There are at least four armies converging on one another in the next season of HBO’s Game of Thrones: Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), making her long-awaited arrival in Westeros; Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), clinging onto the Iron Throne; Jon Snow (Kit Harington), recently earning the title of King in the North; and the malevolent Night King, slowly marching upon the Seven Kingdoms with his legion of the dead in tow. With those ingredients in place, the table is set for the most violent season of the series to date — no small feat, given what’s come before.
“There are definitely a couple of biggies,” Iain Glen, who plays Jorah Mormont, tells The Hollywood Reporter about what to expect from the show’s battle quotient this year. “And they’re all different in flavor.”
Details on season seven have been kept under tight wraps, especially now that the show is well past the events of the published novels in author George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. Still, trailers for the season (as well as persistent rumors) point to a number of specific sequences coming up in the year ahead, including a great naval battle involving House Greyjoy and the Iron Fleet, the Brotherhood Without Banners joining Lord Snow for a battle in the North and a war scene that would seem to involve Daenerys riding a dragon.
“Every season of Game of Thrones, they make it bigger, don’t they? Bigger, better, badder than it ever has been before,” says Gwendoline Christie, routinely found on the battlefield as Brienne of Tarth. “What’s wonderful about the show is that it’s often very unexpected and what people are known for doesn’t necessarily transpire. You will see lots of action, but not always in the way you might initially think. But you won’t be disappointed in terms of epic scale.”
On that point, Jacob Anderson, who plays the skilled warrior Grey Worm of the Unsullied, agrees that while the battles in season seven are “very big and very complex,” they’re also “very emotional,” fueled by desperation, the thirst for power and other symptoms of the frail human condition.
As Kit Harington describes it, while the scale and scope of Thrones is certainly increasing for its final two seasons, there isn’t an internal desire to outperform the wars that came before: “It’s important that we don’t try to top anything. That’s what [director] Miguel Sapochnik said to me after ‘Hardhome,’ and before we did ‘Battle of the Bastards.’ He said, ‘We don’t want to try to compete with something that already worked. We want to make something different.’
“I think that’s a very important thing going forward,” Harington continues. “Yeah, we get greater ambition, and we try to go where TV has not gone, but we don’t try to top anything. We don’t look at ‘Battle of the Bastards’ and say, ‘We have to do better than that.’ We just try to serve the story and be ambitious at the same time.”
Another actor with unique insight into the Thrones war machine is Liam Cunningham, who plays Davos Seaworth. In addition to appearing in “Battle of the Bastards,” Cunningham was a key player in “Blackwater,” season two’s penultimate episode that saw Houses Lannister and Baratheon slugging it out in and around King’s Landing. It’s an episode that’s still discussed as one of the very best in Thrones history, and Cunningham thinks the show’s scope and scale has only grown more impressive since then.
“If you look at the Battle of Blackwater in season two, compared to what we have now, there were limited resources at the time,” he says. “We didn’t know how big and popular and profit-making this show was going to be. A lot of those profits have been put right back into the show to make it bigger. HBO certainly hasn’t sat on their asses on this thing. They’ve thrown everything, the kitchen sink, at this thing. They know it’s a beautiful piece of television people are going to be discovering for generations because it’s gorgeous.”
With season seven presenting a more politically fraught Westeros than ever before, Cunningham promises that the scale and impact of the show and its hallmark sequences will follow suit.
“What’s interesting is, every season, they paint themselves into a corner,” the actor says. “They make it as big as they possibly can and as extraordinary as they possibly can. Inevitably, there are going to be more battles. There have to be: The Night King is on his way. They have to top the previous season. I think people watching it go, ‘How are they going to do it next? How do you top something like that?’ That’s the thinking. We have to try harder. We have to get as close to failure as we possibly can. If we don’t get that far, we’re not trying hard enough.”
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