The co-creators of Game of Thrones discuss details and dragons, then look ahead at Season 2.
HBO: In the ten episodes you've created this season, what are some of your favorite parts?
D.B. WEISS: You mean the things that we've done very, very well? [laughs] I'd say that we did a good job of finding some extremely talented people to create these characters onscreen. And every time I see them doing things that are better than I ever could have envisioned them being, I give us a little pat on the back for choosing those people.
DAVID BENIOFF: We're both in love with the cast. In terms of scenes, I think the execution scene turned out really well. That was something we were worried about from the get-go, before we even had a season. It's sort of the fulcrum, where everything is leading up to that, and then everything that comes after - not just in this season but in Season 2 - is really the aftermath of that moment. So we had to get it right. We were blessed to have a director like Alan Taylor on board for that episode, and to have Sean Bean playing the character. Whatever the controversy in terms of people's reactions to it happening, the one thing we couldn't do was have that scene feel sloppy or rushed or just not have the drama it needed. That was a huge one, and I feel we pulled it off.
HBO: Was there any small detail of that moment that stands out to you?
BENIOFF: A lot of it comes down to Sean's face in those final moments. When he looks out to the statue of Baelor, and Arya's not there anymore, that's a great moment. He hopes that Yoren has gotten to her and that she's safe. But at the same time, it was the one face he could look out at that would look back with love. Now, he's just facing a crowd of angry strangers who are cursing him, calling him a traitor and throwing things at him. Then he ducks his head down, and that shot there is one of my favorite shots of the whole season. It's just the back of his head and neck. There's not much to it, but to me it's one of the most emotional two seconds of the entire season.
WEISS: Sean's one of the few people I've ever seen who can convey gravitas with the back of his head.
HBO: Did you feel a lot of pressure to get the dragons exactly right at the end of episode 10?
WEISS: It was actually a lot of fun for us, because whose inner 12-year-old doesn't want to build dragons from the ground up? We had some really talented people working with us to make them into a reality. We started out with visual reference that we'd pulled together from other movie dragons that we and George [R.R. Martin, the author of the books series ‘Game of Thrones' is based on] both found to be believable and influential. We started with a lot of George's ideas about dragons, because George has definitely spent more time thinking about dragons than anyone I've ever met. He has a lot of very well thought-out and logical notions of what a dragon should and should not be. So we threw that into the mix and then threw in a lot of visual reference from the animal world: prehistoric animals, reptiles, bats, birds ... We put together a giant file of notes and images, then the team took those and modeled them into something organic that's hopefully really effective for people.
HBO: Is there any sense of relief that you don't have to build an entire world from scratch for Season 2?
WEISS: It's good we don't have to build the stuff we've already built. But there are approximately six or seven new worlds that we have to build from scratch. So...we're feeling a huge sense of excitement, let's say, about being able to go forward and do it all over again in what is hopefully an even more effective expansion of the world we've already created.
BENIOFF: It's not like a traditional show where you've got your cast from Season 1, with maybe a few new people for Season 2, but basically you're set. We've got dozens of new characters to bring in, some of them with very important roles to play. And we've got all sorts of new worlds to introduce the audience to. From Harrenhal, this legendary and haunted old castle, to Qarth, the city where Daenerys spends much of the season. And on and on. It seems like just as much work, despite the fact that there was so much preparation for Season 1. But there's no rest right now.
HBO: Now that Season 1 is officially over, what can fans look forward to in the next installment?
BENIOFF: A lot of Season 1 is about characters figuring out who they are and what they're after. So in Season 2, you see them starting to fulfill their destinies. Daenerys Targaryen started out Season 1 as this timid little girl and ends it as a warrior queen. Now she's intent on winning back what's rightfully hers - the Seven Kingdoms. Jon Snow is marching north with the Night's Watch to find out what the hell is going on up there and unravel those mysteries. His brother Robb is now the King of the North, and he's on a mission of vengeance to march south and avenge his father's death.
WEISS: And also Tyrion Lannister, along with his sister Cersei, are two of the most central figures in the second season. He's always had the privilege of being the wry, sardonic presence who stays on the margins of things and doesn't need to participate in the exercise of power. And now his father Tywin has thrust him into the position where he has to assume power and rule in his father's stead, which is probably the last thing he'd want for himself. A lot of this next season details the way that he copes with that and perhaps comes to enjoy it to a certain extent. And I think Cersei is under a lot of pressure, as things are spiraling out of control. Her brother Jaime is Robb Stark's prisoner, and she's trying to hold her family together and protect her children, as war hurdles ever and ever closer to their doorstep.
BENIOFF: And with the birth of the dragons, magic has kind of returned to the world. We saw glimpses of it in the first season with the white walkers north of the Wall and obviously the dragons being hatched. This is a world where people haven't seen much magic in the past few centuries, and they're starting to think it's just superstition at this point. And in the second season, it becomes more and more evident that there are supernatural forces at work. There are people who try to channel them for their own purposes, and there are those who desperately try to avoid them - or combat them.
HBO: Do the two of you gravitate toward different characters that you're fans of or like to write for?
WEISS: I like to think of myself as a Mord the jailer type.
BENIOFF: God, there are so many. I've always loved Daenerys - I think her storyline is phenomenal - and especially now watching Emilia Clarke interpret it, it's hard not to be a Daenerys fan.
WEISS: Going forward, Tyrion is the obvious choice for all the obvious reasons. Also going into the writing of Season 2, a less obvious choice for me is Theon Greyjoy. He's a character who, while not necessarily the nicest guy in the world, is one of the most interesting, and one of the most fun to write. He's in that universal quandary of somebody who doesn't really know where he belongs in the world and is trying in a not very graceful way to figure that out.
HBO: You guys have been friends since college and have been involved with this series for years - how does it feel to be at the end of your first season?
WEISS: It feels good ... It was just one of those things that as it got closer and closer to becoming reality, it became terrifying. And if it went away, there would never be anything quite like it again.
BENIOFF: Yeah, I really think that's true. Having read the books and knowing what it could be, we had this great feeling of confidence that if we could get it out there, there were going to be a lot of people that love this as much as we did. But at that point, it was ultimately somebody else's decision whether the show got made. You just do the best you can and hope people see the potential in it. And we're incredibly grateful that they did because it is the experience of a lifetime, and who knows if there will ever be one to equal it.