The buzz going into the upcoming season premiere of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” is reaching deafening proportions — especially given all the mystery surrounding the fate of Jon Snow (Kit Harrington).
Creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were typically tight-lipped on any spoilers about upcoming plot points, but they assured Variety that fans won’t be disappointed. “I honestly believe it’s the strongest season we’ve had,” says Benioff.
Would you say this season has a particular theme?
Benioff: We talked about home a lot.
Weiss: A lot of homecoming. Coming home.
Benioff: That’s one of the nice things about having this long story, a multiple season story — you’re following these characters for… you’re literally spending years with them. You’re truly watching them grow up in some cases or grow old in other cases, like us. Characters who have been separated for many seasons, seeing them reunited. Characters who have never met over the course of the show, seeing them come together for the first time. Those things become very exciting for us, both to write the scenes and also just as audience members to watch them. To watch these actors, these characters come together.
Weiss: There’s energy that comes with compressing something, especially if it’s been allowed to mature. When you start to push everything and everyone together there’s just an excitement that comes with that. There’s nothing that feels peripheral anymore because there isn’t anything that’s peripheral anymore. It’s central people interacting with central people. Like David said, it becomes a lot more exciting to write. I feel like it probably becomes more exciting to watch.
Just like one of the things last year that was so much fun for us was just seeing Daenerys and Tyrion come together. These are two people who are very central to the story who live thousands of miles apart. Tyrion mentions Daenerys in passing to somebody else but they’ve never been in the same space. Just the image of them sitting at a table looking at each other and exchanging words with each other is in its own way is as exciting as a battle of thousands of people fighting thousands of people. That’s, for us, always something that we really look forward to with each subsequent season. That we can do more and more, more and more condensing and compressing and putting people together with people we know together with people they’ve never met before.
You mentioned all the characters you have to serve. This season, we’ll see the return of Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright). How do you decide which characters you’re going to shelve, and when to bring them back?
Benioff: With that particular storyline, it just made sense to both of us that given he was going to… What planet is it that Luke goes to?
Benioff: He was going into training. He had been on a quest from very early on to find the Three-eyed Raven and finally found him. We caught up to his storyline a season before the other ones. To have a bunch of static scenes … We knew where his storyline was going to go, but we didn’t want to get there last season. We wanted it to be this season. That one was actually pretty clear cut for both of us that we needed to be away from Bran for a year.
Weiss: A lot of the other ones it’s really just about, I’m using an over-obvious metaphor for the show. You have a certain number of pieces that you’ve set out on the game board over the course of however many seasons. At a certain point it starts to feel cheap or cheating to add a new piece on the board every time you want to accomplish something in the story. We have many, many characters in this show. More than I would assume have been in any television show before, in terms of characters with significant speaking parts. They’re all a part of this mythology and a part of this world. We’re trying to get to this place and who do we have that’s there, who we’ve established, who we’re already invested in, even if we’ve forgotten that they’re around? A lot of it is just looking at the landscape as a whole and saying, “He would be great for this.” “Oh, last time we saw her she was here. We’ve forgotten about her, but then this person is going there. Why couldn’t they come into contact with a person who’s already there?” There’s a lot of that kind of thing that dictates which people end up being pulled back into the story and how they end up getting utilized.
You’ve started a tradition of the penultimate episode being the big one. Is that something we can expect again this season?
Benioff: The penultimate one is the big one, but there are a lot of massive set pieces in other episodes, which is the fun thing for us. It was one of the fun things last year when the eighth episode actually caught people by surprise, “Hardhome.” I think people were expecting the eighth episode is the slow one before the fireworks of the ninth episode so people weren’t prepared for that. That was really fun for us just to catch people off-guard and to continue to surprise people. That said, the ninth episode, Miguel Sapochnik directed it — the same director who did “Hardhome” — and absolutely crushed it. I’m very excited for people to see that.
Weiss: Not saying that the final episode is not also very hoo-ha.
Benioff: There’s a lot of stuff going on this year.
Weiss: Now what’s great is now that we’ve wrapped and we have the whole season in the can and nobody died…
Benioff: … off-screen.
Weiss: ….Nobody behind the scenes. Actually, everybody survived the production. Then it’s great because you realize the reason it was so challenging for everybody is that there is just so much going on across the entire season. It’s not about let’s save all our marbles for this one scene in episode nine. There are a lot of marbles in episode nine, but there are a lot of marbles all over the place. It’s just all marbles.
Benioff: It’s one of the trickiest things about cutting a trailer for this season — there’s so many great shots that we wish we could use but we can’t because they’re spoilers.
Weiss: It’s like when we wanted to use when the Hound and Brienne fought in Season 4. To date probably the most visceral and exciting fight we’ve ever had on the show. [But] we can’t show a frame of it because this was not in the books and we can’t let people know that these two people meet each other because that would be a tremendous buzzkill of a way to find out they meet each other. Got a lot of that this year as well.
How does this season compare to other seasons for you?
Benioff: I just think it’s better. I think it’s the best one yet. I hate saying it because you sound like a salesman, but I honestly believe that. I honestly believe I’m very, very excited for people to watch the next ten hours. I think the actors have never been better. I think the photography has never been better. It’s just solid, man. I think it’s f—ing solid.