You may think you know how brutal HBO’s beautiful dark twisted fantasy Game of Thrones can get, but to paraphrase Wildling temptress Ygritte: “You know nothing about season 3.” Based on roughly the first half of the third novel in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, the fan-favorite A Storm of Swords, this season continues the ultra-complex story of rival families vying for power in a fantasy kingdom where winter and summer last for years. It includes some of the most rousing jump-off-the-couch moments of triumph in the saga’s five-books-and-counting history — as well as its most bloody casualties. In geek terms: It’s The Empire Strikes Back of the Thrones-verse. “Emotionally, this season really goes for the jugular,” Thrones executive story editor Bryan Cogman tells Entertainment Weekly in this week’s issue. “In some cases, quite literally.”
The emotional ramp-up couldn’t happen at a better time. Game of Thrones is bigger than ever, and about to get bigger still. Last year viewership climbed to rank as HBO’s third most-popular show of all time, averaging 11.6 million viewers weekly across all the company’s platforms. With season 2’s DVD release breaking the network’s sales records last month, it’s a safe bet that Thrones viewership will soon catapult to even greater heights. But will season 3 also be the best one so far, as fans dearly hope?
Showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss are reluctant to raise expectations any higher, but are optimistic. “Like the book, it builds,” Benioff says. “Once the season kicks into gear, we’ve already seen stuff that makes me think it will be the best one yet. And it ought to be.” While season 2 poured a disproportionate amount of resources into the final couple hours, this round has major moments throughout; a “hammering propulsion,” as Weiss puts it. “There’s major massive events happening like I don’t think we’ve ever had before,” Weiss says. One particular “Scene Which Shall Not Be Named,” as Benioff called it, left the Thrones team devastated. “I’ve never seen the crew so emotional,” Benioff says. “If the scene has that effect on the people making it who know what’s coming, if they’re that overpowered, I think it’s going to have an overwhelming effect on people watching it.” READ FULL STORY