able to listen to the audio: Benioff and Weiss are always self-deprecating, often to the point of it being awkward, and always with the explicit purpose of crediting the rest of the producers, cast and crew, most of whom have nothing but good words for them as showrunners.
D&D could’ve and should’ve used more scenes in seasons 1-5 as foreshadowing scenes to make the story and scenes in seasons 6-8 a lot better. Maybe in a decade or 2 someone will… it would easy to continue the story of Jon Snow, Queen Daenerys, the Starks, Gendry/Storm End, Sweet Robin, the small councel and Tyrion
Mr. Benioff and Mr. Weiss thank you for a marvelous and magnificent 8 seasons and a brilliant finale, I’ll always be grateful. The future of this franchise has lost some of its heart and soul with you guys not at the helm and it’ll never be the same. I’ll never know how you put all the pieces together and concluded this massive juggernaut but you somehow did. Thank you for everything. Looking forward to enjoying my many rewatches of all 73 brilliant episodes 🙂🍻
People don’t care about facts… this is 2019, D&D are now the enemy of the social media people and they have to pay even if those people who want them to pay for daring to make an ending they didn’t like have to invent things to make them look worse. This is how it works.
Or to quote one of the finest (sarcastic) speeches from BATTLESTAR GALACTICA:
“You have to die, because, well, because we don’t like you very much. Because you’re arrogant, because you’re weak, because you’re a coward, and we, the mob, want to throw you out the airlock because you didn’t stand up to the Cylons and get yourself killed in the process! That’s justice now! You should’ve been killed back on New Caprica, but since you had the temerity to live, we’re going to execute you now. That’s justice!”
Did you get a clearer understanding to their answer regarding POC characters, because if they truly said “we had an Asian writer once” I really would like to know.
I recall that you were here during season 6 complaining about how bad Arya’s Braavos arc was and you came here to spoil things before the episode aired because of how bad you thought it was and that they ruined her entire arc. Your comment was deleted and you were reprimanded by Sue.
What caused the 180 degree turn?
And much like the internet of this generation, the real story won’t get disseminated with the same veracity and traction that the exaggerated story got. All people will remember going forward is the misquoted live-tweet thread.
Trust some of the blogs that ran the original story with glee and smugness will not be printing a retraction or whatever.
I couldn’t cover all the mischaracterizations, or else this post would be twice as long.
What actually happened is that an audience member asked about the lack of POC and women in their writers room of “four white men”, and D&D point out that they don’t really have a writers room, and that the four writers the audience member was referring to, the only writers for seasons 5-8, weren’t all “white guys”, since Dave Hill is Asian American. They didn’t bring it up; they were correcting a misconception about Hill.
I’d say they could’ve and should’ve stayed longer on that question, though. The lack of a writers room does make it difficult to include broader voices, but I’d like them to acknowledge that would have helped them.
Jack Bauer 24,
You never fail to disappoint.
As for the talk, I never thought it was that controversial anyway, as they have said most of these things in the past and I could imagine their tone easily enough (I listened to the audio at the weekend as well, but it’s not the clearest thing). I remember posting the link in another thread, saying something like ‘here it is if anyone is interested’ but that was before people went nuts about it.
Only a Sith deals in absolutes.
I think you missed my point. let me clarify…
Can you explain why it’s ok for someone like Geek Furious to criticize the show when they don’t like something, but it’s not ok for others to do the same?
Take heart in the fact that in a couple of decades, absolutely none of this virtriol is going to matter one bit. When future generations revisit this show, they won’t know that some pile-of-shit blog helped spread a false story that went viral through social media.
“In the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than the criticism designating it so.”
There GoT has a leg up on the competition, because it’s rather difficult to call it a “piece of junk.”
I liked Ratatouille too 😉
Best Pixar movie for me by far
I think you missed his point. Let me clarify…
It’s the slander that upsets him, not the criticism itself. As in lies and falsehoods spread by “bitter, angry little people” (as Jaime would call them) to try and get more people to feel like they do, no matter how unjustified.
It’s almost certainly my favorite Pixar movie, too. Not by far, but it’s the one I find myself revisiting the most.
And much like the internet of this generation, the real story won’t get disseminated with the same veracity and traction that the exaggerated story got. All people will remember going forward is the misquoted live-tweet thread.
Unfortunately, that is how things are. Tho to be fair if you look at major stories in newspapers of the past, and looked to see those same stories corrections, the first was in bold headline, the latter was in a little square at the lower right hand corner on page A 27…..I think it is some trait among humans to write and say what they believe they read or heard, rather than the truth.
Luka thank you for giving us a clearer picture of what really happened and what they said. Wish more folk did that.
He was complaining about Arya’s arc and going out of his way to spoil things in season 6 because he didn’t like what he saw, which I would characterize as bitter and angry. Yet, now that the show is over, he’s criticizing people for being bitter and angry.
There’s a ton of people on social media that say and do hurtful things and deserve to be called out. Just not by someone who’s guilty of something similar.
Ratatouille is also my favourite Pixar movie, just in case you were wondering lol.
Their emotional motives may have been similar, but their actions were not. Spoiling is shitty, but that’s a far cry from trying to make slander go viral.
No one was wondering.
People who pull crap like that don’t deserve to call anyone else out for bad behavior. You’re arguing just for the sake of it.
Thank you for the piece, Luka!
“(I, for one, certainly hope “House of the Dragon” has a proper writers room with a diverse set of voices.)”
How about just having a collection of writers that are competent, rather than this tired, ridiculous battle against white heterosexual men.
If the group of writers happen to end up being all white men, but are incredibly talented writers, then so be it.
When you are dealing with victims of sexual assault (and GOT has numerous) I think it would be more than useful to have a woman in the room. You can pretty much guarantee that a woman would understand the aftermath better than a group of men (unless its a male victim of course). I question whether a woman would have written that Hound/Sansa scene as a recent example. People have different experiences, and they can bring those experiences to the writers room. I think that’s a valuable thing to have. At least consult with women and POC, that would be something.
Ooh! Mr. D with the burn!🔥
So scorching hot it’d make Mad Queen Dany seethe with envy. 😃
Thanks, Luka for taking the trouble to transcribe the interview. The sound quality of the video is not very good and it helps to have the text rather than struggle to hear.
I do have some objections though. Not “boiling down” its elements still means that they didn’t focus on the principles followed in the books (themes and tropes and arcs). Divorcing themselves from the source material doesn’t only mean that they ran out of it. They were freed from it in the sense that they were not restricted by the story itself after that, and they could take it where they wanted while along having Martin’s ending to mind. And in combination to that, limiting the fantasy elements had that butterfly effect that made it all dragons, dragons, dragons. In a sense, this last choice actually cancelled their good intentions to reach the wider audience that don’t want just dragons and fantastic dragonqueens with fantastic brooding boyfriends but also those small scenes that mean something for the psyche of the characters. They allowed the dragons to become too big, big enough to fill our rooms and our houses, while we weren’t watching GoT for that in the first place (because dragons didn’t exist then and even afterwards they were small for many seasons).
And, lastly, the actors of course bring their own talent and may stamp a character; it has happened before, and anyone who takes up playing that role in the future will automatically be compared to the first actor who ever played that role. I can imagine for example, the future Jon Snows and Daenerys Targaryens to have trouble competing with KH and EC. However, the producers/directors/script authors must know and understand the characters themselves first in order to give proper directions and communicate what the character’s arcs are about in the first place. I was the first to say ( think?) that these specific tweet lines probably referred to the acting even though it cannot be excluded that they accepted changes suggested by the actors themselves (such as Daenerys recalling her childhood after she had wiped out a city). I’m not sure it is right that an actor has an opinion on where the character is going because this might go against the themes/tropes/arcs in the first place, but perhaps this depends on what is changed, if anything.
People obviously rushed to draw some labels from those tweets, and as is the custom in the times we live in, these were loaded with characterizations and misunderstandings. But seeing the transcipts I’d say that the tweets were rather precise; the essence of what D&D said, so much so that I’d say that the person who tweeted is trained to do that.
So I don’t think that I misunderstood what they said. It’s good that they recognized that it was a team effort; after all it was a huge success and it wouldn’t be that if there were only the two of them working. They’re to be credited for making the show so big, they’re to be credited for making it part of the modern pop culture, one that will affect many people for many years to come.
However, they’re responsible just the same for their choices and decisions that led to this ending that many found disappointing. You can’t please everybody when sth is so big, that’s true enough, but this is not “everybody”, its a very large part of the fandom that was displeased and hurt.
D&D should do a series based on the pseudo mythological story of Saul and David. It’s so GoTish; warring tribes, court intrigue, political machinations, murder, love, lust, incest, battles, fantasy elements throughout; there’s witches, ghosts, enchanted forests, creatures, beings and did I mention giants.
Thank you for saying this. That Sansa-Sandor scene really made me cringe. I hated the way Sandor spoke to her, and I hated her response even worse. Whether the writer intended it or was oblivious to it, it came off as if Sansa were saying “Getting beaten and assualted by serial psychos and sadists made me a better person.” I’m so tired of that knuckle-headed misogynistic cliche.
What’d she say again? After Sandor told her she wouldn’t have suffered through LF and Ramsay if she’d left KL with him the night of the Battle of the Blackwater? Something like: “I would still be a little bird if it weren’t for LF and Ramsay”?
A few more whinges about them. Then I’ll stop:
– Time-wise, their long-awaited reunion deserved more than that brief encounter.
Sandor’s chivalric rescue of Sansa from gang rape and murder during the KL riot, followed by “You’re alright Little Bird, you’re alright” as he slung her over his shoulder and brought her to safety, warranted a bookend scene in S8; maybe even a reciprocal gesture.
– “Little Bird” was a term of endearment. Something delicate and innocent. It sucked that she made it sound like it was a bad thing.
– They had a history. He saved her more than once. Despite his harsh words, her sweetness and compassion had dragged a little bit of humanity out of him. I really liked their dynamic in those early seasons. (And NO, I am most definitely not a “San-San shipper.”) They both deserved better than that ugly “broken in rough” conversation.
– End Whinge. Forgive me. –
• This needs to be highghted and reiterated. So I’m quoting it verbatim.
• And from a purely selfish standpoint, I believe that diverse perspectives, different voices and fresh eyes help create more credible characters. A couple of middle aged guys in their own little bubble really shouldn’t presume to know how a battered teenaged girl feels or thinks.
Nerves Over Divided Attention and Toxic Fandom: Why the ‘Game of Thrones’ Duo Bailed on ‘Star Wars’
Very interesting (and long) article there, thanks for sharing it. A big tangled web – far more complicated and nuanced than the typical 6th-grader narrative tossed around here by some posters: “unga bunga D&D bad”
Are you suggesting it’s only possible to write your own gender, because I strongly disagree with that.
sorry, double post
No, its Up for me. Followed by Wall E. Then Tangled (mmm, is that Pixar?) then Ratatouille . Realize of course that the lines between each of them are very thin, because in reality I love them all!
I’m very glad to have this on the public record. David and Dan’s comments have been shockingly and unfairly mischaracterized. This post should be required reading for anyone who came within ten miles of that idiotic, vindictive, and grotesquely misreported Twitter thread that’s been plaguing the Internet for the past few days.
Of course, the chances that the people who most need to see this detailed correcting of the record are the people who are least likely to seek it out, either because they’re casual observers who only heard the original misinformation offhand and unfortunately took it as gospel, or because they’re dedicated partisans who are determined to bury their heads in the sand so that they can carry on their fire and blood-laden crusade against D&D untroubled by things as inconvenient as proper context and actual facts. But I sincerely appreciate the effort nonetheless.
Thank you for your service in attempting to spread the truth, Luka.
I think the point is, you may get an even better view if you ask input from a person who’s gender/ race/ sexuality you’re portraying especially for situation that might not happen in general to white dudebros, which of course is not 100% certain since the opposite sex is also not a uniform block of completely identical reactions.
However, if you have the opportunity to hire a writer that represents 50% of your cast gender wise, you may consider she may have something to contribute that a white dudebro may not be aware of. Such as the experience of how she thinks a woman is viewed, or how she struggles with the typecast expectations a large part of the society may have of her, or how it feels to have a menstrual cycle or orgasm, or whatever else we may differ on physically or mentally. Because we differ, however much we may want to gloss over it.
Besides, think on how much better it is for example when you see female actresses are portraying female characters when 400 years ago it was an all white male cast. Would you be ok with male Dany? I mean deep down inside if he was a super talented actor that would blow that role out of the water and had some wonderful tit and ass double? Sure, you may argue: but women do that gender switch roles too, think Sarah Bernhardt’s Hamlet or Maxine Peake’s Hamlet! but these gender roles spearheads are not widely accepted and ARE rare.
Anywho, just putting my two cents in on this.
EDIT: and yes, thank you Luka for the summary. I didn’t listen to the link but I read your article to have an idea what all the fuss was really about.
I first react to the comments then to the article.
I agree, and also I think when you deal with a lot of characters, best is to have different people oversee different characters, I remember with lost that every one working in the writers room had a connection to one or 2 characters, so they oversaw those scenes with them and altered them if need be. You need to understand what they’ve been through to write it, or at least do research on it, that takes time.
The individual or individuals (?) who distorted Mr. Benioff and Mr. Weiss’ words are a sad, sad lot indeed. How empty and hollow their lives must be. Just sad and a bit silly reading this true unbiased version compared to the other filth that was produced. This fandom has some good spots still, but overall is a shell of its former self. Really it’s just awful.
First of I want to say that I have nothing against D&D and I think I’m completely the opposite of Luka. I really would like to hang out with them. Don’t know why, the geeky vibe that they have I like.
I see that D&D care, I never though otherwise. If they didn’t care they would just had made it their own version since season 1, but they listened to GRRM a lot. I almost finish clash of clans (only 4 chapters), and I have to say, that first book is perfect for a adaption, the only thing missing was the things that couldn’t be told on screen, like Lyanna flashbacks, it would reveal to much.
Season 2 had many difference but still I think it’s a perfect adaption. Because the changes didn’t really effect the overal arc. Ara for instance was different, but did it matter that her arc was with Tywin instead of Roose with the end, I say not. It was a good choice. It ended with the escape by Jaqen which was a smart move. And from there the story was clear and it didn’t alter the overal arc, because Arya got her 3 kills, it effected her character. It didn’t diminish Roose storyline (except is Bolt-on theory is true and if it’s true, for book it’s awesome for tv, meh not so much), and it made a good introduction for Tywin. Another change was Stannis taking Storms end with one kill of Renly. Which I think was the perfect choice, it serves what Stannis story asked in season 2. And at the end of season 2. The characters were as close to the route they were on to the end. That way the ending keeps on making sense for them. Season 3 and 4 also had that kind of writing. There were changes that didn’t matter for the bigger picture. They kept what was important, shift some things, but at the end of season 4 the characters were in the place that they were in the books. The route kept intact. The ending make sense with this route.
Then season 5 changed a lot, they didn’t change the small routes to give the parts that were needed but with their own version. They changed the characters as well by a lot. Who the characters are changed here a lot, those changes weren’t for the story that was busy in the season, but for what was needed for the endplot of the whole show. They changed their writing style that they had with the first 4 seasons.
As for the missing storylines. I have to say that that’s also close to what’s above. The motivations of the characters changed. (which are there for the endgame on purpose), and the assumption that people wouldn’t care is in my opinion wrong, every show I watch keeps on bringing in new characters every season even the last season. And I care when brought on screen in a good way. And that’s what D&D are good with, they can do that. They can make us care, because they did it for 4 seasons. Yes we would miss Tyrion or Dany a bit more, but if we got their version of characters back for the new storylines, which I think they would have nailed it perfectly. I think they would have made us care for those new characters, and see them as a nice addition to the show.
And also I think at least you need to try bringing them into the mix. Look at Peter Jackson who tried so hard to bring in Tom Bombadil. It didn’t made the cut but he tried at least.
But to end this, I want to take back my harsh words I had in the other comment section about D&D. I still keep my opinion I had then, but I change my behavior of it. I admit I was a bit overreacted what I did there.
““Little Bird” was a term of endearment. Something delicate and innocent. It sucked that she made it sound like it was a bad thing.”
I beg to differ on this one TB.
Little bird was not endearment. It was a mockery of her childhood innocence. When she first arrived at KL she still believed in chivalry even though she’s had her first lesson when they killed her wolf. She was innocent to the point of stupidity (so they thought) and fragile like a little creature. So they (Cersei) invented the “little bird”, and Cersei personally made sure to kill that little bird. Sansa is intuitive and perceptive, and understood others better than they understood themselves (including Sandor). Her insistence on “being true to her beloved Joffrey, the only true king” is her resistance. But they all think that all she wants is to be queen no matter what and her tolerance of Joffrey is because she doesn’t understand what a monster he is. Hence “little bird”.
I don’t think they should have devoted a single line of dialog to the Sandor-Sansa reunion. After all, they’ve had their talk when they parted. And Sansa in the books (I think show, too? or was it a scene dropped?) thanked him for saving her life in the riot. They’ve had her apologize to Tyrion, had her have that talk with Sandor while all along it was they who should have been apologizing to her. They’ve shown that scene over the fire with Theon because the male population think that he also has rights on her, because he helped her escape. In the books Theon thinks of marrying her by force and taking her by force for taking control of the North.
Crappy, sexist piece of writing that was. As they said themselves, D&D took an amicable divorce from the source material.
(end of rant, sorry)
Thanks for sharing.
I agree with a lot of what you said, particularly how writing for your own gender and race is easier, I just wanted to point out that creating compelling and genuine characters that don’t match your race or gender is not impossible.
They changed more than 10 % in season 2. And no matter how much you try to justify their actions, the story ended with a deeply misogynistic tone, some serious xenophobia and disgusting justifications of gender violence. Game of Thrones will not age well. Plus, if it’s true they decided to divorce from the source material in an amicable way , then the following marriage became even a worse nightmare than the original relationship.
Dude no offense, but you sound like exactly the sort of fan that worships the books like sacred holy texts, and any significant deviation from them is a sin. Adapting FfC & DoD as they were would be completely impossible, and we’d still be waiting for S6 to this day.
Thank you for posting this. Things like this always get blown out of proportion unfortunately. I’m a bit surprised people were furious about the toned down fantasy comment. None of this is new info, I remember hearing them say that before season 1 even premiered. And it actually worked for me. I would have never given LOTR or Harry Potter a chance had I not watched this first. It eased me into the genre which I ended up loving.
I actually thought of a fitting comparison between GoT and The Dark Knight.
I have seen so many comments about how sudden Dany’s change was, that a person doesn’t just snap like that when she first was someone who protected the innocent.
The same could be said for Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight. He goes from Gotham’s ”White Knight” to a twisted man who ends up almost killing Jim Gordon’s young son. I haven’t heard a single complaint that Harvey Dent’s story arc from hero to villain was too fast or impossible even though his change into a villain was way more sudden and with less buildup that Dany’s. How come no one complained about Harvey Dent’s change? Because everybody knows that Harvey Dent ends up as Two-Face, who is known to be a villain. If the books would have come out before season 8, there would be way less talk about ruining Dany’s arc and instead there would be praise to have her arc end tragic instead of her having the hero’s arc
”I beg to differ on this one TB.
Little bird was not endearment. It was a mockery of her childhood innocence.”
You are right. I was wrong. Right after I pressed “Post Comment” I had second thoughts and realized that Sandor was mocking her…I flashed back to him saying sh*t about “putting the little bird back in her cage,” etc.
I still think “You’re alright Little Bird, you’re alright” after he came to her rescue and hoisted her on his shoulder ( Sigh…) was meant to calm her after her traumatic ordeal. Don’t ya think?
”… They’ve shown that scene over the fire with Theon because the male population think that he also has rights on her, because he helped her escape. In the books Theon thinks of marrying her by force and taking her by force for taking control of the North.
Crappy, sexist piece of writing that was. As they said themselves, D&D took an amicable divorce from the source material.”
– What “scene over the fire with Theon”?
– What suggested that the “male population thinks he [Theon] also has rights” on Sansa?
– So in the books – and not the show -Theon daydreams of “marrying her by force” and “taking her by force” for control of the North?
– “Crappy, sexist piece of writing that was”: By George?
The fact that you even phrase that question that way is arguably sexist. Why are you treating women like a monolith ?
“Would a woman have written that Hound / Sansa scene ?” What does this question even mean ?
Yes, a woman would have written it, and another woman would not have. Women are all different, with their own perspectives and experiences. To assume they all think alike is silly.
Furthermore, while I’m far from being a fan of D&D’s writing for female characters, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that scene between the Hound and Sansa. Sansa was not saying she was grateful for being raped.
People who interpret it that way are being purposefully obtuse. She never said or insinuated that she was glad about the rape, on the contrary, she said Ramsay got what he deserved for hurting her.
She was simply acknowledging the sad but true fact that sometimes suffering makes you stronger. People who are forced to overcome challenging experiences in their youth often end up growing up faster as a result.
She said very clearly “Without Littlefinger and Ramsay and all the rest, I’d have stayed a little bird forever”. She’s referring to the totality of the suffering she experienced at the hands of several different people, and saying that it forced her to stop being naive.
She was not specifically referring to the rape with that line, and she certainly never expressed any happiness about it.
Also Ramsay and the others did a lot more to her than just rape. Ramsay killed her little brother. Unless you think Sansa was also glad about Rickon’s death, you have no reason to think she was glad about her rape.
Thank you for writing this up, Luka!
I’ve always wondered just how bad that initial pilot could actually have been. I mean, D&D say it was terrible. Kit Harington said it (or his part, at least) was terrible. But why? I remember how much I loved the first episode, how do you go from a complete embarrassment to a fantastic episode? Guess we’ll never know.
You have perfectly encapsulated my own reaction to that scene, one of several in S8 that simply felt wrong to me. I don’t know if Sean C. has ever commented on it; I’d love to know his thoughts as well, since he has—on more than one occasion—written eloquently about Sansa’s role as the vehicle through which the Hound abandons his nihilism.
Thank you so, so much for this writeup, Luka. You’ve clearly summarized what’s wrong with all the shite we’ve been hearing/reading the last few days. I particularly appreciate your personal comments.
1. By comparison, many (including you) are reacting to the show more like it’s the messiah and the best thing ever. More than me worshiping the books as you state.
2. You say that any deviation from them is a sin in my eyes. Did you really read my comment or just react to it. If you read than you saw that I didn’t have a single problem with their adaption of the first 4 seasons. And as I state season 2 had lots of deviations. I didn’t have a single problem with them (except maybe the soft-porn scene). Or even season 4 that had for almost every storyline their own interpretation. And maybe half of it was a true translation. Jon, Bran, Arya etc were all made up storyline by D&D. But for me those storylines were brilliant. Why? Because the storyline was made up, but the point of that part of the story remains.
3. My favorite scenes episodes were not in the book. Winds of winter is my favorite, and that would not happen in the books. But still my favorite.
4. What’s dear to me are the character motivation and who they are. That should be the most concern to the writers of a show as well when coming for adaption. Not the plotploints. Especially if you want to go to the same ending for the show and books you need to have a close route to it. Else why go for the same ending and not for an ending that make more sense with the way the characters had their journey?
5. Look up what Peter Jackson’s thoughts are on adaption. Which is a good example, because his movies are by many seen as the best what fantasy can over (and guess what I read the books and the movies are different still my favorite movies because I only care for the characters motivations staying intact and who they are).
6. You clearly missed that I stated that I wished D&D would have implemented those storylines because I believed that they could have made it amazing and that we cared for them. And that they should have give the character their own vibe (A la Shae and Osha are 2 character that shows they can enhance book characters when they are not that interesting in the books).
7. Waiting for season 6 then? No they wouldn’t. Instead we probably wouldn’t have the wait between season 6 and 7 and 7 and 8. For me the big battles are not what’s important, the character scenes are.
I’m going to look at it when I get back. I forgot what it was about.
Sorry, I wrote this hastily very late last night.
So yes, Sandor means it as endearment in that scene, but the name per se is mocking her innocense and fragility and was invented by the others around her. I’m not sure (imo not) that it had to be repeated in s8. Sansa has gone a long way, she’s the lady of WF and an adult. Obviously the Doylist reason is to remind everyone where she started. After she escapes KL though (in the books) no one calls her that anymore. Cersei calls her little “she-wolf” and still blames her for Joffrey’s murder. The people have made a legend of it, that she escaped from the Red Keep as a winged wolf with bat wings. So, “little bird” is dead.
Lol, the screen didn’t show the fire in the Sansa-Theon scene, but it was implied with the lighting. It’s the scene they share a meal outside, before the battle, while Pod sings Jenny of Oldstones. And yes, because of that scene the Theonsa ship went crazy on the internet. Never mind that Theon took over WF, forced Bran to leave, which resulted in the Boltons taking it and Rickon’s death; never mind that Theon is imputent; Sansa needs to have heirs. To hell with that, right?
You know, I think Martin’s writing could take some ameliorations at some points, but generally it is excellent. While one can winge about his female characters and that he doesn’t understand women, I don’t think that’s the case. The most serious allegation against his writing is that the violence is excessive (against women, but also against men) even for a medieval setting. People in the middle ages didn’t torture women just because they were women; people loved women because they were mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, mistresses. There was crime of course, but it wasn’t a daily situation.
So, no, sexist was the writing of the show.
Sansa’s arc in the books is filled with coersion and exploitation; they all want to marry her for her claim. She’s considered the heir to WF because they all think that her brothers are all dead. Theon, Tyrion, the Tyrells, Harry the Heir, they all want her for WF. She is “the key to the North”. What they do is motivated by that.
Let’s say it was an unfortunate line at least. It could have been “I’ve been through a lot, that’s true. But I am stronger now”.
There could also be a line like “thank you for your intention; but you couldn’t protect me”, which was also true. But no; the audience was perplexed as to why Sansa didn’t follow Sandor when he offered it to her. That’s the reason; she wouldn’t have been safe.
Plus, the show season 8 made sure that her abuse was brought up in almost every single episode -or that the audience was reminded of it someway or the other. Ep. 1. Tyrion. Of course, Tyrion had to bring up that she escaped all her enemies; granted, Tyrion in GoT is much better than book Tyrion, but still she had to apologize for leaving a husband that was imposed on her when she was a minor. Ep. 2. Theon. Ep. 3. Tyrion again. Yeah, they should have stayed married. Ep. 4. Omg, both Daenerys and Sandor. Ep. 6. Luckily, those lines in the script (with reference to Joffrey) didn’t make it beyond the editing room.
Not all of it is sexist as in with sexist lines and stuff, but it is far too much. Sansa had to apologize to each and every man that ever passed from her life? It’s ridiculous. I see no reason why that was so important, as if she owed them sth. She didn’t owe them a thing. At best, this type of writing is lazy and lacks imagination, and if you put it all together it’s repetitive and boring, when the best they could do with Sansa’s arc in season 8 was to claim that her abuse changed her so much so that she could drive the mother of dragons crazy and become the reason for the burning of KL. That was the entire plot of season 8. I’m sorry, but it’s a stupid plot and the dialogs are absolutely stupid too.
“4. What’s dear to me are the character motivation and who they are. That should be the most concern to the writers of a show as well when coming for adaption. Not the plotploints. Especially if you want to go to the same ending for the show and books you need to have a close route to it. Else why go for the same ending and not for an ending that make more sense with the way the characters had their journey?”
This is so true.
I think it is clear from the transcripts of the interview that the more the show progressed, the more they made their own story. However, I tend to believe that something drastic may have happened between seasons 7 and 8. While season 7 is rather thick with political plotpoints, season 8 falls flat on that. It’s as if it’s a whole different story. Perhaps some day we’ll know. (was it then that they decided that they’d take SW?)
“You always start with the best intentions, to be faithful forever, and then you start to have some other ideas, you start to stray a little bit. In a way, given the scope of what George created, I think we had with what ended up being a very amicable divorce from the source material; because we ran out of it”.
This shows that they created their own story in seasons 6-8. Season 6 was a good one, even though we could have it with fewer eps, season 7 had a nice political context in Dragonstone (the Dany-Jon situation) and season 8 was a betrayal of seasons 6-7 together. By that time, since Martin left them in season 4 and (I think also in this interview?) it was confirmed that they learned the ending at the end of season 3, as time and seasons progressed, it seems as if they felt freer to do whatever they wanted with Martin’s ending and “shuffle the cards” of that ending, but also felt freer to do whatever they wanted with the characters (ie suppress Jon Snow, make it all about Daenerys, stick to the “romance” till the end, make Arya the hero of WF, have Jamie return to Cersei etc).
So, as I see it and it keeps being confirmed by the interviews, the story of seasons 6-8 will have nothing to do with the books. But within the story they made themselves, however much one may like it not, the discrepancy between seasons 7 and 8 is huge imo. It’s a different story, different characters, different arcs (or no arcs), different endings to those characters.
What happened here? Perhaps we’ll know; perhaps we’ll never know. Either way, I’ll be happy to read the new books once they come out.
I made a single statement that was stupid that turned out to be a spoiler… and you frame it in such an interesting way… wow.
Anyway, there is no 180 degree turn. I said at the end of season 6 that D&D were no longer concerned with making an effort. I stuck with that throughout the rest of the series even as many of you defended them. HOWEVER, their lack of care doesn’t make them people you can just make stuff up about because you don’t like them. I don’t know how that is a weird notion for anyone to understand. Just because you think they suck doesn’t justify pretending they said something they didn’t say.
That’s a shame too that it’ll likely never see the light of day. Would get the box set of the entire series if it was included as an extra.
Interesting. Maybe Disney and Kennedy are the problem? Don’t blame D&D for getting out of that one at all. I have friends that worked for Disney – not a good experience.
You’re saying they should have done something that was literally impossible for them to do. They didn’t know the ending themselves until at least season 5.
The penis baby is actually different from the ice baby. It was an important plot point that Gilly had a boy, so we had to see the sex of the baby…so apparently Weiss insisted on the need to see the baby’s penis loudly, several times, and the mom opted out of bringing the baby back for pickups, to his embarrassment.
The other baby was on a block of ice, to the horror of Benioff. There’s no way it was lying without some insulation, though, or for longer than a few seconds at a time, because that could result in harm to the kid and that’s illegal.
I reckon that D&D could sue for libel if they really wanted to.
Going to law can be very expensive – maybe the people who post random allegations about the writers on Twitter take a gamble that because they aren’t millionaires people won’t think it worth suing them. I doubt I’d have read/listened to the ASOIAF books if I hadn’t started watching the show.
Now this paragraph isn’t addressing JT’s comment. Everyone is entitled to an opinion but now that several months have elapsed since the broadcasting of the end of GoT I find some* of the moaning on the subject after all this time to be what we call in the English Midlands “mardy” – think of whining in a puerile sort of way. https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/mardy
* I’m saying some – not all.
You said it better than I could imagine it myself. There is a new scapegoat every so many years, people thrown off their pedestal by the same ones who put them there. Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse from Lost, Zach Snyder for the DCEU, and then they move on to the next victim. Every opinion, invention and baseless slander is disguised as ‘fact’, and when they’re called “toxic” by their victims and supporters, they claim that those people “cannot handle valid criticism”.
As I’ve said before. All this “controversy” about Season Eight and other matters related to GOT in general, come at the hands, not of people who had valid criticisms, or genuinely didn’t like the last season, or the last few seasons or the ending, or what have you.
Nah, this comes at the hands or assholes for whom it’s not enough that they have what can only be described as full on hatred towards all this, but the need for attention and the imperative to poison everything for everyone else who happens not to be on their wavelength. So let the bile, venom, lies and innuendos flow, hell if I don’t get what I want and can’t enjoy this, then no one else should or has the right to either.
To them I give a well earned middle-fingered salute…
Thanks Luka for this thorough and informative recap! 🙂 Makes much more sense now! Interesting to see the conveyed impression and real quotes side by side!!
So a trolls account get’s posted on social media people go mad, this site posts the truth and only seventy comments, a sad reflection on modern society I’m afraid. Reading through this, D&D give straight bat answers, recognise flaws and appear to be reasonable and sensible.
Go back and watch it again it’s all very well set-up. Too many people got caught up in the emotion because they didn’t like the outcome that Dany (who was long foreshadowed to go mad) became the final villain.
—How about just having a collection of writers that are competent, rather than this tired, ridiculous battle against white heterosexual men.—-
You don’t get it. Discrimination bad, reverse discrimination good!
I agree to all except dismissing heteros and cis’s.
Yep it’s the Jesus thing basically (at least in the version where the people yelling at Pontiuth were his disgruntled ex-followers or idk) – people get invested in these mystery shows like they would into a cult; and when disappointed in the lack of enlightenment at the end, they get really fucking angry, when in reality all tbat happened was those writers failing to achieve certain standards; a banal reality and nothing to fume over, but these nutjobs obviously have a somewhat different outlook there.
What a typical response. Such a vague sense about what women ‘contribute’ doesn’t justify women feeling entitled to being included in every conceivable creative project. Too many cooks spoil the broth, and adding some token girl to the writing staff would have only worsened the debacle that was GoT.
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