Co-showrunner Miguel Sapochnik leaves House of the Dragon; veteran Thrones director joins season two!

Young Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock), Young Alicent (Emily Carey), Miguel Sapochnik 1x01

The first season of House of the Dragon has just started and we’re already getting production news for the second season. And I don’t think this is news any of us could have possibly expected: director Miguel Sapochnik, showrunner for season one with writer Ryan Condal, is moving away from the show, while another Game of Thrones veteran is coming back for this prequel’s second season.

As you may recall, Sapochnik directed some of the most critically-acclaimed and grander-scale episodes in the later seasons of Game of Thrones: Hardhome, Battle of the Bastards, The Winds of Winter, The Long Night, The Bells… quite a resume! In this first season of House of the Dragon, he wasn’t only responsible for helming the series premiere and the sixth and seventh episodes (which we’ll see in a matter of weeks); he was also the co-showrunner, alongside writer Ryan Condal.

Per The Hollywood Reporter, Condal will now be the sole showrunner, although Sapochnik will remain credited as executive producer for the rest of the show. He’s also signed a “first-look deal” with HBO to work on new projects, so it seems the parting was as amicable as it could possibly be.

According to Sapochnik, “working within the Thrones universe for the past few years has been an honor and a privilege, especially spending the last two with the amazing cast and crew of House of the Dragon“, and he’s proud of all they accomplished, but, as “incredibly tough” as the decision was, he knows it’s the right choice, personally and professionally, to “move on.” Of course, he wishes Ryan Condal and the entire crew his best on season two, including Alan Taylor.

What’s that? “Alan Taylor”? Does he mean veteran Game of Thrones director Alan Taylor? The Alan Taylor who helmed season one’s show-defining final episodes, Baelor and Fire and Blood, as well as several season two episodes and season seven’s Beyond the Wall? Alan Taylor, the award-winning director of several Rome, Mad Men, and The Sopranos episodes? That Alan Taylor? Yes, that one.

Alan_Taylor_Game_of_Thrones

Taylor’s joining the show, although not to replace Sapochnik exactly, as he won’t be showrunning the show with Condal. Still, he’ll be one of the several executive producers and direct “multiple episodes” in season two. Taylor says the following in a statement: “It’s a pleasure and an honor to be back at HBO, immersing myself in the world of the Targaryens. I look forward to working closely with Ryan as House of the Dragon grows into its second season. Ryan, Miguel and George have launched an extraordinary story, in a rich and fascinating world. Returning to Westeros will be a huge undertaking and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Meanwhile, HBO’s statement emphasizes the “amazing work” Sapochnik’s done on the first season, establishing “its signature look and feel.” As for the returning director, the statement says they’ve “had a decades-long relationship with Alan Taylor, and we are delighted to have him join Ryan and rest the talented team.”

So, how do you all feel about this? Happy? Sad? Neutral? Perhaps time will tell? Personally, I fell in love with Sapochnik’s direction in Hardhome, and that feeling didn’t change for the rest of Game of Thrones or, for that matter, when we saw his work again in the series premiere of House of the Dragon. That said, having Taylor back is a such a gift, and honestly I’d be more worried if the departing showrunner was Ryan Condal, who’s the one responsible for the show’s writing and appears to know this world inside and out. Still, I can’t help feeling sad. That feels appropriate. Please say your fondest farewells to Miguel!

73 Comments

  1. Goes without saying I’m ecstatic over this. Was horrified by Sapochnik’s direction in E1, always thought he was overrated, never liked his personality, and I think people don’t give D & D enough credit for the visuals in the original series. And in contrast, I love Alan Taylor, he’s one of the few TV directors who’s gone on to direct big time features and has held his own. Did an awesome job with The Many Saints of Newark. Also, think it’s wise to give the head writer full showrunning control.

  2. Dammit. That’s a disappointment. However, he’s allowed to do what’s best for him, so here’s to his future endeavours.

  3. This is extremely worrisome and a bad look for one person to have complete control. Waiting to see who drops off next…

  4. S5 E7 The Gift directed by Miguel Sapochnik is one of my favorite episodes… so many foreshadows in that episode. The Battle of the Bastards also has foreshadows that have yet to happen so I hope Miguel Sapochnik will be working on … SNOW

  5. Yikes! Wow! I think I feel similarly to Luka. Glad to hear Alan Taylor will be back directing at least, those should be excellent episodes.

  6. Taylor is a great edition. He directed some great early episodes of Game of Thrones. And David Chase swore that he would never have been able to do more than 2 seasons of Sopranos without him.

    For me Miguel Sapochnik is hit or miss. I think he made some amazing creative decisions in Thrones and some ones that left me scratching my head.

    Condal is a super fan of George and has read the material multiple times. He’s likely the most important one to ensure stays.

  7. Such a bummer that he’s departing before the Dance begins in earnest since his speciality is battle episodes. Hoping he returns to helm one or two in a future season…

    Although I’m really disappointed, I’m glad that Miguel is leaving if he’s burnt out rather than sticking around and phoning it in. I appreciate that he returned to kick-start the series even when he was already exhausted from his mammoth-sized GoT S8 episodes.

    With that said, having only one showrunner is less than ideal. I hope another writer joins Ryan Condal in that position.

    Alan Taylor is a reliable director to bring back. Although I disliked “Beyond the Wall,” I can’t blame him for the writing, and I think it’s best to look at his television resumé rather than his feature films (I don’t think anyone likes Thor: The Dark World).

  8. Jack Bauer 24:
    This is extremely worrisome and a bad look for one person to have complete control. Waiting to see who drops off next…

    Just wait until you find out there’s no red carpet premiere date yet for season 2…

  9. I take these guys at their word but it doesn’t jive with the pre-season video features and interviews. Miguel did an HBO feature where he he said digging deeper into the world and story in the years to come excited him. When asked about the prospect of multiple seasons, George said the show is good hands with Miguel and Ryan

    It’s always possible Miguel decided this in recent weeks, but they don’t make it seem that way with the quotes. So, yeah. I don’t know.

  10. I don’t live in the past so I’m not going to say “IF ONLY RYAN COULD HAVE BEEN THE GOT SHOWRUNNER INSTEAD OF D&D!” but the recent History of Westeros interview with him makes me super confident in his abilities & focus to tell this and maybe MORE ASOIAF stories well.

  11. Jack Bauer 24:
    This is extremely worrisome and a bad look for one person to have complete control. Waiting to see who drops off next…

    You know… most shows have 1 showrunner. Plus, D&D ran their show with an iron fist & let only a couple of people into their writing process. Ryan has a team of writers. And if you’ve listened to him on podcasts, he has no ego.

  12. I’m not sure how I feel about this, tbh. A mix of thoughts and feelings.

    I always saw HOTD as having a Story showrunner (Condal) & a Production showrunner (Sapochnik) – and I think with what we’ve seen from S1 (despite it only being 20%) that it worked. I feel like the story is present and not lost between the big productions. So it’ll be interesting to see if this dynamic changes going into S2. I think Sapochnik had a good eye for set building, so this worries me a little.

    On the other hand, I’ve spent countless years wishing that D&D handed the reins over to Cogman or someone if they were so tired of GoT and wanted to rush it to the end. So if Sapochnik is feeling a bit burnt out and wants out, then I think he’s ultimately making the correct choice.

  13. I was surprised when they announced that Sapochnik was also going to be a showrunner. He’s a director, that’s where his strength is. And I think it’s a bit too much to ask of a person to be and director and showrunner. I think D&D also did way too much, they should have let more other people do things. It’s a good thing Sapochnik realises it in time, while D&D didn’t.

  14. orange:
    I take these guys at their word but it doesn’t jive with the pre-season video features and interviews. Miguel did an HBO feature where he he said digging deeper into the world and story in the years to come excited him.When asked about the prospect of multiple seasons, George said the show is good hands with Miguel and Ryan

    It’s always possible Miguel decided this in recent weeks, but they don’t make it seem that way with the quotes. So, yeah. I don’t know.

    According to past sources, Sapochnik was initially reluctant to join HotD team though, supposedly because he was really spent from GoT. So maybe with HotD seemimgly becoming very “big”, he doesn’t want to get this spent again.

  15. Maybe controversial take right now, but I would like if they actually replaced Ryan Condal and brought back Bryan Cogman instead.

    I just find Condal’s dialogue to be so dull and lifeless.

  16. mau:
    Maybe controversial take right now, but I would like if they actually replaced Ryan Condal and brought back Bryan Cogman instead.

    I just find Condal’s dialogue to be so dull and lifeless.

    Sometimes I feel like some of you make an effort to dislike something. A BIG effort.

  17. I don’t dislike him. I don’t like him. He is perfectly average. Nothing offensive, but nothing memorable either.

  18. Joy C:
    mau,

    I also miss Bryan Cogman. The only episode with good writing in season 8 was his.

    I’ve joked in the past that that episode is where I could easily have had the show end. All my favourites still living, the amazing quiet tension of the “wait”, that beautiful scene of Brienne being knighted…just so so much emotion for me in the one. Seeing Cogman tear up over his love of the characters in the behind the scenes videos just cemented my respect for him. I wish he’d gotten a show.

  19. Knowledge is Power:
    S5 E7 The Gift directed by Miguel Sapochnik is one of my favorite episodes… so many foreshadows in that episode. The Battle of the Bastards also has foreshadows that have yet to happen so I hope Miguel Sapochnik will be working on … SNOW

    This comment captures my guess on what might be happening:

    House of the Dragon is now considered successful. Because it is successful and people are clearly still engaged with Westeros, HBO wants to go ahead with the development of one or more of the other spin-offs, and in order to do that successfully they want some continuity. They have made House of the Dragon Condal’s show, and tagged Sapochnik to work on the look and feel of the rest of the spinoffs to bring consistent world building to the whole effort. That IMO is what “first look deal on new projects” is all about. More spinoffs!

  20. I don’t know if Miguel wants to be stuck with GoT world for the rest of his life. I think he wants to do other things.

  21. mau:
    I don’t know if Miguel wants to be stuck with GoT world for the rest of his life. I think he wants to do other things.

    Yes, but none of the spinoffs would be his to run, so it is a much lower key role. He would just work with the new shows to bring consistency in themes and visuals, while also being able to work on other shows.

  22. mau,

    The show has worked for me so far (minus some hiccups), but it lacks the dynamic character writing that the original series had. I suspected this might be the case as D & D might be on a different level as writers than Condal is (or at least, his pre HOTD work so far up until this point has demonstrated that) . That said, the show seems to be moving at warp speed in the first two episodes to get to a certain point on the timeline and I wonder if once that point is reached, the character development will improve as the show is able to slow down and take its time.

  23. Cathair,

    D&D did not rush, they ended the story right where they always meant to. It was their show, they built it from the ground up. They had no reason to hand the reins over to anyone. Besides, writing one or two episodes a season doesn’t mean Bryan Cogman was qualified to take over the entire production.

  24. mau,

    HBO should hire Bryan Cogman to work with Ryan Condal as a House of the Dragon a writer, showrunner and director.

    Ryan Condal/HBO should also hire any of these outstanding Game of Thrones directors… Alex Graves, Michelle MacLaren, Alik Sakharov, David Nutter and Neil Marshall to direct House of the Dragon Season 2 episodes

  25. Young Dragon,

    Yeah. Why would they give their show to anyone? They made it, they turned it into worldwide phenomenon, they won so many Emmys and other awards.

    It was theirs. You don’t give what you’ve made to anyone else that easily.

  26. awol: This comment captures my guess on what might be happening:

    House of the Dragon is now considered successful. Because it is successful and people are clearly still engaged with Westeros, HBO wants to go ahead with the development of one or more of the other spin-offs, and in order to do that successfully they want some continuity. They have made House of the Dragon Condal’s show, and tagged Sapochnik to work on the look and feel of the rest of the spinoffs to bring consistent world building to the whole effort. That IMO is what “first look deal on new projects” is all about. More spinoffs!

    Sapochnik is a DIRECTOR. He’s co-written ONE short 22-years ago. He’s shown no evidence of being a world builder or even comfortable in doing any of the heavy lifting of being a showrunner. As far as we can tell, he was given the position & title due to his accomplishments as a director on GOT.

    As for Cogman being the only good writer in season 8… how could anyone actually believe that Cogman simply wrote the script & the egomaniacs D&D just did nothing? They were ironfisted showrunners. They definitely made every major decision in that episode.

  27. GeekFurious,

    I never said D&D did nothing. But the strength of D&D is editing, they did that perfect in the first 4 seasons. And editing what Bryan Cogman wrote also ended in one of the best episodes. But the episodes they wrote all alone were a disaster. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses.

  28. GeekFurious,

    I am confused why you wrote this as a reply to me? Yes, Sapochnik’s BG is as a director, and before that he was a storyboard artist, but surely you know that he was one of the two show runners for this season of HotD? And the “heavy lifting” comment is bizarre if you know what he actually did as director for some of those incredibly complicated battle episodes – no aversion to heavy lifting clearly.

    If you read the information that exists on his role in HotD, very clearly he WAS responsible for the look and feel of this show, and giving it consistency with GOT. All I am saying is he would keep doing that but on a more broad (several shows) but less intense (no longer a show runner) scale.

  29. Joy C:
    GeekFurious,

    I never said D&D did nothing. But the strength of D&D is editing, they did that perfect in the first 4 seasons. And editing what Bryan Cogman wrote also ended in one of the best episodes. But the episodes they wrote all alone were a disaster. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses.

    First of all, Benioff and Weiss WROTE scripts since S1, not edit scripts. Having books to adapt from does NOT mean scripts are automatically written and I wish people gave them more credit for that. And I think only S1 is the season when they really heavily relied on book dialogue. From S2 onwards, the dialogue is less and less directly adapted. Episodes like “Hardhome” from S5 or “The Winds of Winter” or “The Door” from S6, which are up to date some of the most acclaimed GoT episodes and contain almost no book material or had no books to be adapted from were all written by Benioff and Weiss. So was “The Spoils of War” from S7. On other hand, “The Broken Man” with the Arya stabbing scene in S6 (and S6 was btw almost universally loved among fandom) was written by Cogman and from what I remember, this episode was criticised a lot for the stabbing scene. So was the very controversial S5 episode “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” but surprisingly, I see little to no complaints about Cogman. If Benioff and Weiss wrote either of these episodes, I’m sure people would crucify them in comments. And as others pointed above, Cogman’s S8 episode script was heavily modified afterwards by Benioff and Weiss and if I recall right, the acclaimed “Jenny of Oldstones” scene was added by Weiss during editing.

  30. Joy C,

    D&D wrote 70% of the episodes of the most successful television series in history. They had many strengths, including writing. They wrote the best episodes in the series.

  31. Cathair:

    On the other hand, I’ve spent countless years wishing that D&D handed the reins over to Cogman or someone if they were so tired of GoT and wanted to rush it to the end. So if Sapochnik is feeling a bit burnt out and wants out, then I think he’s ultimately making the correct choice.

    Benioff and Weiss stated as early as after S3 (2013 or early 2014) that their plan is for GoT to last for 7 seasons, which means 70 episodes. They were firm on that so you can’t really say they decided to “rush” GoT in a way that at one point they would just decide to “prematurely” end it. In 2016 when they mapped out S7 and S8, stating exact number of episodes for these seasons, they again mentioned their original plan of 70 episodes and that they never intended to do more than that, but eventually decided to extend it to 73 episodes (or to be exact, 76 episodes considering 5 episodes from S7/S8 are 80 minutes long which adds additional runtime of 3 normal length episodes). They ended it by sticking to their original plan of seven seasons, for better or for the worse.

  32. Brian Cogman:

    “It’s basically run the same way the past few years. As we’re shooting one season we’re trading emails and/or chatting on set about the broad strokes of the next season: ‘Character X’ starts at ‘blank’ and we want him or her to end up at ‘blank.’ Then, as we start to approach the end of production, David & Dan, in some years, will assign the various writers a few characters. For instance, when we were working on Season Four, I was assigned Arya and a few others. So I’d go home and work for a few weeks on my ‘Arya Season Four,’ keeping in mind a few scenes we’d already discussed and what chapters and scenarios and themes from the books we might use.

    Then, in January, when we’re back in LA, we’d meet for about two or three weeks, armed with the work we’d all done individually, and throw it all up on the board. You debate, you use some stuff, you throw some stuff out, you think up some new stuff. Sometimes what you end up with is really close to the individual outlines. Sometimes it’s very different.

    After we map out all the main characters’ individual arcs, using color coded index cards, we arrange them by episode and get a rough idea of the scene order. From there, we all split up again and each tackle a chunk of the outline—a detailed outline, which sometimes ends up being over a hundred pages. David & Dan polish it, and that’s what we use to script our episodes. I’m generally assigned mid-season episodes—it just seems to work out that way. George wrote a script per season for the first four seasons, but took a break for Season Five as he’s hard at work on the next book. And while George isn’t in the writers room, he reads the outlines and gives his notes.

    From there I write my two scripts—it takes me about a month and half to do both—D&D read them, give notes, I do a rewrite, D&D sometimes do a pass on it themselves. And we continue to tinker with all of the scripts through prep and production. But they’re generally camera-ready when we finish them. They have to be, as we have to have all ten scripts complete well before shooting starts. We shoot all 10 episodes simultaneously, out of order, like a big, ten-hour movie, with two shooting units going at all times, sometimes in different.”

  33. Young Dragon:
    Cathair,

    D&D did not rush, they ended the story right where they always meant to. It was their show, they built it from the ground up. They had no reason to hand the reins over to anyone. Besides, writing one or two episodes a season doesn’t mean Bryan Cogman was qualified to take over the entire production.

    Erik, formerly Lord Parramandas: Benioff and Weiss stated as early as after S3 (2013 or early 2014) that their plan is for GoT to last for 7 seasons, which means 70 episodes. They were firm on that so you can’t really say they decided to “rush” GoT in a way that at one point they would just decide to “prematurely” end it. In 2016 when they mapped out S7 and S8, stating exact number of episodes for these seasons, they again mentioned their original plan of 70 episodes and that they never intended to do more than that, but eventually decided to extend it to 73 episodes (or to be exact, 76 episodes considering 5 episodes from S7/S8 are 80 minutes long which adds additional runtime of 3 normal length episodes). They ended it by sticking to their original plan of seven seasons, for better or for the worse.

    I am aware of both of these things but plans can always change and evolve. I think it’s great they had a plan, it’s good to have a plan. They also planned to adapt one novel per season, but that plan changed given Book 5 didn’t even come out until after Season 1 had aired. Plans change. It’s perfectly acceptable to acknowledge that GoT was a behemoth of a show and a very tiring mental feat to run which would have had the very best of people feeling burnt out.

    I’m not here on the comment section to degrade D&D but you can’t argue that they stuck to their plans when they were very selective of what plans they stuck to.

  34. Now that the show has taken off, it’s not a surprise he can comfortably move on to other projects. I’m curious to see if he’ll be involved in other spin-offs or if he has other things planned.

  35. Erik, formerly Lord Parramandas,

    They actually said that even earlier. In 2011, before S1 even aired.

    Their plan was always 7 seasons and HBO and GRRM agreed. Only after Martin’s failure to finish the books he tried to pressure the show into making more seasons and they said him to f*ck off, as they should.

  36. Cathair,

    Yes, plans can change, but that doesn’t mean they should. What it does mean is D&D did not rush their show because they wanted to move on, no matter how many times you and others claim otherwise. Personally, I’m glad D&D decided to end it with 8 seasons rather than try and milk GOT for all she was worth. I can’t think of a high quality show that went longer than 8 seasons.

  37. Erik, formerly Lord Parramandas: On other hand, “The Broken Man” with the Arya stabbing scene in S6 …. was written by Cogman and from what I remember, this episode was criticised a lot for the stabbing scene.

    And for the inexplicable failure to include the Broken Man speech from the book.

  38. Didn’t D&D write the next episode, “No One”? Arya got stabbed in “The Broken Man”, but most of the conclusion of this was in the next episode written by D&D, “No One”.

    Arya, after being stabbed multiple times in the previous episode by the Waif, was somehow able to outrun and kill her faster, stronger nemesis in this episode.

  39. Grandmaester Flash,

    To be honest, I don’t remember Broken Men speech from books at all (despite re-reading AFFC yearly between 2011 and 2014) so I’m not bothered it wasn’t included…

  40. Jack Bauer 24:
    This is extremely worrisome and a bad look for one person to have complete control. Waiting to see who drops off next…

    Yeah, I’m not so sure “the parting was as amicable as it could possibly be.” Something is amiss.

  41. Mr Derp,

    Cogman: ”George wrote a script per season for the first four seasons, but took a break for Season Five as he’s hard at work on the next book.”

    lol

  42. Maybe he was more comfortable as a director than a show runner? I’m a bit disappointed but it seems amicable. Happy about Alan Taylor’s return. Wouldn’t mind Matt Shackman coming back in some form or fashion either. Good luck to him, leaving in such a high note.

  43. awol:
    GeekFurious,

    I am confused why you wrote this as a reply to me? Yes, Sapochnik’s BG is as a director, and before that he was a storyboard artist, but surely you know that he was one of the two show runners for this season of HotD? And the “heavy lifting” comment is bizarre if you know what he actually did as director for some of those incredibly complicated battle episodes – no aversion to heavy lifting clearly.

    If you read the information that exists on his role in HotD, very clearly he WAS responsible for the look and feel of this show, and giving it consistency with GOT. All I am saying is he would keep doing that but on a more broad (several shows) but less intense (no longer a show runner) scale.

    My issue comes with people saying that it’s obvious Sapochnik is going to basically develop & run the next GOT show. He signed a first-look deal with HBO meaning he’s not doing anything in GOT since those are all deals with Martin. And he’s not a world-builder, meaning he is not a traditional writer’s room showrunner. He was brought in more as a visual guide and so he could obviously serve that role on something like SNOW but is unlikely based on the contract he signed with HBO plus the fact he’s already in that role on HOTD. All he’s done is step down as co-showrunner… possibly because that was always the plan if they got renewed.

    He is not a writer. He is not a world builder. He is great at executing what has been built, what has been written.

  44. Erik, formerly Lord Parramandas:
    Grandmaester Flash,

    To be honest, I don’t remember Broken Men speech from books at all (despite re-reading AFFC yearly between 2011 and 2014) so I’m not bothered it wasn’t included…

    The “Broken Man” speech is one of the highlights from the books that I have read, and I thought it was beautifully written by GRRM. The show’s substitute, a sermon by Brother Ray, didn’t come close. I too was surprised that the show didn’t adapt the speech from the books, even if in abridged form, especially for an episode titled “The Broken Man.”

    Stand by. I am going to try to copy and paste the speech. Maybe it’ll jog your memory.

  45. The “Broken Man” speech
    (from “A Feast for Crows” Brienne V)

    “Ser? My lady?” said Podrick. “Is a broken man an outlaw?”

    “More or less,” Brienne answered.

    Septon Meribald disagreed. “More less than more. There are many sorts of outlaws, just as there are many sorts of birds. A sandpiper and a sea eagle both have wings, but they are not the same. The singers love to sing of good men forced to go outside the law to fight some wicked lord, but most outlaws are more like this ravening Hound than they are the lightning lord. They are evil men, driven by greed, soured by malice, despising the gods and caring only for themselves. Broken men are more deserving of our pity, though they may be just as dangerous. Almost all are common-born, simple folk who had never been more than a mile from the house where they were born until the day some lord came round to take them off to war. Poorly shod and poorly clad, they march away beneath his banners, ofttimes with no better arms than a sickle or a sharpened hoe, or a maul they made themselves by lashing a stone to a stick with strips of hide. Brothers march with brothers, sons with fathers, friends with friends. They’ve heard the songs and stories, so they go off with eager hearts, dreaming of the wonders they will see, of the wealth and glory they will win. War seems a fine adventure, the greatest most of them will ever know.

    “Then they get a taste of battle.

    “For some, that one taste is enough to break them. Others go on for years, until they lose count of all the battles they have fought in, but even a man who has survived a hundred fights can break in his hundred-and-first. Brothers watch their brothers die, fathers lose their sons, friends see their friends trying to hold their entrails in after they’ve been gutted by an axe.

    “They see the lord who led them there cut down, and some other lord shouts that they are his now. They take a wound, and when that’s still half-healed they take another. There is never enough to eat, their shoes fall to pieces from the marching, their clothes are torn and rotting, and half of them are shitting in their breeches from drinking bad water.

    “If they want new boots or a warmer cloak or maybe a rusted iron halfhelm, they need to take them from a corpse, and before long they are stealing from the living too, from the smallfolk whose lands they’re fighting in, men very like the men they used to be. They slaughter their sheep and steal their chickens, and from there it’s just a short step to carrying off their daughters too. And one day they look around and realize all their friends and kin are gone, that they are fighting beside strangers beneath a banner that they hardly recognize. They don’t know where they are or how to get back home and the lord they’re fighting for does not know their names, yet here he comes, shouting for them to form up, to make a line with their spears and scythes and sharpened hoes, to stand their ground. And the knights come down on them, faceless men clad all in steel, and the iron thunder of their charge seems to fill the world . . .

    “And the man breaks.

    “He turns and runs, or crawls off afterward over the corpses of the slain, or steals away in the black of night, and he finds someplace to hide. All thought of home is gone by then, and kings and lords and gods mean less to him than a haunch of spoiled meat that will let him live another day, or a skin of bad wine that might drown his fear for a few hours. The broken man lives from day to day, from meal to meal, more beast than man. Lady Brienne is not wrong. In times like these, the traveler must beware of broken men, and fear them . . . but he should pity them as well.”

    When Meribald was finished a profound silence fell upon their little band. Brienne could hear the wind rustling through a clump of pussywillows, and farther off the faint cry of a loon. She could hear Dog panting softly as he loped along beside the septon and his donkey, tongue lolling from his mouth. The quiet stretched and stretched, until finally she said, “How old were you when they marched you off to war?”

    “Why, no older than your boy,” Meribald replied. “Too young for such, in truth, but my brothers were all going, and I would not be left behind. Willam said I could be his squire, though Will was no knight, only a potboy armed with a kitchen knife he’d stolen from the inn. He died upon the Stepstones, and never struck a blow. It was fever did for him, and for my brother Robin. Owen died from a mace that split his head apart, and his friend Jon Pox was hanged for rape.”

    “The War of the Ninepenny Kings?” asked Hyle Hunt.

    “So they called it, though I never saw a king, nor earned a penny. It was a war, though. That it was.”

  46. Sad to see Sapochnik go. In my humble opinion, he was the best GoT director, no contest. And yes, that includes the often maligned Season 8 episodes. That said, Taylor was the “original Sapochnik” on Seasons 1 and 2 of GoT, given all the most important episodes to direct, which he did with great success. As I understand it, he contributed quite a bit to the visual look of the show. A very cinematic director with an eye for understated details. I am sure he will be a welcome addition to the team.

    While we’re on the subject of GoT directors, my own TOP 5 list, in no particular order, would be:

    Miguel Sapochnik
    Alan Taylor
    Alex Graves
    David Nutter
    Alik Sakharov
    Special mention: Neil Marshall for his outstanding work on two dedicated battle episodes.

  47. Ten Bears,

    I’ll be honest. This speech is nothing special at all for me. I really have zero recollection of it and I’ve read AFFC more than once during 2011-2014, just showing it never made any impact on me. But then again, I could count by hand how many scenes in AFFC were impactful for me… the number is very low.

  48. Christomir,

    I disagree. I much prefer that they ended it while the show was on top rather than try and milk it. That’s how good shows are ruined. D&D absolutely made the right decision and ended their show strong.

  49. Young Dragon:
    Christomir,

    I disagree. I much prefer that they ended it while the show was on top rather than try and milk it. That’s how good shows are ruined. D&D absolutely made the right decision and ended their show strong.

    And I’m certainly glad they didn’t follow GRRM’s advice of making 3 seasons out of AFFC/ADWD. Omg, that would be a snoozefest I feel (for me at least), unless they heavily rewrote them.

  50. Young Dragon,

    I think there’s enough material in Feast and Dance for thirty hours and, in saying that, I think that might be part of Martin’s problem. I do enjoy AFFC and ADWD very much but especially in these books, Martin went into severe POV bloat and with that, minor character storyline bloat. As a result, he’s got so much to tie up and bring together. I think he was being genuine when he said there’s enough material in there for three seasons and I think he’s right — but it would not appeal to a broad audience that D&D sought out but to a smaller, niche one instead.

  51. Adrianacandle,

    There isn’t enough material for 30 hours in those two books. Arya, Sansa, and Bran have something like 3 chapters each in Books 4 and 5 combined. How on Earth could anyone adapt that to 3 seasons of TV? Would Jon stand around and command the Night’s Watch for 3 seasons? Daenerys rule Meereen endlessly? Tyrion travel to her for years upon years?

    Those books have a case of severe POV bloat and severe word count bloat too (for example, Book 1 had around 10 or 11 pages per chapter, Book 4 has 20 pages per chapter). The only thing to do was to bring an axe and start chopping.

    What Martin’s editor should have done as well.

  52. Mr Fixit,

    And Jon, Dany, and Tyrion have numerous chapters in ADWD while Sam, Cersei, and Brienne (for the first time) have POVs in AFFC (among other characters).

    They’re making a multi-season show (House of the Dragon) from source material which only takes up a limited amount of chapters in Fire & Blood and reuses text from two short stories (The Princess & the Queen, the Rogue Prince). I’d think the same can be done with two large tomes in ASOIAF, which provides more material. But again, if it were done that way, GoT probably wouldn’t work for reaching a broad audience but a smaller, niche audience.

    Myself, I didn’t like quite a few storylines that happened in season five, mainly the Sansa/Ramsay one that was kickstarted in season five. I also wasn’t a fan of how Jon’s season five storyline was adapted.

    We obviously have different points of view. We can disagree.

  53. Mr Fixit,

    I’m sorry, I forgot to include this in my original reply:

    There isn’t enough material for 30 hours in those two books. Arya, Sansa, and Bran have something like 3 chapters each in Books 4 and 5 combined. How on Earth could anyone adapt that to 3 seasons of TV? Would Jon stand around and command the Night’s Watch for 3 seasons? Daenerys rule Meereen endlessly? Tyrion travel to her for years upon years?

    The situations these three characters (Tyrion, Jon, Dany) faced were far more that this.

    Tyrion wasn’t simply traveling to Dany. He was on the run from Cersei and had reached his lowest point. He was encompassed within his bitterness and hatred, sealed with the revelation that Jaime had lied to him about Tysha. He had lost the majority of his humanity and he was struggling to find it again.

    Dany wasn’t simply ruling Meereen. She was facing a set of circumstances that were multi-faceted and complex, within the situations she found herself in and she found within herself. She had to force herself to compromise at great personal sacrifice and cost for the greater good, for peace, even though the cost made her blood boil and tore at her insides.

    Jon wasn’t simply commanding the Night’s Watch as per usual. He was facing a set of unprecedented circumstances. He was hosting Stannis’s men, he was sheltering the thousands of wildlings Stannis took captive (the first wildlings sheltered south of the Wall), he was facing grievances from his officers who feared what the Iron Throne would do if they thought Jon was supporting Stannis. They objected to just about everything he did. Meanwhile, Jon was having to figure out how to feed/shelter/and clothe everyone on next to zero resources — resources that would have been barely enough to support the Watch itself. And the Others are still coming and they’re not even close to prepared. Now, this all is going on yet at the same time, Jon is fighting “other wars” — Jon is, despite himself, advising Stannis on fighting his war against the Boltons, sending Mance to rescue Arya, creating an entire new house (house Thenn) to help a girl reclaim her home and settle the wildlings. Jon is a visionary — but at the same time, it’s also a tinderbox waiting to explode and, well, the Pink Letter does that.

    Just about all of the above was taken out of the show and for me, these were parts in ADWD especially that I really enjoyed.

  54. Adrianacandle,

    Fire and Blood is a fake history book, it’s not a novel. Showrunners have no choice but to invent almost everything other than bare bones plot and some characters tidbits in the process of making House of the Dragon.

    AFFC and ADWD are novels though, with sprawling plot and innumerable character arcs. You could try to adapt that over the course of three seasons, sure, but the end result would be… questionable, to say the least. People were already accusing David and Dan of writing fan fiction every time they deviated from the books. I can only imagine what people would call them after D&D completely invent whole seasonal arcs.

    What would Bran be doing for three seasons? Relaxing around with Bloodraven? Would Arya remain in Braavos all that time? Sansa lounging around Eyrie for 30 episodes? Brienne wandering through the Riverlands, searching for Sansa and/or Arya for close to 3 seasons? What would be the satisfying cut-off points for Jon’s, Cersei’s, Daenerys’s, and Tyrion’s arcs after the first and second seasons?

    AFFC and ADWD are essentially one book with one narrative and character throughline, where roughly half the characters appear in one book and the other half in the other book. They were only split in two due to lack of space and Martin’s troubles with satisfactorily finishing certain storylines.

    Finally, it’s worth noting that Season 6 is to a good extent already “adapting” early to mid chapters of Winds of Winter, a.k.a. the material that Martin wanted to include at the end of Dance, but ran out of space and had to shift over to the next book. The whole thing with Dany with the Dothraki, battle in Slaver’s Bay, retaking of Winterfell, Cersei’s trial, etc, all of that was supposed to be in Dance, but got cut at the last minute on the advice of Martin’s editor. And, to a lesser extent, some of Feast/Dance material was adapted as early as Season 4. In a way, the show already adapted the last two books over, let’s say, one and a half seasons. Adding two more seasons on top of that would be total overkill. There simply isn’t enough meat on them bones to justify that and craft multiple TV seasons with clear narrative and character arcs.

  55. Mr Fixit,

    AFFC and ADWD are novels though, with sprawling plot and innumerable character arcs. You could try to adapt that over the course of three seasons, sure, but the end result would be… questionable, to say the least.

    In your opinion. This isn’t objective fact, especially as we haven’t seen this. A lot of material from AFFC and ADWD with the included characters didn’t make it to screen.

    People were already accusing David and Dan of writing fan fiction every time they deviated from the books. I can only imagine what people would call them after D&D completely invent whole seasonal arcs.

    They did do this. The Sansa/Ramsay plot and the Jon/Craster’s Keep Rescue arc off the top of my head.

    AFFC and ADWD are essentially one book with one narrative and character throughline, where roughly half the characters appear in one book and the other half in the other book. They were only split in two due to lack of space and Martin’s troubles with satisfactorily finishing certain storylines.

    Again, in your opinion. The show heavily simplified included characters’ storylines.

    Tyrion wasn’t simply traveling to see Dany. He was on the run from Cersei, hunted by his own family, falsely accused of regicide and kinslaying, and (wrt Tysha) just learned he had been betrayed by his brother. He is embittered, full of hatred for everyone, and filled with conflicting feelings of love and hate toward the only stable loved one in his life: Jaime. He’s lost just about all of his humanity and through Penny, small holes of it start to peek back. None of this was in the show.

    Dany wasn’t simply ruling Meereen. She was thrown into a steep learning curve of queenship, faced with incredibly difficult/fragile/and multifaceted situations from the start as a 16-year old girl — forcing her to compromise her personal ideals/morals/goals for the peace of her city. The more she is forced the compromise and the more she must bear for the sake of peace for her people, the more torn up she is inside and the situation elevates and the fragile peace breaks.

    And then Jon, in what I think is a mirror to Dany’s arc, is going through his own steep learning curve of leadership. He isn’t simply commanding the Night’s Watch as per standard protocol. He’s in an unprecedented situation where he’s facing down a mystical, magical force that employs the dead and literal cold to wipe out humanity. The 17-year old in charge of safeguarding humanity, Jon, must figure out how to shelter, feed, and mediate thousands of people and various groups who hate each other with next to zero resources.

    Jon is hosting Stannis’s men — earning both the ire of his men as well as the Iron Throne’s; he is hosting Stannis’s captives, thousands of wildlings (the first time wildlings have been actually held south of the Wall); he’ll be hosting the queen’s men; thousands more wildlings yet; as well as the Night’s Watch. Jon’s men are constantly making objections against whatever Jon wants to do. Jon himself is sleep deprived because he’s up all night trying to figure out what to do about the Others. But also, he’s got his own personal battles he’s fighting too: advice to Stannis on how to beat the Boltons; creating a brand new house, house Thenn, to give Alys a fighting chance against her thieving relatives and to settle the wildlings in Westeros; sending Mance to rescue “Arya”; and the baby switch. And when the Pink Letter arrives as a consequence of the Rescue Arya mission, the fragile peace Jon managed to build breaks.

    So little of this was in the show and there’s a lot there. These were reasons why I liked ADWD so much, these explorations of leadership and humanity vs. pragmatism. Hard questions, hard decisions, consequences, all that stuff. And I think this is stuff GRRM excels at.

    In a way, the show already adapted the last two books over, let’s say, one and a half seasons. Adding two more seasons on top of that would be total overkill. There simply isn’t enough meat on them bones to justify that and craft multiple TV seasons with clear narrative and character arcs.

    The show adapted a very distilled version, a very simplified version, with some story decisions I’d argue didn’t make sense. I wouldn’t call it very faithful though. For a faithful adaptation, yes, I think multiple seasons would be needed.

  56. Mr Fixit:
    Adrianacandle,

    Fire and Blood is a fake history book, it’s not a novel. Showrunners have no choice but to invent almost everything other than bare bones plot and some characters tidbits in the process of making House of the Dragon.

    AFFC and ADWD are novels though, with sprawling plot and innumerable character arcs. You could try to adapt that over the course of three seasons, sure, but the end result would be… questionable, to say the least. People were already accusing David and Dan of writing fan fiction every time they deviated from the books. I can only imagine what people would call them after D&D completely invent whole seasonal arcs.

    What would Bran be doing for three seasons? Relaxing around with Bloodraven? Would Arya remain in Braavos all that time? Sansa lounging around Eyrie for 30 episodes? Brienne wandering through the Riverlands, searching for Sansa and/or Arya for close to 3 seasons? What would be the satisfying cut-off points for Jon’s, Cersei’s, Daenerys’s, and Tyrion’s arcs after the first and second seasons?

    AFFC and ADWD are essentially one book with one narrative and character throughline, where roughly half the characters appear in one book and the other half in the other book. They were only split in two due to lack of space and Martin’s troubles with satisfactorily finishing certain storylines.

    Finally, it’s worth noting that Season 6 is to a good extent already “adapting” early to mid chapters of Winds of Winter, a.k.a. the material that Martin wanted to include at the end of Dance, but ran out of space and had to shift over to the next book. The whole thing with Dany with the Dothraki, battle in Slaver’s Bay, retaking of Winterfell, Cersei’s trial, etc, all of that was supposed to be in Dance, but got cut at the last minute on the advice of Martin’s editor. And, to a lesser extent, some of Feast/Dance material was adapted as early as Season 4. In a way, the show already adapted the last two books over, let’s say, one and a half seasons. Adding two more seasons on top of that would be total overkill. There simply isn’t enough meat on them bones to justify that and craft multiple TV seasons with clear narrative and character arcs.

    Completely agree with all this. I almost can’t feel I’m reading the same story in AFFC/ADWD as I did in AGOT/ACOK/ASOS, that’s how alienated those two novels made me feel. And as you pointed out yourself, whole hell of a lot of ADWD/AFFC is just bloated world-building, considering how long chapters get here but how little (relevant) happening in many of them.

  57. Wow this comes as a huge bombshell and my immediate reaction is that it potentially jeopardises the success of the second season which is likely to feature much grander battle centric stories compared to what we’ve seen so far.

    Alan Taylor coming back would have worked better in this season where there is more scheming and politics I suspect but I’m fairly neutral on this part. The first two seasons of thrones were solid but largely setup for the spectacle which unfolded in seasons 3-4 which generally felt higher quality direction.

  58. Mr Derp,

    Cogman: “For instance, when we were working on Season Four, I was assigned Arya and a few others. So I’d go home and work for a few weeks on my ‘Arya Season Four,’ keeping in mind a few scenes we’d already discussed and what chapters and scenarios and themes from the books we might use.”

    Then a hearty round of applause for Bryan Cogman. Arya in Season 4 was GoT at its finest. 🪡

  59. orange:
    I take these guys at their word but it doesn’t jive with the pre-season video features and interviews. Miguel did an HBO feature where he he said digging deeper into the world and story in the years to come excited him.When asked about the prospect of multiple seasons, George said the show is good hands with Miguel and Ryan

    It’s always possible Miguel decided this in recent weeks, but they don’t make it seem that way with the quotes. So, yeah. I don’t know.

    I would assume some level of creative differences arose when it comes to season 2. This sort of stuff is not unusual in TV and film. It’s a shame because I truly believe Miguel would excelled in the more battle heavy second season.

  60. Ten Bears,

    I agree. Arya’s Season 4 material was fantastic, and what’s more, almost all of it was “invented” for the show. She has 13 chapters in A Storm of Swords, only 2 of which are after the Red Wedding. Excellent work by Cogman, absolutely.

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