‘Game of Thrones’ Producers Look Back At ‘Blackwater’

George R. R. Martin, Dan Weiss and David Benioff share their thoughts on the most epic episode of season two.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

“Blackwater” — the penultimate episode of “Game of Thrones” Season 2 — was widely acclaimed by fans and critics alike. It even managed to earn a rare perfect score in our review of the episode.

Over at GQ, “Game of Thrones” creator, George R. R. Martin; “Blackwater” director Neil Marshall executive producers and showrunners, Dan Weiss and David Benioff contributed to an oral history of the making of “Blackwater.” Among the highlights are Benioff’s recollection of asking HBO for more money to pull off the episode.

“We had one really intense conference call with the HBO brass,” recalled Benioff. “ It was awkward: They said, ‘So, what are you guys talking about, an extra $500,000?’ We said, ‘Noooo….’ ‘You guys need a million dollars?’ ‘Ummmm…’

“I think we asked for $2.5 million,” added Weiss. “We got $2 million-something. That's a lot of money in TV. It was a big ask for them, and they understood it was really important. Our point was that the entire season was pointing toward this confrontation. To do what's normally done on television—the Shakespearean model of talking about battles off-screen—would completely kill the season.”

Martin wrote “Blackwater;” which was based on one of the biggest battles in “A Clash of Kings,” the second novel of his “A Song of Ice and Fire” series. Although Martin understood the realities of what they could accomplish on a television budget, he still tried to get as much of the battle onscreen as possible.

“Dave and Dan gave me the hardest episode of the season,” said Martin. “ I think it was their subtle revenge for creating such a difficult-to-produce show. If you did everything as it was in the book, you'd have a budget approaching one of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies… But my philosophy as a screenwriter has always been, ‘Put it in. You can always take it out later if you can't afford to do it. But if you don't put it in to begin with, then it'll never be in.’”

The article also relates how Neil Marshall was a last minute replacement for “Blackwater’s” original director. And among other details, Marshall relates how he found comfort in watching old films for “Blackwater” inspiration.”

“One of the main things I watched [before filming] was The Vikings, the 1958 Kirk Douglas movie,” said Marshall. “At the end, there's this big battle, and the perception is that there's hundreds of extras, but I rewatched the scene over and over and you never see more than maybe thirty or forty in a shot. That reassured me that, since we were going to have only 200 extras, I could make it look bigger than it actually was.”

The full “Blackwater” feature can be read on GQ’s web site. At the end, Benioff drops a few hints about the series next budget breaking battle… which will be near the end of the fourth season.