For Game Of Thrones fans, the wait is almost over for the much-awaited launch of season 6. Just ahead of the hugely anticipated premiere, writer and executive producer Brian Cogman has discussed creating the season tipped to be the largest and most explosive yet -- from the challenges of filming a vast and expanding universe to the changes that will differentiate this season from those that have come before.
Cogman has been the most vocal of the hit HBO show's producers to date, often weighing in to defend some of the show's most controversial plot developments via interview or social media. His latest comments give fans an insight inside the creative processes deployed this season and tease some of the action to be expected ahead, as the show's narrative (in many respects) surpasses the published material of its source novels and revisits the past.
Game Of Thrones in known for extremes regarding the sex and violence depicted on the show and its ruthless, no-character-is-safe attitude that keeps audiences clenching their toes and clutching their cushions each season. Season 5 was possibly the darkest to date as some key characters experienced some of the most brutal cruelties witnessed so far. Although this controversy has not affected the popularity of the show or award recognition, during his discussion with EW, Cogman defended these plot decisions, making a comparison to real life atrocities.
“People also say we love to terrorize the Game of Thrones audience. That’s not how we see it. Ultimately it’s putting characters through situations that are realistic. This is a story about a world war, and war is hell on everybody. The innocents and the vulnerable play a terrible price for the games rulers play. I’ve been listening to this podcast on World War I and you think what we do on Thrones is terrible, look at world history, look at what’s happening now. We’re not pulling this stuff out of thin air. It’s a very easy, and frankly very lazy thing to say, “Oh, they’re just doing this for shock value.” If that makes you feel better, fine, but we don’t do anything for shock value. The idea that we’re sitting around going, “What can we do to this person to shock people next?” … that’s not how this works.”
Moving forward, the development of Bran Stark's (Isaac Hempstead Wright) ability to view the past is a plot device that will expand the show's narrative and reference current events back to past season's action. This is one of the most exciting changes audiences can anticipate for season 6 -- as Cogman discussed:
"This many seasons in, you have the chance as a storyteller to draw on the past in a way we haven’t been able to do before. There are a lot of thematic and explicit callbacks to season 1, and the seasons that preceded this one, and even to events that preceded them — in terms of the mythology. There’s also a trend that began in season 5 and continues even more so in this season of worlds colliding, with characters meeting in hopefully very unexpected ways. Seasons 2–4 were about the expansion of this world; seasons 5 and 6 are about contracting. Characters who were rivals, and in some cases enemies, are being forced to work together, which makes for a lot of juicy dramatic tension."
The producer also discussed the size of the upcoming season, confirming what some of the epic battle sequences glimpsed in the season's released trailers suggest:
"The scope of this season was so vast that we felt hearing the story lines all together out loud and seeing how it played would be beneficial – especially since we are creating a lot of this stuff ourselves based on themes and ideas from George’s books. There was a proof of concept we wanted from the read-throughs... I remember thinking: “Holy s–t, this is huge, how are we going to do this?”
We’ve always wanted to get to a place, story-wise and budget-wise and time-wise and resource-wise, when we would be able to do a proper battle – with one army on one side, one army on another side."
Cogman also explains his take on the show branching away from the source novels and confirms that although much of the action portrayed will be unpublished, off book material and fresh story lines, some of the book events that the show's narrative has not yet caught up with will feature this season:
“While we’re still drawing from a lot of situations and arcs in the books, it’s obviously not a direct adaptation of any of the books this year. I will say you’ll see character versions and interpretations that are in some of the previous books that we hadn’t gotten to yet. I think of it as Westeros 2 – the alternate universe version of Westeros. There’s the book universe and a show universe and this is what happens in the show universe.”
Although the producer managed to keep his comments regarding future plots as vague as fans have come to expect, some of his points appear to confirm what many other hints over the gap between seasons would suggest. We may still get to see some of the events book readers found missing from the season 5 timeline, the battle glimpsed should be the biggest yet and there will be more satisfying merging of the different character pockets across the seven kingdoms.
With mere days to go, fans will soon be able to judge for themselves how successfully Game of Thrones writers have risen to the challenge of adapting beyond the published source material. In the meantime, Cogman's comments are certainly reassuring.
Game Of Thrones season 6 will air April 24 at 9pm on HBO.