[Warning: The following article contains MAJOR SPOILERS for the Game of Thrones season 4 finale.]
The fourth season of Game of Thrones has taken plenty of dramatic turns and become the most-watched show in HBO’s history, but season finale ‘The Children’ effectively picked up the characters and scattered them, carrying some to their respective destinations, killing off others and shaking things up in a way that will leave a lot of consequences to come in season 5.
Of the major events in this finale, probably the most memorable was Tyrion’s jailbreak and subsequent murder of his treacherous lover Shae and his uncaring father, Tywin, who died in a rather undignified position. This developments were to be expected by those familiar with the books, but ‘The Children’ also deviated from the source material by killing off another character who is still alive in George R.R. Martin’s saga.
Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss discussed the events of season 4’s concluding chapter and how the episode came together in an interview with THR. Weiss acknowledges that this finale was quite different from previous ones, in the sense that it was more dedicated to opening up new plot threads for season 5 than wrapping up those of season 4.
“In past seasons, our final episodes have often been clean-up — exciting in their own right, but primarily concerned with addressing the aftermath of the momentous events of the episode before. This isn’t one of those. The finale of the fourth season is more blow-up than clean-up. In real life, blowing things up is usually a lot easier than cleaning them up, but on TV it’s a lot more difficult.”
“Blowing up” is certainly an apt way of describing Tyrion’s exit from King’s Landing. A fan favorite character, Tyrion’s framing for the murder of Joffrey and his subsequent imprisonment and trials were very much at the center of the fourth season’s arc. After being pushed around and bullied his entire life, with his father and sister plotting his execution, Weiss explains that Tyrion was “mad as hell and wasn’t going to take it anymore.”
Game of Thrones‘ deviations from the books include not only plot points but also characterization, and Martin himself has said that the cumulation of these differences ends up having a “snowball effect.” One such difference was the characterization of Shae, and Benioff says that the strengthened relationship between Shae and Tyrion deeply affects the way in which her murder was portrayed on screen.
The murder of Shae, in particular, is emotionally much different than in the book. In the book Shae is a gold-digging prostitute from the beginning. She never loved Tyrion and betraying him came easily for her. But we knew our Shae would diverge from book Shae the moment we saw Sibel Kekilli audition. Sibel brought such life and intelligence to the part; her intensity inspired us to make the character more complex. Our Shae loves Tyrion, and Tyrion loves her. For us the tragedy is watching these two people trying to kill each other when they love one another. If only Tyrion had taken Shae up on her offer at the end of season two, they could be living a wonderful life in exile right now.”
The showrunners were understandably hesitant to give details regarding what’s to come in season 5, and warned that even a show with a relatively lavish budget like Game of Thrones has its limitations when it comes to portraying epic fantasy scenes. “We’re still figuring out how we can afford everything we want to do,” Benioff admits. “There are a few sequences that are absolutely terrifying from a production standpoint.”
As for how closely season 5 will cleave to the books, Weiss articulates their approach by describing the books as the “road map” that shows the destinations that they have to reach, but teasingly adds that, “There are many ways to get to each destination.”
Game of Thrones will return for season 5 in 2015 on HBO.