Game of Thrones showrunners Benioff & Weiss on pressure to get Season 8 right

Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss accept writing award at 2015 Emmy Awards (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

David Benioff and D.B. Weiss at 2015 Emmy Awards (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

In an extended EW interview which took place during filming for the last season, Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss discuss their way of making sure George R.R. Martin’s future books remain relatively unspoiled by season eight while adhering to Martin’s vision for the ending, the cast’s reaction to their characters’ fates, and, of course, the daunting task of writing the final season and directing the finale of such a popular TV show they have invested a decade of their lives in.

“We’ve known the major beats for at least five years,” Weiss tells Entertainment Weekly‘s James Hibberd. But did this knowledge make it easier to write? “On the one hand, when you’ve been working on something for 10 years, knowing you’re writing the last episodes is harder because there’s a lot more weight and pressure on those scenes… On the other hand, the motivations behind each scene are something you’ve been thinking about for five years, so the foundations in your mind are stronger for what you’re putting on paper. But you still find yourself spending a lot more time to get it right.”

Thankfully, it appears they did, at least according to the cast: “I don’t think anyone said anything like [‘this isn’t what I wanted for my character’],” Benioff says, and Weiss agrees: “They seemed to get the dramatic necessity behind it.” I imagine “it” refers to “the miserable deaths of so many of our beloved characters.”

Once the books could spoil the show and now it may be the other way around, but Benioff makes clear they won’t say what comes from Martin’s plans and what’s a D&D original: “One thing we’ve talked to George about is that we’re not going to tell people what the differences are, so when those books come out people can experience them fresh.” Weiss adds: “The show has become so different that people will have no way knowing from watching what will or won’t appear in the books.”

“When something has been sitting with you for so long, you have such a specific sense of the way each moment should play and feel,” Weiss says about their decision to direct the series finale. “So it’s not really fair to ask somebody else to get that right. We’d be lurking over their shoulder every take driving them crazy, making it hard for them to do their job. If we’re going to drive anybody crazy, it might as well be ourselves. At least if something goes wrong, he can yell at me and I can yell at him.”

Caption

“Jon and Dany are obviously together-together now,” Weiss says of season eight. “We didn’t have much time, or any time, to explore that relationship as a real relationship in the seventh season. It came to fruition at the end. It was a lot of fun to write them meeting each other, and now there’s a new kind of relationship between them. And here they’re together from the beginning.”

“The show began with the threat in the North. From the beginning, there were all of these squabbles that were going on between people that seemed important happening against the backdrop of much larger and more momentous events that only a few people who lived on the fringes of the political world knew about. This always was the overarching structure of the series: The very slow burn of the rise of the [White Walkers in the] Far North and the [rise of Daenerys and her dragons in the] Far East… So the things driving the story are from the edges of the earth, and it seems fitting that these things from the east and the north should come together to decide the fate of everybody in the middle, who didn’t even know about them until recently.”

For the whole story, read the original interview at Entertainment Weekly.

58 responses

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    1. Excellent interview! It’s always a treat to hear from David and Dan. It’s easy to tell just how much they care about this show, and just how hard they worked on making sure that this final season is as great as it can be. I fully expect that they’ll be sticking to their promise of remaining silent and avoiding the Internet after the series finale airs, and I respect that resolution. But I do hope that one day in the not-too-distant future we’ll hear from them again, and they’ll be able to share a bit more insight into how they concluded this decade-long journey. I’ll be eager to read it whenever that day comes!

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    2. That’s genius. Saying they made differences but won’t ever tell anyone, so if the books never get published people won’t know what was part of the intended book ending and what wasn’t.

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    3. I’m glad they won’t be divulging what does or does not line up with what GRRM told them and what he plans for the books. I think certain beats, like who does or does not end up on the Iron Throne, or that nobody does and there will be some movement towards a better political system, is so significant that we could pretty much be certain that’s how the books will end too.

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    4. “We didn’t have much time, or any time, to explore that relationship as a real relationship in the seventh season”.

      You can say that again.

      On another note, I fully expected that they wouldn’t reveal what was or wasn’t part of what George told them. Hardcore fans will be able to surmise some of it anyway, as GRRM said that major character fates will be the same.

      In any event, it’s courteous of them not to spoil the books, in the event they end up being published.

      If they don’t end up being published, however, I hope they’ll break their silence so we can know what they do about the intended ending.

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    5. BENIOFF: We had a long argument about when Dany’s dragons flew over the Dothraki whether their horses should be afraid. And Dan was like: “You know, the horses have been with her for a long while…”

      I read the interview earlier today after receiving the Google Alert. The above quote I found astounding and two other things I found slyly curious. They argued over whether the Dothraki horses would be frightened when Drogon flies over them??? LOL The horses were on the dead run. What do horses do when frightened? They run! Wow.

      Sophie Turner responded first within an hour of receiving the scripts. Kit was the last to respond. Hummn!

      When the final episode airs, do you have any specific plans for what you’ll be doing?
      WEISS: We’ll in an undisclosed location, turning off our phones and opening various bottles.

      Oh really, now? Sounds like after “their ending” is revealed they will need to “get out of Dodge” and might need some of those fast running horses.
      There seem to be riddles within their enigmas.

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    6. costello:
      They did a good job directing Walk of Punishment and Two Swords, looking forward to it

      “Two Chickens” = best ever GoT segment ever (last 9 minutes): Little lady wants a pony >> Little lady gets a pony.

      Icing on the cake: The Hound gets every f*cking chicken in this room. 🐓🐓🐓🐓🐓
      Arya gets Needle back. 🗡

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    7. I’ve watched up through Season 6, Episode 2, and have viewed what recap videos there are for Season 6 and 7. I think I’m ready for the last season even though I aim to catch up as best as I can during April and May. There are so many characters whose fates inspire concern by me. I want the best for all of them even though the need to cultivate awe and wonder for the audience will certainly kill some of them off to inspire greater moral lessons and ponderings. Hat’s off to all the people (including both the great and small villains) who worked so hard over the years to make it happen. If only they could give Arya back her childhood.

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    8. Jack Hamm:
      “Sophie Turner responded first within an hour of receiving the scripts.Kit was the last to respond.Hummn!

      I wouldn’t read too much into that. Kit has said in a couple of interviews that he didn’t read the scripts until they all got together for the table read.

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    9. I fully agree with the “Two Swords” being great. It is actually one of my favorites. The beautiful scene where Ice is melted down into two new swords is great as well.. but the chicken scene is amazing.

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    10. Nick20,

      I love D&D (after all they gave us they show, didn’t they?) but if they had skipped the Sansa/Arya nonsense, they would have had plenty of time to explore Jon & Dany relationship.

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    11. Miss Stark:
      Anyone have any idea when we’ll get the title for episode one?

      Usually HBO releases a batch of images of the upcoming episode on the wednesday before it airs. Along with a short summary and title. That has been the case for the past three seasons at least. So possibly today!

      I honestly see no link with the season premiere for the reveal, the episode title is never part of the actual episode, so why would that be the most logical moment?

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    12. Nick20,

      Nonsense. They meant that Jon and Dany didn’t get together till the end of the season so only now they can explore their relationship. Having more scenes in season 7 doesn’t change that. It would still end at the same point.

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    13. Nick20: Agreed.

      #4MOREDAYS

      I may be one the few that really strongly disagrees about their scenes being “nonsense”. I had written a pretty long post about this a month or so ago. Those scenes in season 7 solidify a volatile sister relationship so they can finally work together and not against each other (the pack survives). The moment when Arya flipped the Catspaw’s dagger back to her sister was a pivotal moment IMO in their sister relationship. Arya was saying she wasn’t going to kill her. They finally came together and culminated with teaming up by surrounding LF to take him down (even the choreography of the LF execution scene was like wolves surrounding their prey). To sum up my other post, one of Arya’s FM skills is the ability of knowing instantly when someone is lying. Not only can a FM take on other faces, but a FM can reflect back a face like a mirror so the other person can see her true self. This is what the game of faces was all about. Who else but Arya could call out Sansa as she did in those scenes. I’m sure many fans wanted to be Arya and call out Sansa through the years. Sansa had to seriously take a hard look at her motivations and her actions as Arya forced her to take a hard look in the mirror at herself. As little kids they hated each other. As Arya told Ned…”well I don’t hate her…not really”. But until season 7, they never addressed their relationship (for obvious reasons with them being separated on their own journeys). Sansa also gained a much better handle on Arya with discovering her faces. Upon re-watch, perhaps I’m one of the few that really enjoy these scenes and I feel they are important in setting up the sister’s having each other’s backs in season 8. The battlement scene in the finale of 7 was one of those amazing moments to see the sisters finally come together and reflect back on Ned’s words from so many years ago…..We needed those season 7 scenes to get to that battlement moment and get to hear the sisters quote their father so eloquently.
      Here’s how things started back in season 1 with the beautiful scene of Ned sitting down with Arya in her room back in Kings Landing when Arya says she doesn’t hate Sansa…not really….. Season 7 is when Arya finally takes Ned’s words to heart and makes peace with her sister.

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    14. I agree, I though those scenes were good. It’s not like they liked each other at all in the early days.. and they as they got older they missed the chance to reconcile their differences by being separated.

      Unfortunately they learnt not to trust anyone and to be very suspicious over the years. so Littlefinger hiding the letter for Arya to find kind of confirmed what Arya had thought about for years (that her sister played some role in what happened), but it was proved wrong and they finally moved past all the anger in Season 7.

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    15. Tron79,

      “…You’re the strongest person I know.”

      “I believe that’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.”

      “Well, don’t get used to it. You’re still very strange and annoying.”

      🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

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    16. Tron79,

      I very much agree that those scenes, or that subplot, was not “nonsense”. I think it was a very necessary part of the development for both Arya and Sansa. My problem with that subplot is more in the execution — the way it was told/shown. It could have been written in a way that would have been far more interesting, but they deliberately avoided logic, and misdirected to get that “holy sh&t” moment at the end for the sake of drama. That whole argument over the scroll could have been resolved in 10 minutes if the characters just behaved logically and asked the obvious questions.

      Their ending scene together on the battlements of Winterfell, however, is my favourite scene of season 7 (with Jamie riding North being my second favourite). So given the sisters’ previous relationship, there definitely needed to be some issues for them to work through in order to come together as a pack in the end as they have, but I wish we could have seen more of that.

      One of the things I’m most excited for in season 8 is seeing Arya and Sansa have each other’s backs and working together as a pack. As Ned tells Arya in the books, “You may be as different as the sun and the moon, but the same blood flows through both your hearts. You need her, as she needs you.”

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    17. Ten Bears,

      Remember in season 7 when Arya said something to Sansa about her not doing anything when Ned was executed. Sansa asked Arya something like …’well what did you do…”
      During my last re-watch of Baelor I noticed for the first time that Arya reached for Needle and started charging through the crowd to rescue father Ned and then Yoren pulled her back. It happens so fast I really didn’t notice that detail before. She was just like Jon facing the Calvary in the BOTB even at that age… She reached for Needle and was going to charge right up there to rescue her father…”no matter the odds” as Jon would say….so yes, Arya did try to do something…

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    18. Enharmony1625,

      I think you’re right that they definitely shaped what the audience saw for the shock and drama effects. I’ll have to go back and re-watch the scroll scenes again to see what you are saying. From what I remember, Arya pointed out correctly that Sansa had choices. Sansa always chooses the safest choice in Arya’s mind. I thought that was pretty true. It did work for Sansa for survival, but it’s polar opposites from the way Arya and Jon look at situations.

      I do agree with others here about Jon/Dany being rushed. I think since Ygritte started talking about sex almost immediately, I knew where they were headed. But Jon and Dany seemed to both have the weight of the world on their minds. As Jon told Davos earlier in the season “there’s no time for that”…. I guess I just have to think Jon felt a connection with Dany. Unfortunately that connection turned out to be Aunt and Nephew! Dany does have a history of taking on lovers (Daario Naharis), so I can see it’s not totally out of her character. Jon on the other hand made a pretty big deal about not wanting to father another bastard..so that relationship is a tough one, and we really didn’t have much time to root for them…there was no cat and mouse like with Ygritte…it was more of “the world’s going to end, so lets get some comfort”…

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    19. Ten Bears:
      Tron79,

      “…You’re the strongest person I know.”

      “I believe that’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.”

      “Well, don’t get used to it. You’re still very strange and annoying.”

      🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

      Great conversation and that last line was so appropriate after their previous interactions!

      I enjoyed that storyline better on rewatch (just finished!) Knowing what they were going for, I do think the arc overall makes sense for the characters…the lack of trust, Arya feeling Sansa out in a very challenging way, Sansa being creeped out, feeling threatened and still listening to the devil she knows…just could have been conveyed/written better.

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    20. Winterkat,

      I come from a very large family. Lots of brothers and sisters. Even when we’re trying to compliment or congratulate each other… there’s always a bit of snark thrown in so it doesn’t get too syrupy.

      That’s why I loved that exchange between Sansa and Arya.

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    21. Tron79,

      Yes. Absolutely. Arya was going to rush the stage before Yoren grabbed her. Just like she was going to run into the Twins until Sandor bonked her on the head because “it’s too late.”

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    22. Winterkat,

      Off topic: I’ve been wondering this for a while. Is your native language Dutch? I live in the Dutch speaking part of Belgium.

      On topic: I’m going to take the day off at work after the first and the last episode. In Belgium the episode airs at 3 AM. I’m gonna sleep in my couch next to the tv, so I can put the TV on immediately when it starts. My 2 cat’s won’t like it that I wake them up at night, but luckily for them there are only 6 episodes.

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    23. Miss Stark,

      3 AM in Belgium is a bit too late to stay awake, if it was 1 AM I’d stay awake too. Previous years I watched the episodes on my smartphone in my bed so I could sleep before and after the episode. But to be honest, I never really did sleep because I was way too excited to fall asleep and I kept reading here on WOTW to know what other people were thinking and if there were things I missed. It’s difficult for us Europeans.

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    24. Chilli,

      I’m taking days off for episodes 3, 5 and 6.

      And Easter (ep. 2) is a freebie.

      So only 1 & 4 I won’t see live.

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    25. Dutch Maester: Usually HBO releases a batch of images of the upcoming episode on the wednesday before it airs. Along with a short summary and title. That has been the case for the past three seasons at least. So possibly today!

      I honestly see no link with the season premiere for the reveal, the episode title is never part of the actual episode, so why would that be the most logical moment?

      Did they do that for the premieres? Looks like nothing today.

        Quote  Reply

    26. Ten Bears,

      Agreed. Arya and Jon have something inside them that makes them rush forward to protect, regardless of potential outcomes.
      Arya w/ butcher’s son, her father, red wedding etc
      Jon w/ Sam, the LC, and all his insanely outmatched battles.

      But then Lyanna is Jon’s mother and by all accounts, Arya reminds Ned of Lyanna, which is why he let her shoot arrows and train with Syrio.

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    27. Ten Bears:
      Tron79,

      Yes. Absolutely. Arya was going to rush the stage before Yoren grabbed her. Just like she was going to run into the Twins until Sandor bonked her on the head because “it’s too late.”

      Wow I didn’t think about the red wedding scene too. Good point. What’s it going to be like with both Arya and Jon going into battle together!

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    28. Chilli,

      Nee…(that and “kat” are the only words I know 🤷‍♀️ Oh, and “ja” and “prosit”)

      I actually have some Dutch in my ancestry but I’m an all-American mutt, with faded memory of limited French, some basic words in Spanish and a few in Italian and German.

      Happy to have the luxury of watching GOT at a reasonable hour!

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    29. Enharmony1625,

      I loved the battlement scene as well but I really believe hat the “nonsense” between Sansa/Arya could have been illustrated in some way where they sat down with Bran and had open conversation on past events. This would have been far more interesting to me then Sansa shuffling through a bag of flabby faces. (Also, logically, this was a horrible plot by LF- did he really think that would work?)

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    30. I read this on James Hibberds twitter a few days ago, I think it’s clear that despite the critics D&D are sticking pretty close to what GRRM told them however there will be differences in the details and they are having to make some stuff up for minor characters.

      I also love the fact that they were so keen to keep spoilers under wraps and nothing has got out so far.

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    31. Cersei’s Brain,

      I was honestly hoping for the topic of their dire wolves to come up between Arya and Sansa, and that would be part of how they reconciled. After Arya reunited with Nymeria I really hoped that she would mention that to Sansa and that would bring up the events of the Kingsroad. That could have been a nice moment to show how they patch up their relationship, with both of them showing some empathy over the difficult position each of them was in.

      Heck, I’m just going to assume that is how they reconciled, albeit off screen. 🙂

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    32. Colin:
      I’ve watched up through Season 6, Episode 2, and have viewed what recap videos there are for Season 6 and 7.I think I’m ready for the last season even though I aim to catch up as best as I can during April and May. There are so many characters whose fates inspire concern by me.I want the best for all of them even though the need to cultivate awe and wonder for the audience will certainly kill some of them off to inspire greater moral lessons and ponderings.Hat’s off to all the people (including both the great and small villains) who worked so hard over the years to make it happen. If only they could give Arya back her childhood.

      I’m also doing a re-watch (started three weeks ago) and just finished season six episode 2. Watching so many episodes in a short time frame is tough but I am really spotting how much foreshadowing there is, often it lands within a few episodes but other stuff doesn’t happen for a season or two. Point being I’m sure we will see some stuff land and recognise it now having watched it all just before.

      Sounds like neither of us will finish before the premiere but I will be content to finish S6 simply as I never expected to get that far.

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    33. In D&D we trust, I’m sure they’ll stick the landing, dunk n the ball, spike the pigskin, hit out of the park.
      Concerning episode 8.1, description states nudity and strong sexual content, wtf, I didn’t think there’s time and an I’ll fit for the premiere, I can’t see anyone shagging up at WF, especially with the runtime and et al. Could we see a Bran past vision of Lyanna and Rhaegar between the sheets?

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    34. I loved the way Arya/Sansa was handled.
      It could have been done with less “dramatic build up”, but if this show skimped on the “we build you up, then misdirect you, then spring it on you – woah drama!” – then it probably could have had shorter episodes 🙂
      (Or, perhaps, they’d have more time to flesh out other things some people -including myself- would have liked to see/see more of each season; that’s a legitimate argument. I do not, however, think that this is a show where we were ever going to see the Starks reunite, sit down, and clear it up in an open, honest conversation at super – even if they might have in the books)

      Which brings me to my question
      The D&D interview says:
      “The show has become so different that people will have no way knowing from watching what will or won’t appear in the books.”
      – which I really appreciate, it will be nice to read any possible future books as truly their own story.
      But they also said they are staying as true to GRRMs vision of the ending, correct?
      So, should there be books, this season of the show will have given me the book ending of how Westeros ends up (Iron Throne/political system etc., or, you know, Whether or not there even is a kingdom anymore or it’s become a white walker wasteland) – the books will just have a different vehicle, and some different people living/dying in getting to that same ending I will know in 6 weeks time?

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