SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details of tonight’s Game Of Thrones Season 5 finale.
The blockbuster HBO series has never shy about depicting death, sex, betrayal and blood but this season may have reached new highs in all those categories. Despite the leaking of the first four episodes online before the April 12 season debut, Game Of Thrones also hit a new series high this year with 7.99 million viewers watching the premiere. That first “The Wars To Come” episode saw the death of the Ciarán Hinds portrayed Mance Rayder at the hands of Jon Snow, played by Kit Harington and set the tone for Season 5 perfectly and mercilessly.
Drawing on portions of George R. R. Martin’s A Feast For Crows and A Dance With Dragons books from his A Song Of Ice And Fire series plus parts of the A Storm Of Swords novel, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss introduced the rise of religious fanatics unleashed by a vindictive Cersei Lannister who turn on the incestuous former Queen imprison her. A controversial rape scene in the May 17 episode put a different kind of spotlight on the Emmy winning show.
David Nutter directed this week’s “Mother’s Mercy” and last week’s “The Dance of Dragons,” which saw the killing of a royal child by her own father’s order. The Flash EP has helmed six episodes of GoT now, including the infamous bloodbath of Season 3’s penultimate Red Wedding. Looking at tonight’s S5 ender, Nutter offered some behind the scenes insight into what may be the HBO series’ most significant set of deaths and revelations so far as well as Cersei’s naked atonement and walk of shame in front of her screaming subjects.
DEADLINE: Fans of the George R. R. Martin’s books knew that there was a sharp fate coming for Jon Snow and fans of the series have had a sense that his belief that the Wildlings can be trusted was causing some ill winds to blow his way. Positively Shakespearean, was the Lord Commander’s death in the finale at the hands and knives of his fellow Night’s Watch with the cries of “for the Watch” a profound betrayal in your eyes?
NUTTER: Yes, it’s really the true Julius Caesar moment for Jon Snow.
DEADLINE: So Jon Snow is truly dead now, correct?
DEADLINE: That death is just one of many in tonight’s finale as we saw Stannis fail at his attempt to take the throne and meet his end from Brienne’s sword, his wife Selyse hang, the poisoning of Myrcella and the long fall demise of Myranda among others. We also saw the return of The Mountain, Gregor Clegane to protect Cersei after her nude walk of shame that the High Sparrow ordered, Daenerys alone and surrounded by a legion of Dothraki, Tyrion Lannister now the de facto co-ruler of Meereen, Sansa Stark’s leap for freedom and the blinding of Arya Stark by her mentors at the House of Black and White for an authorized killing . Two of those plotlines could easily fill the cup of most season finales, did this one feel jam-packed to you?
NUTTER: Well, it definitely is that, and it’s one surprise after the next. It comes right at you in this final episode, and it’s like no other season finale that I know I’ve been a part of or watched. Dan and Dave are so brilliant with respect to arcing out these stories, and how they take place, and how the arc of each of the stories and showing how they play out. They’re so brilliant at that that I treat episodes 9 and 10 like a 2-hour movie and as its own piece of work.
DEADLINE: It certainly seems to have been a balancing act so what were the elements that made it so successful for you?
NUTTER: Lena’s performance in the walk of shame sequence obviously, but also the way it was visually handled, the profound production value, and the intimate, powerful, dramatic storytelling of how Cersei’s journey was told.
Cersei’s story is quite a rich one, and you have here a chance to see another side of her that you may have never expected you’d see before that. It is one that’s quite sympathetic, which is quite powerful. I think that’s going to be a tremendous surprise to people, and also too it’ll be a powerful reminder of who Cersei really is and her attitude of who she is and what she’s all about at the end of that sequence.
Even though the terrible person she is, to put anyone through what she was put through, that there’d be some sense of empathy that would creep into this. I was really proud of the sequence because that I think that there is that empathy. Does. But once she returns to the Red Keep and gets carried by the Mountain, you really get a chance to see her fire and that she’s never let that go.
DEADLINE: Seems to me that Cersai is poised to come back with a vengeance now against both family and foes in Season 6 – is that the way you set her up in this finale?
NUTTER: Well, I have no idea what happens at all in Season 6, that’s a Dan and Dave question. But definitely any storyteller worth his salt would be involved in something like that. So I’m sure that they have an exciting plan for what’s to come next in Cersei’s life.
DEADLINE: This season took elements from the fourth and fifth books in Martin’s series as well as parts of book 3 A Storm of Swords but it also added a lot. A director, how much do the books mean to you?
NUTTER: I did not read the books, and for me, I let the scripts basically be my Bible. I think so much of the time, regardless if one has read the books or not, we forget what the first impression really is and why that’s going to matter most to the audience.
DEADLINE: But you know that deviations from the A Song Of Ice And Fire novels have long been a sore point for some fans, right?
NUTTER: Yes, my son, for instance, will say that didn’t happen, or that didn’t happen, and so forth, but I’ve found that David and Dan, in the adjustments and changes that they’ve made have been the right ones and they have been profound. In some respect, they make adjustments because it gives a better story structure for this medium of telling it in a filmic way. Also, I think they needed to make changes from the books other times just because of the realities of what one can accomplish in the production of the series.
DEADLINE: Sounds like you think it’s the deal you cut with adaptations?
NUTTER: To some degree but you’ll find that the audiences on Game of Thrones are such that rarely do they get satisfied with the events that happen and are often frustrated by the goings on. On the other hand, they also can’t wait to see more. To me, surprise is the most important part of telling a story and that can be the most successful part of it as well. I think that Dave and Dan are masters at being able to surprise an audience, satisfy an audience, and also being able to frustrate them to the point that they’re so affected by it that it really moves them.
DEADLINE: Having helmed the last two episodes in what was a riotous season in many ways, do you have a favorite moment from Season 5?
NUTTER: Season 5 was such that I was just really moved by it all, and in that respect, it’s something that you can never give a short shrift to any of the moments. They’re so vitally important. As a director, I only know how to do it one way, is to pour my heart and soul into everything, as well as that’s the only way David and Dan know how to work as well.
DEADLINE: I think the last time a single episode of Game Of Thrones has had as much of an impact on the series before tonight’s finale was The Rains of Castamere or the Red Wedding episode that was Season 3’s penultimate. Do you see similarities between the Red Wedding episode, which you also directed, and the Season 5 finale?
NUTTER: After the Red Wedding in Season 3, Season 4 was almost like a dénouement as everyone realizes that Robb Stark and Catelyn Stark have been killed. So, as all of other major characters within the series found out about the death of Robb and Catelyn Stark, we learned how that event will affect their own desires, and plans, and goals, and schemes. Yes, this episode is like that too, I think. The hits just kept on coming and the effects are going to be wide going forward.