‘Game of Thrones’ Story Editor Bryan Cogman On the Second Season, Adapting Books He Loves, and the Show’s Secret Main Character
Here are a few quotes from the interview:
Game of Thrones is in this interesting interim place where it has fans who haven’t read the books and will never read the books, but you have fans who are obsessive scholars of the text. I imagine you feel you can’t just please one group or another, you have to please yourself.
It is a delicate balance. We love these books. If we didn’t love these books none of us would be here. At the same time, the show has to be for everyone. It’s also not even a question of where the information is, but even adapting the story, the present-day story of the books. When you’re mapping it out for television, or even thinking of the fact that is hopefully going to be several seasons, you have to pick and choose where you want to do certain characters, where information’s going to be most effective. An offhand remark about a character in the second episode of the first season that doesn’t pay off until season five might not be the best use of that time in the second episode of the first season. That is a very tricky thing. And we’re constantly trying to figure out how best to serve all of these threads. It’s very, very challenging.
You have to be Marwyn the Mage, the rogue Maester of the Citadel!
It is something that has definitely evolved for me. In the pilot of the first season, I was the one sounding the alarms more when things were changed. Part of my job at the beginning was to read the books over and over. There was a view of “that can’t happen because that doesn’t happen in the book.” And I learned as we were writing season one, and working with David and Dan in adapting this thing, that they have to be two separate universes. And of course these books are the Bible. If you go back and look at season two from beginning to end, it’s essentially the second book. There were a lot of detours on, and things that were cut and shifted around. But it follows if not all of, most of the story beats and emotional beats of the second book. We saved things for later. Certain things had to be cut. Certain things had to be shifted. But we’re pretty much going into the third season where you are when you finish the second book.
[Arya], in the books, she’s at this point much more of a killer, her body count’s a lot higher than it is in the series. We’re slowing that journey down a little bit because we’re thinking of several years of a TV series. I think, while it works great in the books, it would have been very strange in my episode, in that final battle, for her to be killing those Lannister guys who are fully armored. In the context of our show, it wouldn’t have made sense. In the book, the way the scene is staged, it does make sense.
And I love that people have such strong feelings about it and are so passionate about it. Those are the kinds of stories that are worth telling…I’m really looking forward, now that the show has found its audience and is doing well for HBO, the idea that we might really be able to tell this whole story for television, from beginning to end, is such an exciting thing. I really hope we do get to. When it was me and David and Dan in a room plotting out the first season before we left for Belfast for the pilot, the idea that we would be getting to adapt some of the scenes that we’ve just now adapted for season three, that we’ve gotten that far, is astonishing. There was a lot stacked against us. Nothing’s ever been attempted on this level, in this genre before, on this scale for TV. And I’m so gratified that it’s found an audience that’s at least for the time being that’s going to allow us to tell these stories.