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Westeros Blog: Blackfish Delayed

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Over at “Not a Blog”, George R.R. Martin runs through several of the actors cast in roles related to the Vale of Arryn—Lysa Arryn, Robin Arryn, and Ser Vardis Egen. More notably, he touches on the fate of Ser Brynden Tully, the Blackfish. George explains it best, so we’ll quote him:

“... alas, his appearance has been postponed. Even with such a huge project as ours, there are budgetary constraints that require some characters to be cut, combined… or deferred to later seasons. That’s what is happening with the Blackfish. The plan, I am told, is to delay the introduction of the Tullys (Lord Hoster and Ser Edmure as well as Ser Brynden) until the second season. Brynden’s part in the events of A GAME OF THRONES will be filled in part by Ser Vardis Egen, and in part by Ser Rodrik Cassel.”

So, if the show gets a second season, we’ll be seeing the rest of the Tully clan.

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I think that's understandable. Blackfish doesn't really do too much first book does he? I'm struggling to remember if he does anything of much note in book 1.

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Sounds reasonable.

Does this mean that Green Fork doesn't happen until S2 (since, presumably, Green Fork can't happen until Robb's army arrives at Riverrun)?

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Does this mean that Green Fork doesn't happen until S2 (since, presumably, Green Fork can't happen until Robb's army arrives at Riverrun)?

Not sure have you the timing wrong there?

Green Fork and Whispering Woods happen at the same time (more or less). Riverrun happens later.

The question now is where/when the "King of the North" scene happens. In the book its in Riverrun. Its such a great climax to aGoT that I can't imagine them postponing the scene but perhaps I am wrong. They could do the scene in a campground outside Riverrun? Or they could do it in Riverrun but we just don't see the Tullys, which I admit I find strange right now.

I wonder how they plan to introduce Blackfish. I expected to see him in aGoT. But if he didn't appear in aGoT, I didn't expect him to ever appear. He is never that significant. He only really has a big presence in a few scenes in aFfC.

This news does end my theory that they'd introduce Edmure early. :P I thought they'd give Jaime a lot more to do by showing him capture Edmure early on.

Its all very interesting but I am a bit confused about how it will work.

Edited to add: They will need to give Robb an advisor in aCoK. Rodrik will have gone North by then presumably. Thus the Blackfish is needed then, although he never does a whole lot. Except be cool...

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Reposting my thought from WiC:

I can see how they'll do it. They'll have Ser Vardis Egen meet Cat at the Bloody Gate and escort her to the Eyrie, filling her in on backstory. That's why they cast much younger than the character, as they needed someone who could more plausibly ascend 10,000 feet of mountain and look like he does it regularly. This also gives us a solid amount of time to build up character empathy for him.

Then we get his little meeting with Bronn...

Actually, that's a brilliant idea. Makes that duel (one of the two most badass in the season, aside from Syrio's) much more interesting and exciting.

We then get Rodrik Cassel escorting Cat away and giving her advice like the Blackfish does in the book. It's even possible that he stays with Cat until the Whispering Woods and gets sent home to Winterfell after that point (at the end of S1 or the start of S2). I know that Rodrik's fate in the TV series will be the same as in the books (Ron told us so in Belfast), so he has to go home at some point.

The way of handling the ending could also be simple. Have the battles of the Whispering Woods and the Camps, and the Northern host get word of Ned just before entering Riverrun. The North and Riverlords present (not including Hoster or Edmure who are stillin the castle) immediately proclaim Robb on the spot, still outside the castle. We then meet Hoster, Edmure and the Blackfish - who had returned home in a last-ditch effort to mend relations with his desperately ill brother - in S2 Episode 1.

Simples :)

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Yes, I like nearly all of that. Fair point about Vardis v Bronn. Makes the whole conflict more significant.

I was thinking the same about Rodrick, in that they keep him in the South until the end of S1. And then have Blackfish replace him in the advisor role for S2.

The only issue with the "King of the North" scene is that Edmure was captured by Jaime in the books. But they can simply ignore that, so that he can be still in the castle. That seem to be a smooth enough way to run things. And introducing a number of new characters at the beginning of the second season does work better in TV land.

I also wondered whether they would keep Hoster alive. Seems that they will.

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Okay... the thing that appeals to my reason the most is that when I read the news I thought: "And who the hell is Vardis Egen anyway?" Giving him a more important role will make him stand out more in the minds of the viewers (and readers) and make the duel with Bronn much more poignant.

Still, my Tully blood is boiling! :P

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So, he gets proclaimed "King in the North" by the Northmen in Season 1 probably, then we have the breaking of the siege of Riverrun and probably Edmure and other Riverlords accepting Robb as King to open Season 2. It could make a very visually stunning scene to open Season 2 if we actually get see the breaking of said siege, maybe? Pretty academic as differences go. Still the same basic story.

I wonder if Vardis Eagen will survive his fight with Bronn - it simply ends with him yielding. Maybe he's then fated to die at Whispering Wood or is taken out by Tyrion's forces at Greenfork? GRRM said his role would take up some of Edmure's stuff, so it seems he might last past his confrontation with Bronn? Possible, but why would he leave the Arryn's service?

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Don't think he said Vardis would be taking over any of Edmure's role in AGoT. He specifically says Vardis will get some of Brynden's material (i.e. meeting Cat at the Bloody Gate), but that's it.

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Changes like this worry me, because they hint that perhaps a character hasn't really been understood. When we first meet Brynden, he serves much the same function as Beregond in the Return of the King. He serves as guide and introduces a character (and us) to a kingdom and its principal players. In Brynden's case, he's related to the character and thus also provides depth to Catelyn as well as weight to Lysa's current state.

Most importantly though, if the Blackfish isn't in the Vale. Where is he? He cannot be serving in the Riverlands under his brother because that would undermine his very nature. I hope they work around this by saying that Brynden is merely out hunting down mountain clansmen or something, so somewhere in the Vale.

This kind of thing can have a big impact on when he is introduced. Because there's no point having Brynden Tully if he's not the Blackfish - he'll just be another generic bannerman. And that's what's so odd. Mormont, Blackfish, Great Jon Umber, and Bolton are the most distinctive and memorable of Robb's followers. Where are these characters?

What I find most disappointing is that of all the minor characters to push to one side (however temporarily), why the Blackfish? The reasoming can't be that he doesn't do much, because he does more than a dozen or so of the characters who have been cast. What really does Loras do in GOT? And why have Varys? Or Illyrio, who's only act so far has been to arrange a wedding?

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I think it's more a matter of giving MORE screen time to certain characters so that we get to know them better. It's difficult for the audience to keep track of everyone, so they're reducing some roles to give way to others.

Why the Blackfish though, that's beyond me. I certainly hope they bring him on in time for Hoster's funeral, for that is one of the strongest scenes in the series.

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As Brynden is being introduced in the second season, as well as Hoster and Edmure, then that won't be a problem.

I think Ser Rodrik asking Cat questions about the Tullys, Littlefinger, her sister, etc. will do as much as Brynden did for revealing more about the Tullys and Cat in AGoT. I don't think his role in the first novel is in any way critical to anything except, perhaps, filling in some background for Hoster Tully's character ... and does that really matter in any way, beyond being part of the expansive, generational drama part of the series? It's a nice thing to have, but that's all it is -- a nice thing to have, the sort of thing that can be fitted into a multi-volume novel series but not easily shoe-horned into a finite number of TV episodes.

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What I find most disappointing is that of all the minor characters to push to one side (however temporarily), why the Blackfish? The reasoming can't be that he doesn't do much, because he does more than a dozen or so of the characters who have been cast. What really does Loras do in GOT? And why have Varys? Or Illyrio, who's only act so far has been to arrange a wedding?

Part of the problem the producers were having, I think, was casting actors who would be with the show for years (if it's not cancelled); they already had a large number of these type of parts, but for some, like Blackfish (and probably Dondarrion), they didn't do much in the first season anyway, so they thought they could just sidestep that character for the time being. GRRM mentioned budget being part of the problem (long term parts like these probably cost more money, and also probably require an actor of decent pedigree); shorter term roles are probably easier to cast. And yes, I know, you could say the same about some other parts, like Loras, Renly, Gendry, but the Blackfish was the one who got moved.

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Brynden is unimportant in the first season, I agree in that. Actually, that character (and Edmure, or Hoster) is also not really important later on. But there could be some problem about Robb being all too much of a war genius without the Blackfish, and a timing problem: Ser Rodrik should return sooner rather than later to Winterfell, as Maester Luwin alone is not capable or sufficient as master of Winterfell in wartime.

I'm not sure about Wert's assessment of the end of the season. It makes only sense, I think, to omit the Tullys, if you do omit the Tullys completely - meaning no Riverrun, and greatly downplayed Freys/Riverland stuff in general - as it would make less sense to talk much about the danger Catelyn's family is in if you don't show it by showing the Blackfish, Edmure, and Riverrun.

Would not be talking about these Riverlands and Cat's family just confuse the audience much more than actually showing the characters people are talking about? Which leads me to the conclusion that there is not going to be much Tully talk.

I assume the Battle of the Whispering Wood will be not about Riverrun, but about something else. Maybe Robb will just surprise Jaime on his way North.

But the story is going to be distorted pretty much, as it is something else completely if Robb is declared the King in the North by his men only, or if his men and the Riverland Lords declare him King in the North and King of the Trident. The latter is his undoing, as it forces him to remain south of the Neck; and I can't see anything but the former being shown in the series (if there is no Blackfish/Edmure, I don't see any Riverlord in Robb's entourage.

By the way, if you read this, script writers: Prove me wrong!

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Yes, I agree that Vardis takes on the Blackfish's role in the Vale, while Rodrick replaces the Blackfish once they meet up with Robb. I prefer Brude's idea about having the King of the North scene before the breaking of the siege. Solves the problem of having lots of Tully men proclaim for Robb without having their liege there.

Changes like this worry me, because they hint that perhaps a character hasn't really been understood.

I'm not sure I understand this. Who isn't understood? Hardly Blackfish because he isn't in the story?

It will be interesting to see how they explain where the Blackfish is. OTOH, I personnally don't find him very important to the story. So it is possible that they'll downplay his role, so that he doesn't have a major falling out with his brother. Although, placing him hunting the mountain clansmen could work. Or on a trip somewhere like Dorne (for some reason). There are plenty options for him. But we can't expect every character to have all the naunces displayed in the book. Hopefully the Blackfish will have those naunces but there are more important characters that I wouldn't want sacrificed.

We haven't heard about the casting of Greatjon and Bolton. I have to imagine that some of them will be cast because Robb's bannermen scenes will look very empty otherwise. But they don't appear till the second half of the season, so there is plenty time to cast them. Lady Mormont is distinctive, so they may include her but she does very little of importance in all 4 books.

IMO, the Greatjon is the most important of Robb's bannermen. Followed by Bolton, although he doesn't have to appear in the first season. Although, he'd be more important than the Blackfish, so hopefully he will appear. It would be a bit complicated to avoid him.

I would find aGoT very strange without Varys and Littlefinger. Given the title of the series, how can you have a Game without both of those? Loras has some cool scenes also in aGoT. Certainly more than the Blackfish. Loras adds something to the background in KL. The city should feel very dynamic, since its the key location in the series. And somebody has to arrange Dany's marriage...so why not Illyrio? The writers of the show picked out the most significant characters from each part of the story. They couldn't replace Illyrio with anyone. But they could focus the Vale characters on Lysa, Mord and Vardis. All do a lot more than the Blackfish, so his part is amalgamated into Vardis's role. Its all quite logical really IMHO.

That's why the only speaking role amongst Ned's men in KL is Jory Cassel. All the rest can be amalgamated into him.

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But there could be some problem about Robb being all too much of a war genius without the Blackfish, and a timing problem: Ser Rodrik should return sooner rather than later to Winterfell, as Maester Luwin alone is not capable or sufficient as master of Winterfell in wartime.

Based on comments from the guy that plays Rodrik, it seems likely that he will return to Winterfell after S1. As you say, CoK doesn't work without him in Winterfell.

Given that the Tully's do apparently appear in S2, I don't think it makes sense to omit them completely in S2. Otherwise, it will be really confusing when they suddenly appear. Instead, it can be left as a small cliffhanger at the end of S1. "Free Catelyn's family". I don't see why that would be confusing. It would be a nice way to start S2 actually...an opening battle to take Riverrun.

If mentioning the Tully's will be confusing, then how are they going to handle Stannis? They can't completely ignore him in S1.

The latter is his undoing, as it forces him to remain south of the Neck; and I can't see anything but the former being shown in the series (if there is no Blackfish/Edmure, I don't see any Riverlord in Robb's entourage).

Well, we know the Tullys will appear. And as you say, Robb needs to be King of the Trident also. Not that it is his undoing. He wouldn't have gone meekly north even without been King of the Trident. He had Lannisters to deal with...

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Don't think he said Vardis would be taking over any of Edmure's role in AGoT. He specifically says Vardis will get some of Brynden's material (i.e. meeting Cat at the Bloody Gate), but that's it.

Er, ugh. I meant Brynden...just had a moment of confusion between my Tully names.

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Stannis is a riddle Ned and the audience will stumble upon as soon as Ned arrives in KL and starts investigating the death of Jon Arryn. So probably already in the first half of season 1. He is also the elder of the two younger of the King, who becomes really important later on. He has to mentioned. There can be a lot of reminders for the audience. His empty seat during the Council meetings, for instance. Funny quotes about his personality by Littlefinger and Renly.

But I see also the danger of neglecting Stannis too much in the first. For instance, if there will be a Lord Tywin in season 1 (he has not yet been cast, it seems), he should of course give us a version of his 'I fear Stannis Baratheon' line - the one about him being a dangerous just man which he is hiring shadowbinders from Asshai.

The Tullys on the other hand became only important towards the end of AGoT. Of course, there is the plundering of the Riverlands, and Hoster's men at KL, but I'm not sure if and how this will end up on screen. They could give us all the Tully-related backstory during Catelyn's stay in the Vale (the Blackfish is not necessary for this), but it will be just words - and somehow distracting from the matter at hand, Tyrion's fate. I'm not even sure that we will get there a blackflash/talk about Littlefinger's duel with Brandon - although this should be included somewhere.

In any case, omitting the Tullys means to cut down the series somewhat. Maybe they will handling this by making Robb merely the half-liberator of the Riverlands (but let him remain the man who captured Jaime Lannister - the Whispering Wood is not yet the liberation of Riverrun). But with that, the whole scene of declaring him King will suffer. Of course, they can still make it appear good. But it will be difficult give it the setting of a War Council after the war seems to be half won. Nor will it make Robb the superior of his uncle and grandfather. They could, of course, also move the whole crowning scene into season 2, but it would be pretty stupid to ruin such a quality cliffhanger.

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I agree that the writers will have to cut the series in some ways but I don't think omitting the Tullys will help them tell a good story. The Tully's existence isn't a complicated idea to convey. They are Catelyn's family. There is also very nice scene where she pretends to go to Riverrun when she captures Tyrion. Without the Tully's, the war becomes rather strange. What is the Lannisters doing if they aren't attacking the Tully's? Mindlessly pillaging random towns? What upsets me (the reader) is that they are attacking Catelyn's family. Even though I haven't met them (even the Blackfish doesn't live in Riverrun), their intimate relationship with the Starks is impossible to ignore.

If the writers need to simplify things, they can pick at easier elements of the story.

OTOH, I accept that they can downplay the Tullys. (They could drop Hoster if they really wish. That would be relatively harmless. But GRRM seems to suggest he will appear also).

The King of the North scene does suffer a little without Riverrun but Robb doesn't need to liberate that castle to become King of the North. He just needs to win a battle and have Ned die. Liberating Riverrun is how he becomes King of the Trident but that can wait till S2.

All the indications suggest that Tywin will be cast.

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