In case you were wondering what “Game of Thrones” executive producers and showrunners David Benioff and D.B Weiss were thinking when they killed off favorite characters like Jon Snow in the Season Five finale, they explain themselves in their weekly videocast, below.
Outside Winterfell: Some critics have complained that Stannis Baratheon should have had more to say when preparing to meet his death by the sword of the vengeful Brienne. But having seen his daughter Shireen burned alive at the stake, his wife Selyse hanging from her own noose, and his reduced army’s march on Winterfell completely fail, he’s ready to die.
“Stannis did the worst thing a person can possibly do in the world, and when he realizes it was all for nothing,” says Weiss in the video, “I think he’s probably ready to be done at this point. In a way, Brienne showing up to kill him was almost a welcome relief.”
“She’s known in her heart of hearts that it was Stannis, that she saw Stannis’ face on the shadow, but no one else believed her,” says Benioff. “People thought she was complicit in the murder of Renly Baratheon, so this is a great weight off her shoulders, to finally corner him. In the final moment, though, it’s not relief, because she was expecting this monster and what she finds is Stannis, who has certain monstrous qualities — he’s a man who’s willing to sacrifice his own daughter — but he also has certain very human qualities, and one of them is bravery. He’s not going to go out whimpering…He probably has a number of regrets, but he’s not going to share them with this stranger.”
Inside Winterfell: Sansa finds an unexpected ally in the beaten-down Theon, who helps her by throwing Ramsay’s jealous girlfriend Myranda, who was ready to shoot Sansa with a bow and arrow, over the parapet. Then the two jump off the high castle wall into the snow.
“We’ve seen terrible things happen to Theon and we’ve seen him refuse to rebel against his master time and time again, and finally, in this moment, he does,” says Benioff. “I think the great original sin of his life was turning on the Starks and betraying them, and he’s regretted it ever since. And now, finally, after all this time comes a chance for a little bit of redemption.”
“Both of them are people who have suffered so much at the hands of horrible people,” says Weiss, “but no matter how far gone they are — he’s as far gone as anybody we’ve ever seen — they can still come back and find the inner strength to keep on keeping on.”
Braavos: Arya Stark took her bloody revenge on prostitute-torturer Meryn Trant by blinding and stabbing him and finally cutting his throat. But when she returns to the House of Black and White, it seems this is not what the Many-Faced God had in mind. She has hung onto her Stark emotions and identity. So Jaqen H’ghar blinds her.
“The Faceless Men don’t kill for revenge — they’re not killing out of anger, they’re killing because death is a gift and the idea is a painless death is almost like your letting people go, and that’s not Arya’s way,” says Benioff. “Arya’s not dealing out death as a gift to Meryn Trant, it’s for herself.”
“You don’t take a face from the Hall of Faces until you’re ready,” says Weiss. “She did it for personal reasons, for ego reasons, for Arya’s reasons … She couldn’t really bring herself to throw away Arya Stark, and this was Arya Stark doing this, it wasn’t ‘no one’ doing this. And it was a violation of the rules of the House of Black and White, and she pays for it.”
An unknown mountain crag: When Daenerys alights from her flying dragon, she can’t rouse the exhausted and wounded Drogon to fly her home to Meereen. So she ventures down to look for food. As Dothraki warriors on horseback surround her, Khaleesi anxiously drops her ring into the grass.
“When she sees the Dothraki she knows what that means, and her relationship with Drogo was one thing, but Drogo is gone and she knows in a way he was sort of an anomaly,” says Weiss. “She drops the ring because she’s smart, that ring is the breadcrumb that’s going to point in the direction that she’s being taken, and that somebody, down the line, hopefully, who means her less harm than the Dothraki, will notice.”
Dorn: After Ellaria Sand kisses Myrcella a seemingly fond farewell, she and Jaime leave Dorn for King’s Landing on a ship, where Jaime confesses his paternity to her. She already knows. They share a loving father-daughter moment before she drops to the floor. Ellaria’s kiss was poisonous.
“The thing I love about this scene is that it could end 30 seconds before it does and it would be a really heartwarming scene, because for the first time, he’s being embraced by his child with the child knowing that she is his child,” says Benioff. “He biologically spawned these three kids but he’s never considered himself their father — he’s never really taken that on, and now all of a sudden this young woman is embracing him and saying she’s glad he’s her father, and he’s really moved by it in a way I don’t think he ever expected he could be. It’s as if he’s feeling the joy of fatherhood for the very first time in his life, and that lasts about ten seconds.”
“It’s a pretty terrible ending for your first father-daughter moment,” says Weiss. “He gets to be a father for all of five seconds before he turns into a grieving father, and is probably not going to be facing a very happy Cersei Lannister when he gets back.”
King’s Landing: Cersei manages to gain her return to Red Keep but has to endure a grueling and humiliating walk of shame, her golden locks shorn off, naked in front of the people she has governed so imperiously. Bloody, quivering and covered with shit and other muck, she accepts a blanket from Maester Qyburn.
“She’s never known what it is to be truly down and out and the High Sparrow wants her to feel that and understand it,” says Benioff, “and he wants other people to see her humbled, because that diminishes her power. It’s this woman you’ve been afraid of all your life — if you see her with her head shorn, and naked on the street, you’re not gonna be afraid of her anymore and you’re gonna lose a great deal of that respect and fear of the royals, and that’s what he wants.”
“Cersei has done some pretty terrible things to lots of people who didn’t deserve it, and she’s probably got this coming,” says Weiss, “and yet it’s still hard not to feel for her in this situation because it’s like she’s in the middle of the worst waking nightmare you could possibly imagine.”
“And not only that, he’s brought her a gift,” says Benioff of the return of the Mountain. “The line in the script is ‘she knows vengeance will be mine’ and when he picks her up and carries her off, you see that in Cersei’s eyes… she’s been beaten down, she’s dirty and her feet are bleeding, but she’s not beaten yet.”
Night’s Watch: The fate of Jon Snow weighed on Benioff and Weiss. “This is obviously a big deal, the death of Jon Snow, this is something we’ve been thinking about for a long, long time,” says Benioff. Snow has pacted with the Wildlings, against the wishes of his fellow soldiers of the Night’s Watch. He tells Sam that he’s the least popular person there, and reluctantly lets his only friend leave with Gilly and his baby, for their sake.
“The problem with Jon is he’s not a cautious man,” says Benioff. “It’s the problem with him and also the reason we love him. He’s a hero, but heroes are inherently incautious.” Even young Olly helps to set the trap and joins the line of Crows who stick a knife in Snow’s side.
“At the end of the day, Jon is his father’s son — he’s the person who’s honorable to a fault and does the right thing even when the right thing is extremely dangerous to him personally,” says Weiss. “Olly being the one who drives in the last knife makes it all the more horrible, because on some level he’s failed this kid that he wanted very, very badly to do right by.”
“It’s one of those great conflicts that makes us love the books and this saga,” says Benioff. “It’s ultimately not just about good versus evil, it’s about people of good intentions who come into conflict with each other because they have very different views of the world, and unfortunately, it did not work out well for Jon Snow in this case.”
Indeed. I don’t think he’ll be recovering this time.