HBO’s Game of Thrones closed out Season 6 in a big way during “The Winds of Winter,” but fans are already looking ahead to a hotly anticipated Season 7. We’ve already made some predictions for what might happen based on things that the Season 6 finale left out, and now showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are teasing the final two seasons in which they’ll start wrapping things up.
In a chat with Deadline, Benioff and Weiss talk at length about the complicated “Battle of the Bastards” episode and all its moving parts; be sure to head over to Deadline for that discussion. They also talked about the upcoming episodes of Game of Thrones, how the conflict is coming to a head, and what will motivate characters in the final seasons to come. That’s where we’ll focus the following quotes, which are obviously spoilery since they concern the recent finale.
Game of Thrones is beloved and at the same time infamous for its unwieldy number of characters. The sheer number of cast members makes it easier for Martin and D&D to dispatch characters with ease, but now that the main players are the only ones left standing, the plot will start to tighten up. Weiss comments on the net drawing ever closer:
WEISS: It’s great, because things have finally, in the past season or two, started to contract in a very positive way. It was such an expansive world for such a long time. Obviously, we’ve had to say goodbye to a lot of characters and storylines we loved a lot. The ones that are left are ones we’ve been engaged in so long. Writing for Maisie [Williams] is always great, writing for Peter [Dinklage] and Emilia [Clarke] is great, especially now that they’ve come together in the same story line. Writing all the stuff for Kit [Harington] and all of the epic stuff he went through to get to now. There isn’t anyone left we don’t love writing for, because we’ve been writing for them, for so long. We know then so well at this point.
Though they didn’t mention her specifically, they clearly love writing for Cersei as well. There was a particularly strong sense of Cersei’s conflicted personality shining through in this latest episode, one which featured her favoring her thirst for revenge rather than focusing on her remaining family:
BENIOFF: We had intended the connection you just made, so we’re glad you made it. If she had been more focused on her family, and less on enjoying her revenge on someone who had done her wrong, then Tommen’s suicide probably never would have happened.
WEISS: Not to give a frustrating answer, but that’s what so much of next season is going to be about; finding out what Cersei’s mind-set is. Who is she? While Cersei has certainly done a lot of horrible things in her life and she could be a very cruel person, the one thing that was redemptive about her was, she genuinely loved her children. Now they’re all gone, and I think that is very interesting for us. Who is she without her children? The answer is something you’ll find out next season. That’s so much of what is to come that I’ll just give it away if I start delving into it now.
Benioff and Weiss also weigh in on Arya’s surprise appearance and assassination, which helped to thin the herd of extraneous characters:
BENIOFF: The funny thing is, she came because Walder Frey is on her list. Jaime is not on her list, that I recall. But he is a Lannister and that allowed us an opportunity for misdirection, to show this pretty girl making eyes at Jaime Lannister. This whole scene is about how it sucks to be Bronn, and have to sit there while all the pretty girls make eyes at Jaime Lannister. But the eyes she was making toward him were about who he was, and the murderous wheels of vengeance were spinning in his brain. Maybe she could get a two for one on this deal. That ends up not happening, though, and she takes care of the original target.
WEISS: [T]here’s an echo there from earlier in the series when Bran Stark told the story of the Rat Cook, who baked his enemies into a pie. It was clearly a call back from there.
With the lesser evils being eliminated one by one, there’s one huge antagonist remaining in the series, even if he’s the one with the least screentime:
WEISS: I don’t think of the Night King as a villain as much as, Death. He is not like Joffrey, or Ramses. He’s not really human anymore. To me, evil comes when you have a choice between that and good, and you choose the wrong way. The Night King doesn’t have a choice; he was created that way, and that’s what he is. In some ways, he’s just death, coming for everyone in the story, coming for all of us. In some ways, it’s appropriate he doesn’t speak. What’s death going to say? Anything would diminish him. He’s just a force of destruction. I don’t think we’ve ever been tempted to write dialogue for the Night King. Anything he said would be anticlimactic.
However powerful he is, the Night King will still have to traverse the Wall in order to bring his army south upon the seven kingdoms. When asked about the Horn of Winter and other lore related to the Wall, Benioff played it safe:
BENIOFF: We don’t want to give away too much. There are the books, and the show, and it would be a disservice to both if we went into too much detail on whether we’re going to use this or that. What is laid out in this season is, very clearly, that the wall isn’t just a physical structure keeping the army of the dead out. If the Wildlings managed to make it over, which they have, and the Night King has so much more in the way of both power and troops who’ll do literally anything he says…we’ll keep it at that for now.
As Allison Keene’s Game of Thrones power rankings show, women reign supreme in this world, which wasn’t always the case:
BENIOFF: The world of the show is one where women’s prospects would seem severely limited, compared to our own world. It’s based on medieval reality, where women were often considered the property of their husbands. They were very sharply circumscribed a set of activities and possibilities for their lives. One of the things that has been most fun about the characters we work with in the world George created, was that so many of the most interesting and formidable characters are women. The obstacles that stand between them and what they want are so much more formidable. It was lots of fun and rewarding to think about the ways they could overcome obstacles and press their advantages and interests the way men would. You’d be hard pressed to call Cersei a heroine; she just blew up several thousand people, few of which had done her any particular wrong. But she’s a formidable, severely flawed and damaged person.
Going back to your question about who’s most interesting to write for? On lots of levels, she is the most interesting to write for, largely because Lena [Headey] is such an absolute genius actress. The character itself is somebody who is driven by motivations that are in some ways so base, so angry and negative. But in other ways, so understandable to anyone who takes the time to imagine what it means to be in her position, to have grown up in her situation, to have these children you’d do anything for, even if it means burning cities, buildings and people to the ground to keep them safe. It’s something lots of people can understand. The irony you pointed to earlier, is that the very action she takes leads her to lose the last and possibly sweetest of her children. All of that stuff feeds into her as a character who is endlessly interesting to think about on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. Here’s Benioff on their plan for wrapping up Game of Thrones over the next two seasons:
BENIOFF: It’s two more seasons we’re talking about. From pretty close to the beginning, we talked about doing this in 70-75 hours, and that’s what we’ll end up with. Call it 73 for now. What Dan says is really true, but it’s not just trying not to outstay your welcome. We’re trying to tell one cohesive story with a beginning, middle and end. As Dan said, we’ve known the end for quite some time and we’re hurtling towards it. Those last images from the show that aired last night showed that. Daenerys is finally coming back to Westeros; Jon Snow is king of the North and Cersei is sitting on the Iron Throne. And we know the Night King is up there, waiting for all of them. The pieces are on the board now. Some of the pieces have been removed from the board and we are heading toward the end game. The thing that has excited us from the beginning, back to the way we pitched it to HBO is, it’s not supposed to be an ongoing show, where every season it’s trying to figure out new story lines. We wanted it to be one giant story, without padding it out to add an extra 10 hours, or because people are still watching it. We wanted to something where, if people watched it end to end, it would make sense as one continuous story. We’re definitely heading into the end game now.