The Creators Behind Game of Thrones Apparently Had No Idea What They Were Doing

Benioff and Weiss accepting Game of Thrones’ Emmy for Outstanding Drama at the 71st Emmy Awards in September 2019.
Benioff and Weiss accepting Game of Thrones’ Emmy for Outstanding Drama at the 71st Emmy Awards in September 2019.
Photo: Kevin Winter / Staff (Getty Images)

Regardless of how you feel about how the climax of Game of Thrones ultimately came together, it’d be foolish to not at least acknowledge that there are reasons the HBO show became one of the biggest televisual events of the last decade. At a recent talk for the Austin Film Festival, however, it seems that D.B. Weiss and David Benioff admitted that they were not among them.


At the Austin Film Festival this weekend, Weiss and Benioff spoke about Game of Thrones in what was one of their first public panel appearances since the series came to an end earlier this year.

While the talk only really danced around the reaction to how the series came together, it largely focused on how Game of Thrones got made in the first place. Turns out, how it got made seemed to be down to Benioff and Weiss being able to get away with a lot of learning on the go.

The most prominent report from the event came from a now semi-viral Twitter thread from user ForArya, who revealed what appeared to be an incredibly frank display from Benioff and Weiss about how thoroughly unprepared they were to guide what would become one of the smash-hit TV phenoms of recent history.

It’s important to note that the discussion is interpreted through the lens of one account, and on Twitter it’s hard to estimate tone and intent when you’re dealing with transcription, and with only so many characters per tweet. But even then, some of Weiss and Benioff’s surprisingly frank remarks—especially in the wake of their last minute no-show at San Diego Comic-Con earlier this year, which was in the immediate aftermath of the season eight finale—are honestly shocking to read.


They apparently kept being surprised at their experience, and not just through its now-infamous, unseen pilot, which the duo has long admitted was a complete disaster. It just seems like even as the show evolved into the success it became, the duo—who scripted the vast majority of the series, taking on even more work when the show began outpacing the source material from George R.R. Martin—were still, apparently, largely unsure about anything they were doing. This includes understanding the characters they wrote (something they mostly left to the actors inhabiting those roles, in earlier seasons), or even production details like considering bringing women or people of color into the writing process.


The whole thread is worth a read for some particularly trenchant insight from the creatives, touching on how the duo treated fan feedback on the show as it went on—and reactions to how the series ended; the role of violence in the series; and even the way earliest seasons of the show gave an off-hand treatment to the fantastical elements of the book.


There’s even a truly disturbing story in there about how apparently an actual baby was put on a block of ice for the season four scene showing the Night King corrupting a wildling infant. Even that, along with many other remarks the duo made throughout the talk, seems to have an underlying thread that Benioff and Weiss are largely uncertain of why the things that worked about Game of Thrones worked, and why the things that were heavily critiqued didn’t completely undo the show’s popularity.


The shocking nature of the revelations are almost refreshing in the stark bluntness of them. It seems Game of Thrones essentially happened through some sheer dumb luck, on the part of both Benioff and Weiss and executives at HBO (plus the hard work of a lot of people in front and behind the camera), before going on to reshape the television of the 2010s and perhaps even beyond for good measure.


That Star Wars trilogy sure is gonna be fun, isn’t it?

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Honestly, none of that is particularly surprising to me, especially the part about not understanding the characters or their motivations.

The series worked because the source material is so spectacular, and because they had 5 seasons and change to become a successful, fail proof hit before they ran out of it.

After that they had GRRM’s vague outline, and their lack of understanding of the characters and lack of real ability to craft a sensible storyline on their own became apparent very quickly as they started hurtling through events and towards the endgame with episodes, events, and character interactions that were a lot more shallow than they were before the only source they had was an outline of what was going to happen.

When I first saw the end of the series, I thought that Daenerys’s story COULD make sense if Martin had written it. As they wrote and filmed it, it was hard to accept and understand because such a swift 180 without real motivation behind it is difficult when fans have become attached to a character.

And that doesn’t even begin to get into what happened with the White Walkers, Cersei, Jaime, Brienne,etc.

Benioff and Weiss were clearly in over their heads.We were lucky to get something that wasn’t even more of a disaster than it was.