Writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have not had a great 2019. They began it riding high: Game of Thrones had a slightly wobbly penultimate season, but the pedigree of the show had most assuming they were simply getting the pieces in place for a memorable final run that’d get fans talking.
Well, they succeeded. But maybe not in the way they’d hoped. The final season of the show was generally judged to be a failure, with audiences complaining that character motivations made no sense, that there were dull episodes and even that certain sequences were so dark they were hard to watch.
The furore grew to such a height that the pair cancelled their appearance at the San Diego Comic-Con over the summer, presumably because facing an angry fanbase would have been an awkward experience. The cherry on top of the whole debacle then came yesterday, when it was announced that their much-hyped new Star Wars trilogy isn’t going to happen. Their story is that they want to focus on their Netflix deal, but… well, let’s just say if the final season of Game of Thrones had been good I doubt we’d be here.
In any case, the pair appeared at the Austin Film Festival this weekend and answered some questions in a surprisingly candid fashion. Twitter user @ForArya live-tweeted their Q&A session and while the whole thread is worth a read, the highlights are that:
- They had no TV experience when they began the show and made every possible mistake.
- Jason Momoa was cast as Khal Drogo because of a fan suggestion online.
- They considered their pilot “dismal” and full of “basic writing mistakes.”
- Two months before the first season premiere HBO demanded 100 more minutes to meet contractual obligations as episodes were running short.
- The actors, especially Maisie Williams, defined their characters.
- They removed as many explicit fantasy references as possible to make the show more attractive to “mothers and NFL players.”
- Both admit that they took so much time over certain shots they “lost sight of the big picture.”
- They did not listen to fan feedback, and what they did see online upset them.
But perhaps the most telling revelation is that they admit they didn’t even attempt to sit down and understand the themes and major elements of the books as a whole, saying:
“No. We didn’t. The scope was too big. It was about the scenes we were trying to depict and the show was about power.”
This perhaps gets to the root of why the final season was so disappointing. When they were working within the framework created by George R. R. Martin, the thematic elements made their way into the show simply by way of adapting the book’s story. When the show and books separated (what Weiss refers to as “running out of material”) though, things fell apart.
It’s worth remembering that, at least from an industry perspective, Game of Thrones remains a huge success. It was a true zeitgeist show for much of its run, garnered huge viewing figures, was a critical darling and won armfuls of awards (even for the last season). But I suspect its legacy will be tainted by the fan reaction to the finale and right now, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have an awful lot to prove with their next project.
Other than that, we look forward to HBO’s Game of Thrones prequel show, which may yet salvage the franchise.