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Season 4 Interview: Bryan Cogman

With Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Bryan Cogman’s been the member of the Game of Thrones production we’ve had most opportunities to interview, and as always it’s been a pleasure as we range around various behind-the-scenes aspects of the production, as well as some in-depth discussion of Bryan’s work as a writer for this season in regards to “Oathkeeper” and “The Laws of Gods and Men”>.  See below for the full interview, as we discuss filming in Iceland, the growth of the scale of the production since the early days, who Bryan’s idol is, and more!

Interview

All right, welcome back to what’s turning into an annual chat, Bryan. I think Nikolaj’s the only person we’ve interviewed as often at this point.

I’ll beat his record, dammit! Thinks he’s so special…

Hah. As I recall, this season included your first trip to Iceland for filming—usually none of your material was shot there, is that right?

Trying to think… ah, there was one bit from “Kissed By Fire”—the encounter with Jon and Orell just before he and Ygritte go into the cave.  That was Iceland.  But, then again, D&D wrote most of that bit…  And, of course, the interior of the cave was a soundstage in Belfast.  So, yeah!  Got to do Iceland.  Funnily enough, though, apart from one scene, all the season four Iceland stuff features in D&D’s episodes.  But I had the huge honor of being the sole writer covering the Iceland unit this year (apart from the Tormund/Styr scene in 401—D&D flew in to direct that).
The one scene shot in Iceland from my episodes is the dragon popping out of that gorge. But, then again, I wasn’t on set for that!  I was with Michelle on the other unit shooting the Arya/Hound water dancing scene. That location with all the waterfalls is maybe the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. Iceland just looks like another world.  The landscapes, they’re just a bit different, a bit fantastical, so it fit what we’re doing perfectly.

Iceland really looks stunning. This time around the shooting was in the summer. Lots of sunlight, relatively warm weather?

Yeah, funnily enough.  It was much warmer and much sunnier than it was supposed to be.  So we all kinda freaked out about that, but just went with it (not that there was a choice).  It ended up looking amazing, of course.  But we had some roasting wildlings in those furs—the day they attacked Olly’s village (my birthday, in point of fact) was hot.
But the idea was to give a little more variety to the Westerosi locations.  Northern Ireland has served (and continues to serve) us well, but we wanted to mix it up a bit, visually.

I suppose it’s earned its name as the land of fire and ice.

Oh, aye. But we had an amazing time.  The crew there is top-notch. Of course, we brought a lot of our own DRAGON crew as well.

I didn’t even realize it was Iceland, actually, I just assumed you’d shoot that in Croatia. But the magic of TV means you don’t have to have each area equal one location, you can mix it up.

Yes, and that’s where our amazing VFX and post production team comes in, to make it looks seamless. That dragon scene was a bit where the location determined the scene.  The production team had scouted Iceland and found that gorge, so D&D sent me pictures of the location and asked me to tailor the dragon appearance to fit the terrain.

Nice.

The idea was it was like one of those shots where a helicopter just pops into frame in a modern action picture.

That reminds me of one little quirk about the episode that I noted—the shepherd speaks of “dragons” taking his whole flock, whereas what we see is Drogon taking one goat. Wasn’t quite sure what to make of it in terms of what we saw, whether the original vision had been all three dragons showing up or if something else was going on.

The idea is that you’re seeing the start of the attack. But it always meant to be just Drogon.  They’re expensive!  And we wanted to continue to reinforce him as the quickest maturing, most aggressive of the three.

Got it. Makes sense. The black’s the boldest one and leads the way. Also biggest, and presumably hungriest…

Exactly.

Now, sole writer on set, that basically means questions of how to interpret lines and so on, anything the actors or directors need to know, they’d go to you about it?

Yeah, it’s a variety of things.  The main function, for me, is to be D&D’s eyes and ears.  So I want to make sure the director’s vision is working in tandem with D&D’s vision.  I’m in the video village tent with the director watching all the playback, giving notes when I need to about performance or a story point, answering any questions anyone might have—from backstory, to motivation, to pronunciation.  If a line needs tweaking, I’m there to help facilitate and/or approve a line change.  And I work very closely with the script supervisors (Lynda Marshall on DRAGON, Helene Oosthuizen Pritchard on WOLF) to make sure every line is said correctly.  Basically just there to insure the story is being told!  Thankfully we have amazingly collaborative directors who really welcome my input.  Alex Graves, Michelle MacLaren, Alik Sakharov, Neil Marshall… all world-class.  Season Four was a particularly great experience, for me, to able to work so closely with each of them.
So that’s the producer side of things, since my writing’s basically done long before we shoot.

Oh, yes. Co-producer, too! You’ve a few hats.

I had the privilege of being on set for a day that first season, so I’ve a little—a very tiny sliver—of a sense of how much work and effort goes into it all. How would you characterize the development of the production between the early days and now? My impression was that the first season was… not quite but sort of seat of your pants for David and Dan and co., figuring out what worked best. Is it all a well-oiled machine at this point, or as the scope expands, are you encountering new challenges?

Yeah, that’s fair.  Season One was totally uncharted territory, for all of us, the network included.  No one had every attempted something like this before—we were learning how to do the show as we were doing it.  Thankfully, Season One, at its core, arguably has the most elegant, rock-solid storyline of GRRM’s books, so we had that to anchor us even as the production was challenging.  But, yeah, it’s funny—I watch Season One and from a production standpoint (and I’m hugely proud of Season One, don’t get me wrong) it seems like a very different show.  It’s real well-oiled machine now.
And it helps that we’re a rather large hit so we have more resources to play with now.  :)

Visually, in terms of the scale and size, there’s a real difference from those early episodes. More resources, and I guess knowing how to use them better as well?

Yes, indeed. It takes awhile to lock in to the look and tone of the show too… I think we really solidified that in Season 2, in terms of consistency, if that make sense, but even in the writing those scenes that figure (now) into every episode—those two-hander character scenes that are less obviously about plot and more about character and world-building—those were born in Season One out of a need for more scenes because the episodes were running short.  And they were running short because we were hacking away at scenes as we were shooting them in order to make our days… but it all works out.  Some of those scenes are my favorites and I think were key to the first season’s success.

I just can’t understand how this three-ring circus is kept going. So much planning and coordination, so many crew allocated to various tasks… mind-boggling.

Oh, yeah, Chris Newman, Bernie Caulfield, Lisa McAtakney, Olly Butler, and Annick Wolkan—the REAL producers! Don’t know how they do it. My brain doesn’t work that way.

Olly… any relation to the finest archer of his hamlet?

Yeah, Olly was named for him. He was “boy in Hamlet” first. But then, I think Dave Hill (D&D’s assistant who’ll join us as a writer in Season Five) brought up the point that he would have to stay at Castle Black—nowhere else to go, so we threaded him to subsequent episodes. Brenock also had given an amazing audition so we knew he could handle it. And he and Kit have a nice dynamic—Kit rightly honed in on the idea that Olly reminds Jon of Bran and the family he lost

As Linda translates the show here in Sweden, she gets these files with the lines divided up across the scenes. We just noticed when we were talking about it (earlier today, in fact) that we tended to enjoy most the episodes with the most dialogue. Doesn’t necessarily mean episodes without action, but obviously, these aren’t Blackwater or The Red Wedding.

Oh, sure.  That’s my favorite stuff too. It’s nice that we can offer both—Season One we were limited in how much action we could include (hence Tyrion getting hit on the head and missing the Battle of the Green Fork) though I think that ended up, for show purposes, being better.  I think “Blackwater” has great impact because it becomes the first time he charges into the fray.

Indeed. We’ve the statue from Dark Horse with him wielding that mean ax of us. It was a nice touch, having him give it to Podrick in “Oathkeeper”.

Ah, yeah.  That moment choked me up a bit!  And I wrote it!  Daniel Portman just gets me.  He’s like Shireen, for me.  An innocent in a nasty world.

I really liked how his face just lit up. Nicely done. Last season, I recall David and Dan noting that each episode was going to be a couple of minutes longer on average than in season 2. So you had more dialog on average. It was a good way to go. This season’s actually feeling a little brisker again, and partly that’s because so much has happened in it already, and obviously will be happening—there’s been no bones about that.

I suppose so.  I think we just try to write it according to what the story dictates.  As you well know, the season is primarily based on the last third of STORM OF SWORDS, so it’s essentially one long climax…  but we do slow it down a bit.  Tyrion’s a great example.  His whole season is basically a chapter in the book.

Has it felt strange at all, having things like Tyrion’s arrest and trial—usually real major twists that you try to keep hidden—revealed up front before the season begins? Tyrion in chains, walking down the throne room, was I believe in the very first trailer. An image from “The Laws of Gods and Men”, in fact. :)

Yeah, I imagine the network and D&D and marketing realized that if we didn’t show any of that stuff in the trailers there would be very little they could feature of Peter. They were pretty clever keeping the reason for his imprisonment secret. That and the imminent attack from the wildlings are the two big spines of the season, along with lots of other arcs, of course. Another example of slowing a storyline down and luxuriating in character and dialogue is Hound/Arya and I think that’s my personal favorite element of Season Four.

I think a lot of fans agree with you. Rory and Maisie are working well together, and the characters have so many… I guess, so many things in common, it’s a gold mine. The scene from “First of His Name”, for example, with Arya’s list. The oddity that they both have Gregor’s name on their respective lists, so to speak… and that the Hound happens to be on her list as well.

Yes and we had enough confidence in the two of them as actors, working off each other (from their few scenes in Season Three) that we knew we could really expand on it.  And all the scenes are riffs on situations, bits of dialogue, internal stuff from the books.  We also had some fun with turning some western tropes on their heads—the farmer sequence in 403 is an example of that.  Sort of the “anti-Shane”.
I feel very connected with that storyline—I didn’t get to script any of the scenes, but I was assigned the Arya arc to break on my own before we went into the room, so I laid a lot of the groundwork for some of their story lines.  And much of their stuff was shot in Iceland so I got to spend a lot of time with Rory & Maisie this season.  It was a really magical thing.

I recall, I think it was the second season, where you said that the method of breaking down the season changed a bit, with David and Dan assigning character arcs and so on and you writers going away, working on them, and then coming back to review and piece them together and so on—do I have the gist right, and if so, I take it that’s still how it works?

Yeah.  It changes from season to season.  As I recall, for Season Four, we all met and did a very rough sketch of what would go up on the board—just the main beats of the season, then we broke up, each of us (me, David, and Dan) went away on our own with certain characters and wrote out a more detailed season outline for each of them, then we came back and refined all of it and mapped out the season.
I get all the seasons mixed up now.

No wonder. It’s a lot to keep track of. How does it go from that to an episode? Do you guys then write treatments (I think that’s the term) sketching out the nuts and bolts of what each episode needs to cover? Obviously, we know that sometimes things get shuffled around between episodes, so there’s some fluidity as well.

Yeah, we map it out on the board, episode by episode.  Then we write out a very detailed outline and that’s what we all use when we start writing the script. And, yes, it always shifts and changes—a lot of that happens in post, well after it’s shot.  scene order changes dramatically. That didn’t happen so much with 406, though… the scene order was pretty clearly set for that one, but “Oathkeeper” changed a lot from outline and then in the script and then in post.

Very interesting. I don’t think I could tell where it changed just by looking at it. TV magic.

The biggest change with Oathkeeper was from outline to script.  We had the mutineers up front, starting the episode… but when the draft was done it was quickly apparent that was the wrong move.

Oh, interesting.

Though there was a some nice symmetry.  I started with the baby actually being born in the hut and then the ep ending with that baby going north—but, still, the mutineers are just too damn grim to start an episode with. Plus we realized we needed to follow up on those collars being flung (at the end of 403) right away

I liked that opening for the episode as it was, foregrounding Grey Worm’s and Missandei’s experiences as former slaves.

oh, yeah, it’s much much better.  But that’s an example of something seeming fine in an outline and then clearly being a huge mistake when you read the script. Plus my original take on Karl was a rather lousy Apocalypse Now pastiche that the guys wisely helped me alter.

I’m sure Burn Gorman was up to going full Brando on the scene, but I appreciated going with this low-class thug who’s terrorizing everyone into following his savage rule.

Yeah, it rooted that storyline in something more human. You could maybe do a proper Kurtz-like character on the show, but two episodes isn’t enough time to layer that in.  We did keep the heads on spikes, though!

Okay, one question from fans about Oathkeeper: Olenna’s really, really clear about her rol in killing Joffrey. Was there a feeling that Olenna had to state it to Margaery, to let Margaery know what her grandmother was willing to do with her? Or just a lingering concern that maybe viewers wouldn’t figure it out based on the clues dropped to that point?

Yes, we made a decision in the room that this was one mystery we didn’t want to tease.  We didn’t want the season (or the rest of the series) to be “Who killed Joffrey?”  So the decision was made to make it explicitly clear pretty soon after.  As for Olenna telling Margaery—whenever we can avoid an “as you know” scene we try to.  The scene has more weight if Olenna is revealing it to someone and there’s no one else she really could reveal it to other than Margaery—also the scene is about Olenna passing the mantle to Margaery.  “This is the game.  You have to play hard.  You have to play dirty.  Pawns (like Tyrion & Sansa) have to be sacrificed. I just did this thing.  Ball’s in your court now.”

It certainly adds some weight to Margaery then starting to work on Tommen. And speaking of Tommen, I was sorry to hear that Ser Pounce will not be returning this season.

Yeah, that was the idea.  Again, riffs on the stuff the book gives us.  Olenna’s comment about once being engaged to a Targaryen inspired that story about her sister, etc. And cats are difficult.  I was… not prepared for the response he got.

I wish I could find it, but there was once an entry in our Wiki that kept getting restored, propounding the theory that Ser Pounce was the Prince that was Promised. Finally had to lock it down to put an end to that particular heresy.

Ha! We had a beat in Season One—- the Arya chasing cats sequence was scripted as much longer, but, like much of Season One, we had to cut it down to its bare essentials.  But we had that beat where Arya rushes past Myrcella and Tommen and Tommen asks “Why is she chasing that cat?”  And I always thought, for some reason, that was so funny. Anyway, I was determined to get Ser Pounce in at some point. And, again, it served the scene.  Tommen’s innocence.  He’s in Joff’s room with his dead animal heads and carcasses, but he has a cat.  And it was a way in for the two of them to talk about Joffrey and their relationship as brothers

Dean Charles-Chapman’s a great find for the role, in any case. Really projects the innocence and warmth of this young, decent youth thrust into this position.

Dean is terrific.

Was he cast pretty much straight out of the third season (in which he appeared as one of the Lannister squires who Rickard Karstark murdered) for the part, or was there a casting process and he just tried for it then?

I’m pretty sure once it was decided that we’d age Tommen up a bit that the guys just offered him the role since he was so strong in Season Three as the Lannister hostage. He’s the Garret Dillahunt of GoT—for all your Deadwood fans out there

Thankfully, his characters aren’t quite in the McCall and Wolcott type!

Hah!

I heard a claim once that Dillahunt was a big fan of the books and wanted to audition for Jaime. That’s what someone said, anyways. Don’t know if it’s true.

Oh, really?  Interesting.  Well, Raising Hope is done, so who knows?

You’ve Arya and Sandor still running around together this season… but a pretty major pairing from last season, Brienne and Jaime, has now broken up and gone their separate ways with “Oathkeeper”. I’m rather sad about it, even if it is following the books. Gwendoline and Nikolaj have been fantastic together.

Yes, I remember getting rather emotional as I was scripting their final scenes. That’s an element of George’s story that I love—the pairings.  He takes the time to establish these characters in their own worlds and zones and mixes them up—makes for great drama.
But, yeah, Jaime and Brienne is maybe my favorite.  And Nikolaj and Gwen have a lightning in a bottle chemistry, so it’s one of the more successful arcs in the show, I think
That scene in the KG chamber was a bit longer originally—he asked Brienne to read Barristan’s entry, then his… but it was too similar to the beat in 401 with Joffrey.  Good cut, I think.  Though I did like them referencing Barristan in the same episode where Barristan tries to give Dany to some sound advice (based on years of experience with… Targaryens).

Indeed! Yeah, it was nice to have a sense there that Barristan was… concerned about her tendencies there. I love that there are some pages of the White Book all done. Sort of thing I enjoy, as you know. Some day there’ll be a prop auction, I suppose—they’re just now auctioning off a lot of ROME stuff—and I’ll be keeping an eye out.

Yeah, they did a whole bunch of pages that didn’t even show up onscreen—Barristan, Gerold Hightower…

Lets move on to “The Laws of Gods and Men”, that’s such a major episode in a lot of ways. It sees the return of the amazing Alik Sakharov behind the camera, and I have to say I just adore his work in this episode.

Yes, Alik is wonderful. He loves actors.  Really gets great work from them.  And enormously generous in seeking advice/input from me.

The angle as the judges are questioning Tyrion, or the camera looking through the bars of the kennels, or the light on Tyrion’s face in the cell as Jaime comes in and has men put him in chains… amazing through and through.

Yeah, that was a tough scene.  Really made me appreciate Law & Order and other courtroom dramas!  So much coverage required. And what Alik keyed in on (and I worked very hard to make clear in the script) is that the REAL DRAMA of the scene is in what isn’t said.  It’s all in the looks between the principals—particularly the four Lannisters.  It’s really a scene about the four of them and their lives together up to this moment.
No coincidence the ep closes with Ramin’s Lannister theme. All that said, I had a blast playing with all the courtroom drama tropes. The scene with Jaime and Tywin is basically a “counselor makes deal with judge in chambers” scene. In addition to being a lot of other things, but that’s the structure of it.

I was going to bring up that scene. Because ... it’s actually quite the unique innovation, and I thought it was an interesting take on Jaime. I can’t decide whether for George, Jaime simply would never think to offer himself up in exchange for Tyrion that way, or he himself simply never had it cross his mind as a possibility. Because once Jaime said it, I was like… huh. Makes sense!

Yeah, I don’t know.  It was an inspired idea—again, from Dave Hill!  Now you see why the guys promoted him.  But, yeah, its a lovely callback to the beginning of the season.  We knew, for show purposes that it would give us a lot of mileage of Jaime acted as the counselor of sorts to Tyrion as opposed to Uncle Kevan, who the viewers have much less investment in at this point.  So we already had most of those jailhouse scenes in place, but we wanted to make Tyrion’s outburst all the more tragic by having him destroy his own chance at living through this—and Jaime doing the back room deal put it all in place.
And another slight adaptation choice—aside from Shae’s out and out lie about Tyrion planning the murder—we decided that all the testimony against Tyrion would be more or less true and reflect a ton of scenes the audience already witnessed.  So Tyrion’s behavior throughout the series is haunting him.  So, really, the only witness who lies about him is the one he cares about the most. And even Shae’s testimony, aside from that one bit—he and Sansa planning it—is all a distortion of what really did happen between them.

I see some Emmy reels coming out of this episode.

This reminds me to ask about a scene before it—Varys and Oberyn. I loved that scene. I actually loved everything with Varys and Oberyn this episode, in particular. But then everyone seems to have been firing on all cylinders.

Ah, thanks.  Yeah, that scene was shot on a Monday and then we shot the trial the following four days of the week.  Huge week.  Exhausting, actually. We’ve made a choice to have Westeros be a bit more aware of Dany’s goings on. It seemed important, since we’re four seasons into this thing that her storyline not feel too isolated from the main action.  And it gave us the opportunity in that scene to explore the idea of outsiders who knew Essos bumping up against each other. I also love that Oberyn, adventurer that he is, takes a shine to Varys and essentially invites him to join him and Ellaria in an orgy!

Very adventurous indeed. It was such a great interaction.

Yeah and I enjoyed getting to write another small council scene. The small council scene from 104 was the first scene I wrote for Game of Thrones.  I started with it in my very first draft, so it was nice to come back to that dynamic—though only two players from the original council remain!

x

Pycelle and Varys, outlasting everyone. This scene also finally brings to the fore the Iron Bank, as it’s slowly advanced to the background, seeming more and more a looming power player.

Ah, yes. The Bank! that was such a joy being on set that day.

Tremendous shot of Braavos in the opening, by the way. VFX team outdid themselves. The sheer scale of Essos is really coming across, with Braavos and Meereen too. And the dragons!

The Braavos shot is amazing! But, yeah, Deb Riley’s Iron Bank set was really something.  One of the first new sets she did, so when I first saw it I thought, “Ok, we’re in good hands with her”.
But watching Mark Gatiss, Liam, and Stephen—much like their characters—they all three have very different temperaments, ways of working, body language—so it was great fun to watch them work the scene.

Stephen’s particularly good in this one, and it’s all just expression and body language—he says very little. You can just see it, how demeaning he feels to be a supplicant (not much better than that shepherd!), sitting on a bench like some poor man, and seated lower than these bankers… absolutely great.

Exactly.  D&D were keen on bringing the bank into the story earlier—again, we’re in Season Four, we felt we needed to stop teasing stuff and show it—and we talked for a minute about Tycho coming to Dragonstone.  But, as you say, the idea that a king, a proud man would have to ask for a loan—it was irresistible. And it gave us a way to reinforce just why Stannis keeps Davos around.  The man’s smart.  He understands people and how to read them. Our model for Tycho was Gus Fring from BREAKING BAD.  The politeness, the calculation, the deliberate gestures, intimidation tactics, etc.
And, thankfully, Sherlock was on hiatus so we got Gatiss, who’s basically my idol (a show runner who cast himself in an awesome role in his own show.)

He’s terrific on that show, and I really enjoy him here. Maybe we’ll get lucky and see more of him. His namesake in the books does a bit of traveling, after all.

I sure hope so.

I love the running joke this season, of Davos trying to parse for people what a smuggler is. Not a thief, exactly. Not a pirate, no…

Ha ha.  Yeah.  That came off a conversation I had with the guys.  Basically I called him a “pirate” in conversation and one of them corrected me, so into the show it went.

There’s a deal of humor in the episode, which is a good thing. The subject matter can be so dark.

Yeah, we always try to inject as much as possible, and that’s a cue from George, really. The books are very funny, as you know

Seeing Salladhor Saan regaling these women in the baths with that hoary old joke… and then the punchline of their offering up the actual punchline, a nice touch. Always a pleasure to see Lucian on the screen.

Yes, that scene was fun.  We wanted to personify the manpower Stannis & Davos are getting for their money, so Salla made the most sense.  We figured Davos had asked around with his various contacts and was able to track him down.

Linda literally said the punchline to the joke mere moments before the women did, by the way. Made me laugh even harder.

Ha ha.  Exactly.  he’s told it a million times.  Lucian’s expression when they beat him to punchline is priceless.  Those ladies were really great—shooting in those tubs is a pain in the ass. Bbut we wanted to show that Salladhor is really comfortable—he’s in a soothing bath house, finally getting some proper R&R and here comes bloody Davos again.

He’s glad he’s alive and well… not so glad that he’s trying to pull him back into the madness of following Stannis.

I nearly ruined the take when Lucian delivered the, “You are not my friend, my friend,” line.


I hope we’ll get a Salladhor and Stannis scene at some point. Two very, very different people, personality wise.

Well, we shall see…  I’d love to use him more.

Now, there’s one big question from the Braavos thing… How are we to take it? Is the Iron Bank abandoning the Lannisters and throwing all their support to Stannis, or is it more of a hedge, a bridge loan to keep him in play while they wait to see what happens with the Lannisters?

I think more the latter. The idea as I see it is—here’s some money.  There’s more where that came from if we see results.

Davos is a persuasive guy, but I think the Iron Bank wants to look at the books in a few months and see what tale the numbers tell.

Exactly.

A nice analogy from Tycho, by the way.

Mm. Well, it’s illustrative of why George’s books are so special.  What other fantasy saga delves into the financial side of things?

Very few! There’s a few economists who are fans specifically because he pays some attention to it, I think. There’s been papers written on the economics of Westeros, even. Mostly as illustrative examples of various concepts regarding medieval economies and general economic theory, of course.

Ah, fascinating. Obviously there’s only so much you can convey on the show—so you go for the humanity of the situation.  A proud man who has to ask for money.

xAnd humanity… lets go to someone in a very different situation. Just to preface it, I don’t know if I bought the whole Dreadfort attack thing. But it felt like the real aim was to get brother and sister together, and for the Greyjoys to learn that Theon’s gone.  It was harrowing seeing Theon screaming with terror, “Loyal Reek! Honest Reek!” and fighting his rescuers. That really sells the trauma. And then the scene after that, between Iwan and Alfie, is really fully as good as Tyrion’s rage at the end of that trial. They really play off one another.

Yes, the Dreadfort sequence was tricky.  The idea was to for Yara to see firsthand just how far Theon has gone.  And to take her down a peg in her confidence and swagger.  She thinks she can infiltrate the place with a smash and grab kind of mission but it goes wrong so fast that she can barely even process or understand it.  Up to this point, Yara’s had a charmed life, in a way—never failed a mission and never let herself get suckered.  Here, she finally surrenders to a kind of sisterly… I don’t know if it’s love per se, but duty… and it all blows up.  But, yeah, it is a rather abrupt sequence but that’s sort of the point.

It does help that Alik’s behind the camera. I think the fight in the kennel was the most visceral sequence since the Red Wedding.

Agreed the confines of that space yielded a very interesting fight sequence.  Extremely difficult to shoot. Originally it was scripted as a larger scale fight in a courtyard.  Much like the Arya/Yoren/Lorch fight in Season 2, it was scaled back drastically for production reasons, but it made for a unique sequence.

That did really work. My only let down there was that she should have thrown that ax in Ramsay’s smug face when he turned away to mess with that lock!

Ha ha ha. But, here’s the thing, had she done that—she’d have been killed.  She ultimately decides that she needs to survive this thing and fight another day and this creature she came to save (and whose screaming fucked the whole mission up in the first place) ain’t a Greyjoy anymore.

I almost forgot, but I do have a small bone to pick with you all!

A small one?  well, that’s better than usual!

Hah. Okay, why is poor Mace Tyrell being treated as an errand boy by one and all? Roger Ashton-Griffiths deserves to do more!

Oh, ha ha.  Well… it’s funny!

Well, yes, it is, I admit.

Well, look, the choice was definitely made in the show to emphasize the idea that Olenna is the one in charge and Mace is a bit ineffectual.

Right. But I’m wondering if that’s the same dynamic to expect now that Olenna’s out of the picture. It’d be nice to see father and daughter interact, for example. Maybe next season.

Perhaps!

And then in Dany’s story, we get our introduction to Hizdahr zo Loraq. His real introduction, after being glimpsed on the walls in episode 3.

That’s true, it’s basically his intro.

He really brings forward that that moment of “justice” maybe wasn’t as just as Daenerys imagined. But her reaction is… pretty hard. I have to imagine that Dany’s responses worried Barristan just a bit.

It’s a tricky thing for Dany.  She sees these slavers as scum, pure and simple.  But then Hizdahr comes in and puts a human face on them.  And that really throws her.  It scares her, makes her question all of it. So, it’s a hard reaction, but she does give in to Hizdahr and let him take the body down, which is a diplomatic move.

But that’s the reason we aged him down a bit and changed some of his traits slightly—- we wanted to reinforce the idea that it’s one thing to conquer, another to rule.  And that every faction of every war has mothers, fathers, sons…

Right. Yes, he’s quite different in some ways. Younger, of course, but also he’s more approachable. The character in the novel is a Roman patrician, cool, stoic, pragmatic, that sort of thing.

Of course, Hizdahr wants something specific in this scene, so his manner is certainly influenced by that.

So, to wrap up… is Oberyn a former member of the Second Sons in the continuity of the show?

Oberyn’s past continues to be mysterious in the show universe.

Interesting answer! We’ll leave it at that. Many thanks!

Sure, a pleasure as always.
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