How did you come to tackle 305? Are there any benefits or drawbacks to writing the midseason episode?
Well, the benefit was certainly that, at this point in the season, the storylines are really cooking and I had several juicy scenes to play with. And, of course, it's 'Game of Thrones,' so we're still introducing new characters (Selyse and Shireen Baratheon) so it had a little bit of everything. I suppose the biggest challenge was that I was writing it without having the benefit of seeing 303 or 304 (I think I had seen drafts of 301 and 302) so it's kind of difficult building on arcs that haven't been written yet, but we even all that out in the revision process.
A lot moves forward in this episode-Jon's oath-breaking, the execution of Rickard Karstark, the Hound's trial by combat, the introduction of Selyse and Shireen, Jaime's Kingslayer revelation... how do you decide what comes to a head in each of the episodes?
It's all carefully laid out by the David [Benioff], Dan [Weiss], Vanessa [Taylor] and myself in the writers' room. No real rules about it-we map out the individual arcs first and then piece everything together in a way that (we hope) makes sense. But the scene order changes throughout production, often even in post-production.
To what extent do you take the source material into consideration?
Well, the source material is always our jumping off point. After that, it varies from scene to scene. Sometimes a scene will hew very close to the source (the Beric/Hound trial by combat), sometimes a scene will be brand new but be drawn from hints and clues in the text (the Stannis/Selyse scene), sometimes a scene will be a variation on a similar scene from the book but contain new elements or changes (the final scene with Cersei/Tywin/Tyrion is one section of a longer Small Council scene in the book).
Do you have a favorite moment or scene from this episode?
Very hard to choose! I'll pick two, if I may. I love the Jaime/Brienne bath house scene. It was one of my favorite moments in the books; classic George R.R. Martin. He peels back the layers of a character who started the story as a villain and makes you see him as a vulnerable human being. It's a very long monologue in the book that was a challenge to adapt, but great fun. It's a major turning point for Jaime, to be this vulnerable and open and raw with someone other than Cersei. And I think it's the first time he's told ANYONE what really happened during the sack of King's Landing-that includes Tyrion and Cersei.
The other scenes I'm particularly proud of are the trio of Dragonstone scenes. We didn't have room for Selyse and Shireen Baratheon in Season 2, so I was excited to get to introduce them here... the dysfunctional family Stannis keeps hidden away and largely avoids. Stannis isn't a POV character in the book, so these scenes were born largely from my own imagination (though based on clues and hints from the books) and I couldn't have been happier with the performances and how director Alex Graves interpreted the scenes. I particularly love the Shireen/Davos scene as it's one of the few scenes in our show that revolves around an act of kindness and generosity.
Speaking of kids, it was a bad week for Arya. How much darkness can one child experience?
Oh, quite a lot actually! We're just mid-way through Season 3!