We’re really on a roll now. Last night, Game of Thrones writer/producer Bryan Cogman again took to Twitter to give us his thoughts on two more of his top 10 favorite episodes.
Last night’s offerings were two episodes in my personal top ten, And Now His Watch is Ended (my number 4), and What is Dead May Never Die (my number 6), so this had me keen for details. As per the norm, you can follow Bryan on Twitter at @b_cogman.
His tweets after the break!
ok, folks! Continuing my countdown/tweeting of my personal top ten fave GoT episodes. For those just joining me, these are just my personal favorites. By no means an official list! And by no means a diss on any episodes NOT on the list! Ok now that that’s outta the way…
#10 was ‘Fire and Blood’, #9 was ‘Two Swords’…
Axey: My numbers 9 and 7, respectively.
(Self-congratulatory and slightly-insufferable sidenote: I note that his list is shaping up to resemble mine! Quite pleased Bryan knows good filmmaking when he sees it too…)
(Feel free to mentally insert whatever winking emoji you feel sufficiently covers all my bases here.)
Here we go, with #8, Season 3, ep 4 ‘And Now His Watch Is Ended’, written by D&D, directed by Alex Graves.
We begin w/ Jaime Lannister phase 2! Opening on that dismembered hand around @nikolajcw‘s hand was a nice touch. I imagine he’s still finding mud in his hair from his time spent shooting this season.
This was the first episode directed by Alex Graves. Loved working with him – one of his strengths was that he was very aware/mindful of how his eps fit into the larger narrative. Always asking specific questions about moments, making sure he was setting up larger arcs, etc.
This was also the first episode with the great Anette Haellmigk as director of photography. She has shot more eps of GoT than any other. She shot all of Alex’s episodes, then Mark Mylod’s in S5 and Dan Sachem’s for the upcoming S6.
This scene with Varys telling his ‘origin’ story was originally slotted for Season 2, as I recall. In one draft of ‘Blackwater’, we had him telling this story to Tyrion in the ‘bells’ scene as Tyrion is being suited up. But it was decided that it didn’t fit there.
Obviously, the nasty bit with the poor little man in the crate was added later when the scene was reworked for Season 3.
Ah, Craster’s Keep! Boy, that set is one of Gemma Jackson’s greatest, but I don’t miss it one bit!
Our incredible crew built that thing in Clandeboye Estate, just outside of Belfast. It’s actually on the same bit of land where Theon/Robb talk about retaliation while Bran tests his saddle in Season One.
No soundstage here. Those interiors are the actual inside of the keep. It’s as nasty, dirty, cramped, and smelly as it looks.
Here we are in Bran’s dream… I feel like I wrote this scene for my episodes and it was moved?
No, I remember, I conceived it in the outline stage. It’s been awhile!
Ok, this is gonna sound strange – but I was kind of afraid to get to know Thomas Brodie Sangster on set! He couldn’t have been nicer, but his Jojen creeped me out SO MUCH I was always unnerved when I talked to him! Sorry, Tom. Again, a very nice guy. He’s just too good.
Axey: No, I get that. I interviewed Thomas in Belfast once, and you can tell he’s been in the biz since he was about yea high. He’s quietly confident, and looks you right in the eye when he speaks to you… and isn’t afraid of filling uncomfortable silence with more uncomfortable silence, usually with a vaguely amused half-smile affixed. To some people that could be slightly unsettling.
(If they ever do an adaptation of the Dragonlance saga, I kind of want Thomas to play Raistlin Majere.)
Wow, I’m struck by how much mythology/exposition D&D threw into this scene — the Sept scene with Joff/Cersei/Olenna. Also forgot about this nice beat where we clock Cersei admiring Olenna for essentially running House Tyrell…
Natalie Dormer is a writer’s dream — she plays subtext so expertly.
Ah, this is the episode where Ramsay reveals himself. Not his identity, not yet, but his true nature. Iwan was a final contender for Jon Snow. When D&D conceived the show’s version of Ramsay he was there first and only choice for the role.
His character was known only as ‘Boy’ in the Season 3 scripts.
Axey: We knew. And we knew.
This scene in the tunnels was shot at Shane’s Castle in Northern Ireland. We have shot there since the original 2009 pilot. Winterfell’s crypts, much of woodland scenes, the tourney, the sept chapel, the Winterfell brothel, Qyburn’s lab — all at Shane’s.
And that’s just off the top of my head. It’s an amazing place.
Aaaaand Theon realizes he’s back at his torture chamber! Oof, that’s fucked up.
The Brienne/Jaime relationship was probably the most satisfying for me to track in the room, adapt, produce…
I’m noticing, watching this back, how effectively Alex/Annette used close ups. Particularly like this transition from the close up of Jaime, to the close up of Cersei…
When we realized, with Season 3, that we would probably be able to do this whole thing, this show became one big adaptation of the whole saga, as opposed to ‘a book a season’. Splitting ‘A Storm of Swords’ into two parts freed us up a lot, but also created a lot of challenges.
Some characters had a ton of story, plenty for two seasons, but others had comparatively less. Fewer chapters (Bran, Dany)…
And we also had a cast of characters we needed to service/create juicy stuff for — hence the expansion of this King’s Landing Tyrell/Lannister wedding conspiracy subplot.
I love @SophieT‘s expression here when Margaery tells her “I want us to be friends. Good friends.” Ugh, heartbreaking…
Oh, and here when Marg says “we could be sisters!” BRUTAL.
Axey: Still amazed Sophie and Maisie were found as kids. What kind of acting lottery do you have to hit for that? And now they’re so strong as adults.
And hey! We get to see how well Isaac’s transitioned this year! (Nearly an adult, and he took a year off!)
And we’re back at Craster’s. My bosses have managed to assign themselves to Croatia/Morocco/Spain duty every season. I get assigned night shoots at Craster’s! When we burned the place down (in Season 4) I wanted to light the first match!
Man, this episode is packed with incident. I think Season 3 was our peak in terms of characters/storylines to juggle.
Richard Dormer and Paul Kaye brought a great, slightly off kilter energy to their roles.
And now we come to the final sequence – the taking of Astapor. This is, for me, one of the best realized sequences in the show.
Alex is very good about clocking every character’s POV throughout.
I wasn’t present for this shoot, but they only had two or three days to shoot the whole thing – which is madness.
This was designed to be the scene that finally truly delivers on the promise of Dany’s final moments in S1. Emilia’s Emmy submission. Easy to see why.
Season 2 was, by design, about bringing Dany down after the height of ‘Fire and Blood’. This episode swings her back up.
And I believe this is the first use of Ramin’s extraordinary ‘dragon’ theme.
Axey: Fucking visceral. The music this entire episode was brilliant, from the devolution to chaos at Craster’s, to this scene. I could turn off all sound and just listen to Ramin’s music for this one. It’s that good. When they get it right (which happens more often than not), they really get it right.
On to the next episode…
So far, I’ve tweeted during rewatches of ‘Fire and Blood’, ‘Two Swords’, and ‘And Now His Watch Is Ended’. And now, #7… (drumroll)…
‘What Is Dead May Never Die’ directed by Alik Sakharov and written by some jerk. Season 2, episode 3.
Axey: I quite enjoy that Bryan is ballsy enough to list one of his own eps in the top ten, as well as smart enough to realize it even belongs there.
(Emoji, emoji, yadda yadda.)
In some ways, this is my first “true” GoT script, as I didn’t know I was writing an official GoT script when I penned my S1 ep
I thought it was just an exercise D&D assigned me. Had no hope in my wildest imagination that I’d write for S1 or S2, for that matter. So I wrote ‘Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things’ blissfully unaware of the high stakes. Anyway, this one was the polar opposite. I had to prove promoting me wasn’t a horrible mistake!
This opening with Craster was scripted as much more elaborate (a common trait of my early scripts!). It opened with Craster smacking Jon around outside of the Keep. Wisely cut.
This scene with Mormont and Jon is actually a riff on a scene from the books – though, in the book, they’re not explicitly discussing
Craster sacrificing his kids to the White Walkers. The reason for showing this on the show was simple: it was important to keep the Walkers present for the viewing audience.
This Sam/Gilly thimble scene is one of my favorites. It’s one I dreamed up on my own as I was scripting the episode. We had outlined a pretty standard “I’ll be back for you” goodbye scene and I had written that. David told me to try again and dig deeper. At first, I thought “Dig deeper?” What the hell does that mean? But it became a great way to explore Sam’s past and have it bleed into the present.
I’m pretty sure this was one of Alik Sakharov’s first scenes he directed for the episode. And I think it might have Hannah’s first day?
I’ve had the good fortune of writing several key Sam scenes. John Bradley manages to crawl inside my head and speak the lines exactly as I hear them when I’m writing them.
Axey: Nobody writes Samwell Tarly as well as Cogman, I’m convinced.
Alik Sakharov became one of my closest friends on GoT. A truly inspiring, wonderful man. We collaborated very closely on our eps.
He often referred to me as his ‘partner’ on them, which was hugely generous. I learned a great deal from him. Hope to do something else with him someday.
These “warning” sequences in S2 were hugely challenging but conceptually and execution-wise.
Man, I miss Donald Sumpter (Maester Luwin). This is the series’ first mention of the Children of the Forest. Slipped this one in here!
Ah, the introduction of my lovely lovely @lovegwendoline as Brienne of Tarth!
I got to introduce her and Natalie Dormer as Margaery! This was a crazy day. This was the stormy day the set blew away into the sea!
Actually, not true — only the shots where Catelyn is entering the camp. Then the set blew away. Then we came back months later.
My original script had this scene on horseback, at Storm’s End. But budget constraints made it a camp and a fight on foot. Early days!
Man, it was cold that day, I felt for poor Natalie.
This was shot on the northern coast, near the Carrick-a-reade rope bridge in Northern Ireland.
This little exchange where Renly asks a servant in his army about his wounded foot was @gethinanthony‘s idea. A good one!
Axey: The growth of Renly from season 1 to season 2 was remarkable, and a testament to Gethin’s ability to pull that off so smoothly.
And now he’s Charles Manson. Who knew?
This episode was shot by a terrific DP P.J. Dillon — he’s back for this upcoming season.
And now we come to Pyke. I chose this episode as a top ten fave primarily because of the strength of these Theon scenes.
Theon’s arc is one of which I’m very proud. Alfie’s immense talent and emotional availability hugely influence how we reshaped the character for the TV version of the story.
This Pyke great hall set was a redress of the Winterfell great hall set.
I must say, I was very pleased with myself when I managed to get the Greyjoy saying worked into the is dialogue. 🙂
“We … do not sow.”
“We Do Not Sow!”
Alik Sakharov excels at these charged ‘family drama’ scenes. The Russian dramatist in him!
I remember reading ‘A Clash of Kings’ and thinking what a genius @GRRMspeaking was to make what was essentially a background character a main character in the second volume.
Ah, Shae. This was tricky. In the books there’s a rather elaborate hiding place Tyrion secures for her in town. We had a version of this in early drafts, but it was determined we’d got more dramatic mileage (and save some money on locations/sets) if we kept her in the Red Keep.
This led us to bringing her together with Sansa much earlier than in the books and having the two of them develop a friendship.
This is another scene I’m particularly fond of. Sansa’s dinner from hell with Cersei and the kids. Alik kept exclaiming: it’s Bergman! It’s great human pain in small quiet moments!
It’s our first glimpse of Tommen’s good nature. “Is Joffrey going to kill Sansa’s brother?” “Would you like that?” “No, I don’t think so.”
This shot of Sansa in the mirror is a painterly Alik Sakharov special.
Axey: Lovely and haunting. It’s the tiny details.
He, as some of you may know, was a DP of great renown before he became a director. Shot half of THE SOPRANOS and shot half of our first season, including the season premiere and finale.
Ok, fun fact time: This Shae/Sansa scene was originally towards the END of the episode. There’s a deleted scene (you can find on the blu) that was supposed to directly follow the dinner scene, with Sansa being accosted by the Hound in the corridor. A version of their scene in the first book. The scene ends with Tyrion happening upon them and dismissing the Hound, seeing Sansa is in distress, attempting to comfort her, and sparking the idea to potentially solve two problems by placing Shae with Sansa. I liked the scene, personally. Not sure why it was cut in post, probably pacing issues…? Anyway the episode flows well as it is, so maybe it was the right call. But, again, the scene survives on the S2 blu ray, so you can judge for yourself.
This Sansa/Shae scene is mainly written by D&D, added in a later draft (after we’d decided to put Shae in the Red Keep).
A nice bit of character work here, with Sansa taking out her frustrations and hurt on the only person she can — a servant.
Ah, Tyrion’s ruse! Alik had a field day with this one. Very fun to write. Also a bit different in my original script. Each mini-scene within this sequence was originally written to take place in a different location. Alik (or maybe it was D&D, can’t remember) asked me to rewrite so it took place in the same room and, of course, it was the right call.
I toyed with calling this episode “The Queen Mustn’t Know” after this scene, until I realized that was a terrible title. I loved Tyrion every season — but there’s a special place in my heart for the Tyrion of Season 2. Peter really dominates the season. I’m not sure we’ve had one character anchor a season of GoT quite as much as Tyrion did in Season 2 (possibly Sean as Ned in S1)
Peter might have the Guinness record for most glasses of wine drunk in television series.
Axey: Plopped in the midst of a great episode, this was probably my favorite scene here. Mad respect.
This Renly/Marg scene was Natalie’s audition — largely written by D&D.
It’s funny – it’s been so long since the Season 2 writers room — I know we had planned for a Marg/Renly bedroom scene, and I know we had discussed fleshing out Margaery’s role — but it was the casting of Natalie that really made us rethink/shape the character.
This story has been told before, but one of my fave moments on set occurred when Lena SHOVES Peter to the ground during this scene. it was totally in the heat of the moment — in a wide shot. She never did it in coverage. So we just used the wide! Love it.
Now we come to one of my fave beats in the episode and it contains no dialogue! Theon writing the warning letter to Robb, then burning it.
It didn’t exist in the outline. In the outline we went from Yara saying “make your choice to Theon” to Theon getting baptized. As I was writing the ep, I felt the middle beat was missing, so I came up with this. Thankfully, Alfie is the kind of actor that convey so much without any words. This is one of the most beautifully lit scenes in the ep but as I recall it was shot close to the end w/ a skeleton crew. We were running out of time and I remember Alik shooting it on a undressed set with minimal lighting and one camera in just a couple hours. I stole one of those warning notes to frame on my wall. Stuck it in a book to bring back home! And I haven’t found it!
This baptism scene was Alik’s tribute to Kurosawa. The quick shots of the flapping banners. It was damn cold and rainy that day! This was the day I realized what I wanted to call the episode #WhatIsDeadMayNeverDie.
Alfie’s look of guilt and fear and shame just after he’s anointed and looks out at his family — utter perfection. you can’t write that!
Now here’s an example of why Peter Dinklage is the best. I had scripted this scene as Tyrion feeling great about himself for having rooted out the spy on the small council. But he pointed out that he should feel empathy for Cersei — he is sending her daughter away from her and she has made herself vulnerable in front of him. So instead, he’s opening the scene lost in troubled thought, before Littlefinger comes in.
He was dead right and the scene is better for it.
I’m frankly amazed I can remember anything about S2. My daughter was born a week before production and I spent my nights writing the ‘Making of’ book. Total blur!!!
I kind of miss these earlier, simpler, King’s Landing days!
Another reason Peter Dinklage is the best. Him playing with this weird little prop during the Pycelle ‘beard cutting’ scene. One reason I picked this as a fave (apart from my obvious fondness for it) is that I think it contains a bit of everything. And it’s funny.
“No goats, halfman!”
“Well make due!”
The riddle! One of @GRRMspeaking‘s most inspired passages. I shall take credit for its presence in the show now. We didn’t have this scene in the outline. As I was thumbing through the book writing this ep, I came upon the riddle scene and realized we hadn’t accounted for it!
So I worked it into this episode. And then it became the centerpiece of all the season 2 trailers. So I was very proud of that.
And it became Conleth’s signature scene. When they shot this, Peter had just won the Emmy. So Conleth kept calling him “Emmy’ btwn takes.
Axey: I giggle whenever I think of this.
Now we come to the eps conclusion. Arya/Yoren and the attack by the Lannister troops.
Originally scripted as a big, hugely expensive battle scene. Such is life for a naive young screenwriter!
But first, we have this superb Yoren scene and his “Willem” monologue — which plants the idea in Arya’s head for her prayer.
The best piece of writing in the episode and I had nothing to do with it. It was a rewrite from D&D.
I had a scene in here between Hot Pie and Arya talking about Jon Snow. When the guys told me they were cutting and writing something new I was PISSED. And sad! Cuz I loved the scene I wrote. Then I read this one and thought, “Fuckers! You were right!”
I had always loved @Maisie_Williams but the day we shot this since I fell IN love! Specifically when you see that flash behind her eyes as Yoren is talking about saying his prayer — she’s resolving to do the same in that moment, every night. Genius! And all Maisie.
I nearly ruined the take cuz I was jumping up and down behind the monitors in excitement.
As I said before, this scene was originally written closer to the book version, with the Lannister storming a castle the recruits are holed up in. But we didn’t have that location so I rewrote the scene, with Alik, after scouting the location. It’s amazing to think about now after ‘Blackwater’, the battle of the Wall, and ‘Hardhome’, but this was by far our biggest battle by this point! Twas very exciting.
“Always hated crossbows…”
We had NO time to shoot this scene. Maisie was still a minor and worked limited hours. We only had a few nights to do it. Alik planned out every. single. beat. We were shooting that final helmet shot just as the sun was coming up and we had seconds left in the day.
Love @andykellegher as POLLIVER. Made such an impression with this brief scene that we knew viewers would remember him in ‘Two Swords’ (S4)
This scene is a combo. The Lommy death beat occurred originally in Episode 4 when we outlined. Had to streamline them as we planned the season. Thus, I can’t take credit for “Fine little blade, maybe I’ll pick my teeth with it.” Vanessa Taylor wrote that in her version of the scene, which I folded into this version. (Unless that was from the book? I don’t thiiiink it was?)
Ok, that’s it for #WhatIsDeadMayNeverDie! I’ll be back at some point this week with my #6 pick!
Man, I love this stuff. I don’t even get the Blu-rays for the clearer picture. It’s mostly for the commentaries.
See you next week, nerds!