It’s not easy being Queen.
In this past Sunday’s Game of Thrones, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) continued to find politics in the North tougher than expected. Dany had some interesting, unspoken moments in the episode, like when Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) and Jon Snow (Kit Harington) both left the hall before their Queen had exited the room, when Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) greeted the queen, but then quickly addressed Sansa asking to fight for Winterfell, and of course during Sansa and Dany’s interrupted clear-the-air chat.
On Wednesday, GoT co-executive producer Bryan Cogman, who wrote the show’s most recent episode (“A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”), explained to Collider what he wanted to portray in those unspoken Dany moments, where a lot was said without words.
“I think Dany is in a strange place and she’s still feeling out the dynamic of Winterfell and of these people and it’s not so easy to just come in and declare you’re the Queen and assume everyone’s just going to fall in line, she’s discovering — particularly with the North and particularly with the Starks,” he said.
“The fun thing about writing this show – and with having these actors – is that you can portray these sort of political moves in very subtle ways, like for instance, Dany stands up and sure, Sansa will wait for her to stand up, but then she’s walking right out of the room. It’s a subtle thing, but it does speak volumes. … That Sansa/Dany scene is about Sansa making very clear that the North has been through — the North’s journey is in some ways, and in fact many ways, tied up with her own dramatic experience on this show. Winterfell and the North have gone through a great trauma over the course of eight seasons and Sansa was the — in many ways — the driving force of getting it back, even though Jon got a lot of the glory for it.”
Cogman also added as a reminder, “Sansa doesn’t watch Game of Thrones, Dany doesn’t watch Game of Thrones, Tyrion doesn’t watch Game of Thrones. They only know what they know and that was one of the fun challenges in the writing of the season.”
Before the episode ended, Dany faced another challenge when she learned Jon is a blood relative — an heir with a “claim” to the Iron Throne. Collider asked Cogman how important it was that Jon – whose only ever accepted power after being put up for it by others – didn’t just jump in and tell Dany he didn’t want to be King of the Seven Kingdoms.
“I think in that moment he’s processing the fact that that’s her first reaction to the news and what that means. But truly, a half a second later, essentially a nuclear bomb goes off, so the obvious answer is three blasts. There’s White Walkers at the door. And any statement made about who wants the Throne and who doesn’t would have to wait until hopefully Armageddon is avoided,” he said.
Although the dead inching closer to Winterfell throughout the episode increased the tension, the wait allowed time for some touching moments for a number of characters, including the one the episode was named after – Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), who became Ser Brienne of Tarth after being knighted by Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). Since Cogman has been behind many of the show’s pivotal Brienne moments, we asked the writer about his conversations with Christie over that scene, and what her reaction was when she found out what was going to happen.
“All I really told her is, there’s a specific scene in this episode and it’s why I chose and asked to write this episode … and I think you’ll know it when you see it, and she was delighted when she did,” he said. “In terms of talking about the scene with her, that isn’t really my job. At a certain point, you know, I write it and I have long conversations with [director] David Nutter about every single bit of tone and what we want to hit, but then it’s really up to him and his actors to have that sort of sacred communication about what’s going on and then of course, I’m on set and if I think we need to steer something a certain way, I might go in and give a note to David. But the actual process of the playing of the scene, I leave to our incredible actors and director. But yeah, that character’s very important to me. I introduced her in my Season 2 episode. I wrote the “Kiss By Fire” bathtub scene, I wrote the “Oathkeeper” scene. So that character and that relationship between her and Jaime is very important to me as one of the storytellers. So it was one of the great joys of my career to be able to write it and indeed that entire drinking fellowship sequence was a real joy.”
“A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” also saw some romance between Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) and Gendry (Joe Dempsie). But before it all went down, Arya was actually surprised (unique for the normally cool character) when she found out Gendry is King Robert Baratheon’s bastard son – and that specific reaction from her is something we asked Cogman about.
“What I liked about that moment is it’s rare for Arya to be surprised by anything,” Cogman said.
“And she’s sort of cool and in command of that whole scene up until that point and indeed after. So it was fun to throw a little wrench in there and Maisie plays it beautifully the way she sort of stopped spinning her weapon. Like, ‘Oh! Didn’t see that coming.’ I think that was the idea. And it’s funny, in the earlier drafts of the scene, one of the big challenges of this episode was to not make it a Wikipedia page, where characters are recapping the show for each other. And there was a longer bit there where they talk about ‘Oh, that’s why the soldiers were after you …’ which, you know, the audience already knows this. So it didn’t need to be rehashed, but I think that’s what’s going on in her head, is, ‘Oh, OK, that’s all making sense, that thing that we went through in Season 2.’ So yeah, that was the idea in that moment.”