‘Game of Thrones’ Finale Director on Shocking Death, Cersei’s Walk (SPOILERS)

Fans of “Game of Thrones” have gotten used to getting jolts in the series’ penultimate episode — this time, the shocks came in the finale. And they kept coming. Cersei’s walk of shame. Arya’s bloody act of vengeance. And yes, Jon Snow’s death. Director David Nutter — who also helmed the infamous Red Wedding episode — breaks down all the twists and turns behind the episode.

How do you approach such a big, complicated episode?

My first reaction is complete and utter fear. How am I going to basically do this? How am I going to direct this? I always try to remember that pyramids are built one stone at a time so I try not too freak out too much. I try to hammer it down to how to make it doable.

What was the toughest scene?

I have to say probably Cersei’s walk of shame because that needed to have the scope and immensity and size of King’s Landing and it was important to me to sell what she was going through emotionally and physically, and the real true hate that the people of King’s Landing had for her that needed to be demonstrated in the way that was correct — and reflected all the terrible things that she’d done through her tenure as queen.

Talk about Lena Headey’s performance in that scene. 

Lena is one of the most talented actresses I’ve ever worked with. We did “The Sarah Connor Chronicles” together for Fox years ago. Getting a chance to reunite with her as Cersei in the last two years has been a wonderful thing. She’s an amazing talent and someone is so very gifted and should be recognized for her ability to really bring it. She’s really something and we enjoy working together. She really can provide magic. She’s someone who leads with her heart and gets so invested in what she’s going through.

The scene goes on for so long. Why was that length so important?

What was important was to sell this journey. It wasn’t the kind of thing where she could walk down a set of stairs and the next minute she’s at the Red Keep. We needed to sell the fact that she was having to go through the sewers of King’s Landing and see what she’s brought to the fore with respect to the hate these poor people who live in this world have for her. That’s what was important for her walk of shame. To be with her in this entire journey, to be quite moved by it. It wasn’t the kind of scene you could cut to or do a short version of. It was important to do it right and uphold the integrity of the sequence.

Was it difficult to shoot the final scene, with Jon Snow’s death?

Very difficult. As when we shot the Red Wedding, the death of Robb and Catelyn Stark, these are people you spend years with and these people become your family. Kit Harington is just a great guy and Kit was sad to leave the crew. It’s an emotional feeling as well. But I felt it was important to set up the sequence as quickly as possible so you didn’t expect it or wait for it. I didn’t want it to linger. I wanted it to catch you by surprise. I think in how David (Benioff) and Dan (Weiss) wrote it and how I decided to shoot and how our editor cut it, it was something it was quite powerful and stunning and surprising to great effect.

There’s been plenty of speculation online. So can you say emphatically that Jon Snow is dead?

I can say emphatically that Jon Snow is definitely dead. I keep hearing that phrase in my head, “Ding dong, the witch is dead.” After what you saw there, I think there’s no more clear picture whether he is dead or not.

Any chance he could be resurrected by Melisandre, who returned to Castle Black?

That’s not my concern. My concern was to take care of Jon Snow, and he’s now deader than dead.

There’s also speculation about whether Stannis is truly dead. We didn’t see Brienne deliver that final, fatal blow.

I think that was basically in the script. Dan and David felt it best not to be gratuitous with that. You really got a sense that Stannis had nothing else to live for. Brienne’s life-long mission had come to an end. It’s a situation in which Stannis was ready to die and prepared to die. It would have been gratuitous.

We didn’t see much of a battle scene between Stannis and the Boltons.

When you’re doing a TV show, you have limited resources, but that’s not the reason why it wasn’t shown. The time spent with this man, it was the hardship spent pre-battle. Knowing and finding out they’d barely survived the winter. You could really get a sense they were in pretty tough shape during the snowfall and the storms they were dealing with. And then after,  (with) the sellswords and many of Stannis’ own men leaving and taking the horses with them. And then watching as Stannis and the men march into battle, you could see that they weren’t into it that much. They were basically, in that sense, marching to a battle in which it was pretty much intended to be a slaughter. The Bolton men were strong and powerful and had horses and were really hungry to fight. And Stannis’s army was on its last legs. That too would have been gratuitous and not in-keeping with the emotional richness with the story. More importantly, playing with the reactions and the aftermath would have been much more dramatic to explore.

On that note, you had that lovely, heartbreaking scene with Jaime and Myrcella.

After all these years, Jaime finding his daughter, and having that, for the first time, a real father-daughter moment and discovering his daughter loved him for who he was, he felt that great feeling, and to have that stripped away so suddenly was quite tragic.

Then again, there’s Arya’s vengeance. That scene did play out quite bloodily.

The one thing that was the precursor to this as she was waiting outside the House of Black and White for a multitude of days, one of things that kept her going was her list of people she so wanted to kill. She had her eyes on vengeance. Meryn Trant was on the top of that list. Of all the kills, Meryn Trant needed to die in a way that was just in reaction to the actions he had taken. She felt it important no matter what it cost her personally — she felt it important to avenge the death of the man who had taught her to fight with a sword. She’d come into the House of Black and White under false pretenses. She wanted to learn how to fight and how to become the best warrior. It’ll come to the fore when season six begins.

Reek — aka Theon Greyjoy — finally stood up against Ramsay Bolton’s brainwashing. How satisfying was that for you?

That was really good. He regains his sense of true north in realizing he needed to step up to save Sansa’s life.

Is it safe to assume they survived that jump?

I would say it’s safe to assume they survived that jump.

And then there’s Daenerys, who found herself surrounded by Dothraki. How did you film the scene?

First of all, like in real estate, location, location, location. We have a wonderful location manager and it’s perfectly suited for how we wanted to show the Dothraki hordes. She saw one horse, then three horses, then a multitude of horses, all surrounding her. It was wonderfully staged by the people in production and also visual effects who created the Dothraki soldiers who eventually ensconced her.

I can’t imagine they’ll be too happy to see her.

It’ll be an exciting event in season six to see what happens.

Do you read the books?

I have not read the books. As a director, the scripts have to be my bible. That’s the only thing the audience will ever have. So I have to translate them as a director. What’s in the books or not in the books, I can’t concern myself with. I trust David and Dan do what’s best for the show and do what’s best for the story.

This season had some backlash. Were you aware of any of it?

I think that the thing with “Game of Thrones” is it has the ability to totally dash and take right and left turns on whatever the audience expects and break people’s hearts. But what they’re also so brilliant at doing, Dan and David, is getting the exact same people to come back for more. For Dan and David, it’s how best to tell the story, that’s their source of where they’re coming from. It’s the proper way to do it. And not be influenced by other voices that don’t look at the big picture. It’s an important part of the series, to look at what the big picture is all about. Understanding to keep it honest and true, you have to follow your instincts. And Dan and David have the best instincts in the business.

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  1. Ken Batten says:

    First off let me say, I get so sick of these GOT book readers who think all episodes and characters should follow the tale of the books. After all, this series is for them and should DARE NOT displease them!… Give us a break and PLEASE go back and re-read your books and be happy with yourselves.
    The third season was just starting when I first became a GOT fan from viewing season 1 on DVD. Since that beginning I’ve enjoyed this magnificent production and excellent acting immensely. There is no better storytelling on television than here. I’ve learn to expect the shock and awe and wouldn’t have it any other way.
    Keep doing what you do GOT, because all these book reading haters are just going to keep coming back for more. Your true fan base loves what you do and can’t wait for next season!

  2. andi says:

    This season was by far the worst, and deciding to end every story line with a cliffhanger was awful IMHO. If you have to come out and tell fans who lived and who died, you failed. It’s that simple.

  3. Bart says:

    Catelyn is not dead!!! When do we get to see her story after the red wedding. It wasnt a small part of the books, it was a whole story line.

  4. nankin says:

    David Nutter, that’s right, NUTTIER than a fruitcake. Jon? Really? The MOST important character in GoT? You can stick your GoT where the sun doesn’t shine.

  5. Mike Samson says:

    If Stannis is truly dead, I’m done with this abomination of an adaptation. Absolutely no respect for the source material, and it’s only going to get worse from here.

    • jaketo says:

      How do you know he doesn’t die in book 6? GRRM has already confirmed that Shireen does die in a similar way in book 6, which means the events at the end of season 5 will likely play out in more or less the same way in book 6, e.g. Stannis will meet an untimely death as well.

  6. teresa says:

    I love how It would’ve been “gratuitous” to show Brienne kill Stannis, but it’s ok to show boobs and rape and blah blah. Can people edit these directors before they speak?

  7. Beaky Thwaite says:

    What I found really annoying was that they meandered around with Tyrion, dragging out his not-very-interesting journey to meet Dany and when they finally met, the writers almost immediately separated them and now we’re expected to suffer even more meandering with Jorah, Daario and Dany. Ugh. Repetitive much? I think next season I’ll just read the recaps. “Arya is STILL in the dark building getting slapped around, being “trained” by a depressed-looking J’aqen, who mumbles more inscrutable words about what a girl must and must not do…….Sansa is STILL all “woe is me, I’m being tormented some more”… Brienne is STILL not effectively managing her Sansa rescue…….Tyrion will STILL be muttering about the futility of it all after Dany’s flown away….Olly is STILL depressed and anguished-looking at the wall…Dany is back with her old Dothraki friends, being tediously segued from getting down to the business of ruling with Tyrion and finally meeting up with whatever Jon Snow turns into….oh look (resigned sigh)…..Bran is warging……again.

  8. Visions Lin says:

    This season truly was terrible, and just seemed to meander around. And beating and killing young women in this show is getting really old fast. It is based on a medieval concept, and even in medieval times violence against children was rare indeed. I belong at one time to a medieval reenactment group in the 60’s and 70’s, and while this is also fantasy based, some of the violence and borders on voyeurism insofar as the nudity is concerned which really has little anymore to do with the storyline, other than that Walk of Shame. Cercei’s manipulations are getting old, characters are not fully developed before they are knocked off or their storylines aren’t fully fleshed out (Sand Snakes, who were in jail for the whole season obviously). And the killing of Jon Snow, who seemed a central character in this entire thing, was horrendous. Kill the head of the Night’s Watch who was vetted by their dead maester? He was one of the few redeeming characters on the show, and we do need heroes too.

  9. Eddie Artist says:

    I LOVED the first three seasons of G.O.T… Now it feels like the show is about shock and brutality for the sake of shock and brutality. After the brilliant Hardhome (#8), the final two episodes were stupid and cruel… Really stupid for Night’s Watch to murder their best warrior and strategist, Jon Snow, when they know that White Walkers are coming, and they already owe their lives to him… Queen Dany exposes herself to a public Sons of Harpy attack and her “elite” Unsullied bodyguards get their asses kicked. The Viper volunteers to battle the Mountain, because he wants to avenge his sister’s rape & the murder of her children… He loses, so his wife blames the Lannisters and poisons an innocent teenage girl? Stannis murders (burns) his sweet young daughter as she begs and screams… Is that really entertaining? Stupid and cruel IMHO. I’m not so enthused about watching Season Six.

  10. Nick Quarrington says:

    The show and the books are two separate things. I enjoy the books more because of the detail that is giving.The show seems to be nothing but a perceptive of the writers. They did not stay true to the books. Can’t wait for the new book. Don’t mind the wait for the show.

  11. hugh says:

    The script writers and directors may think they have done a wonderful job, 9.5 ratings. They are wrong. Today is the last day I will watch this series or any other.

    • ayylmao says:

      The world revolves around you, hugh. I guess they should just cancel the show now since you’ll no longer be watching.

      • F rojas says:

        I won’t watch it either. there is nothing to look forward anymore. in this show only the bad guys win and what is a show without a champion

      • im also not watching the show they have killed the most interesting characters in got.

      • Steve says:

        I won’t watch it any more as well. go waste your time with this bs show. I don’t even know why any one would watch game of thrones any more. GG

  12. Alan says:

    David Nutter says emphatically that Jon Snow is truly dead yet he also makes glaringly-contradictionary statements saying that he’s never read the books (If he had than he would know that Jon’s fate at the very end of A Dance with Dragons is left ambiguous), refuses to comment on the possibility of Melisandre resurrecting Jon & also in another post-season 5 finale interview with Yahoo, Nutter states that he has no idea what the show’s direction & future come season 6 & beyond is!!! How can Nutter oh so confidently state that Jon is truly dead when he has never read the most recent Song of Ice & Fire novel which features Jon’s alleged demise nor when he has no clue as to the gameplan for next season???

    Nutter is the least qualified guy involved with the show to say whether or not such a key character like Jon Snow is indeed dead!!! He’s not 1 of the executive producers nor 1 of the writers nor does he collaborate or communicate in any way with George RR Martin himself, Nutter is a mere TV director whose job is to helm the episodes he’s contracted to film than move on to his next gig no more no less!!! He only knows what the script tells him, not what the plan is next season & beyond!!!

    The only people who truly know Jon’s true fate for sure are George RR Martin, David Benioff, DB Weiss & Kit Harrington and there is no way in hell that any of them are going to reveal if Jon is really dead or alive until book #6: The Winds of Winter finally hits bookstores!!!

    Kit Harrington’s Jon Snow may not be returning for season #6 but I’m positive that it’s for the exact same reason that Bran Stark was absent this season, because being such a very important & crucial key figure in the series the showrunners decided to wait until Winds of Winter is released in order to find out the characters’ next big move in order to remain as faithful to the book as much as possible rather than whip up something different that may very well contradict Jon & Bran’s actions & personas as portrayed in the novel!!! Jon may not be in season #6 but that does NOT automatically mean that Kit is done with Game of Thrones not by a longshot as its been strongly speculated that Kit Harrington is still signed on for at least 2 more seasons!!!

    Jon Snow WILL return :)

    • jaketo says:

      My thoughts exactly. “Is Jon dead?”. “Yes, he’s DEAD!”. “Will he get resurrected?” “No comment”.

    • Beric Dondarrion was dead and resurrected several times by Thoros of Myr. He was still dead. Even if Jon is resurrected by Melisandre (which even in the show seems likely since, after a diversion from the books, returned to Castle Black in the nick of time), he’s still dead right now.

    • David Gunn says:

      I think you missed the part where he says that he doesn’t go by the books. He goes by the script written. So while Jon may have survived in the books that doesn’t mean that the producers and writers will go that way in the show. That’s the difference.

      • jaketo says:

        Well, because both the script and the book says that Jon Snow is dead. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t come back as someone else. I think he’s being very skilled with his play of words here.

  13. Karen says:

    Watched the show again with a few other fans. No longer fans. What was the point of killing Jon Snow ? Unless changes to the novels improve the story, why do it? Jon’s story was far from finished, and had so many anticipating the continuance of that story. Directors, producers, and so on, who didn’t bother to read the books, should have done so. Martin is a far better storyteller.

    • jaketo says:

      Umm except that Jon Snow dies in the book too, in pretty much the exact same way. Clearly, you have not actually read the books. And yes, I would argue that a lot of the changes they’ve made have improved the story. There are far too many characters and subplots in the books that go absolutely no where.

    • Jake says:

      But Jon dies in the book too? In almost the exact same manner? With the same amount of surprise?

    • Dan says:

      I’d like some clarification on your comment, if it’s not too much trouble. This isn’t criticism, I’m just a little confused. Is your question why the show writers chose to kill off Jon Snow, with the implication being that this is something they came up with themselves? I ask because you also say that Martin is a better storyteller, which I’m assuming means that you’ve read his books. If this is the case, I’m curious as to your interpretation of the relevant story events and how it leads your line of reasoning. Sorry if I’m being obtuse.

  14. bella says:

    I love this show!!! how it keeps surprising the viewers is amazing! i didn’t read the books, but have watched from day one. One of the best directed shows on TV, always keeps us guessing…

    • Wylie says:

      I’m with you, Bella. Best show on t.v. – it’s a star among the boring, predictable fare on the networks. The depth, the foreshadowing (come on,… who didn’t see Jon’s death coming? And who doesn’t see his resurrection coming?!) the layers, the intricately woven story-lines… it’s brilliant. I feel like all the complainers are missing some of the clues the writers have left us.

    • Gotchya says:

      I found David Nutter in the comments!

  15. marcia says:

    I am still in shock the day after!!!!!

  16. macker1283 says:

    The “big picture” aka, we have to cut the cast budget every year to keep up the production value

  17. JulenneBarshop says:

    I am in the middle of book 3 and my take is that Jon Snow is the ultimate savior of man. Therefore Melisandre must bring him back to life. If Jon Snow is gone what hope is there for the future?

  18. The White Walter says:

    So he’s definitely dead… unless he gets resurrected. OK then! What kind of non-confirmation confirmation is this? Come on, this is a fantasy world, and movie-making logic applies. Unless you see someone’s head get chopped off, they can still come back. We’ve already seen that people can be healed from fatal wounds by the Lord of Light, and gosh darn, how fortunate that one of the witches has just returned to castle black. I mean is there any doubt after the contracts were leaked? He’s still committed to the show – anything anyone that’s affiliated w/ the show says is just meant to deceive you into thinking he’s not coming back.

    • me2olive says:

      In Harington’s interview for the Mirror he said “I’m dead. I’m not coming back next season.” That’s as clear a confirmation as you’re ever going to get.

      • Littlebirdie says:

        Kit said, “I’m not coming back next season.”
        He didn’t say, “I am not coming back ever.”
        If Jon is really dead then Kit could have said something like ” I am done with Got”. He was very careful with his words. I think they’ll give him a break in season 6 & then he’ll come back in season 7.

      • me2olive says:

        His contract wasn’t renewed according to him. He said the leaked information was “inaccurate”.

      • TJApplegate says:

        Who said a warg’s true power doesn’t manifest itself until after death? This information was not provided hap hazard. There was intent. Jon is a warg, yes? Yes. Jon will be back more powerful than ever.

      • Nicky says:

        But his contract’s been renewed apparently.

    • Rob says:

      He said in the interview that his contract was speculated from fans…Jon is dead…move on….Azor Ahai on the other hand could be the man to take the place of the boy…either way Harrington is done with the show.It will be CGI from here on out.

      • Steve says:

        Through S5 there is a real sense of unfinished business/only the beginning between Jon Snow / Night King / Melisandres Crew – especially after the stare-off across the bay in Hardhome. Can anyone confirm that next season will truly be the only remaining season?! I suspect the events at Castle Black will be quiet although the weather may be more of interest.Loved the JS pondering about how 10000 wights will get over the wall.

        Lets not forget also the “kill the boy, and let the man be born” proclamation by someone who probably knew more about Jon Snow than anyone else living at the time.

        Have to say the rest of plot development was okay but since Hardhome I’ve felt a bit insulted by the bs excuses to shock its audience – Parts of this GoT journey became a bit naff and pointless of late were some character developments/stories just been an excuse to sensationalize and shock . The Stannis/Daughter backstory to burning her screaming at the stake — come on people.. that was absurd and truly a disturbed liberty.

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