This post contains frank discussion of several plot points from Season 8, Episode 1 of Game of Thrones. If youre not all caught up or would prefer not to be spoiled, now is the time to leave. Seriously, this is your last chance and you wont have another so get while the getting is good.
Among all the heartwarming reunions, northern makeouts, and steely political machinations of the Season 8 premiere of Game of Thrones, there was a heartbreaking moment for John Bradleys character, Samwell Tarly. Though the show has occasionally breezed past the awkward alliances between former foes, Sundays premiere took its time with Sams discovery that Daenerys Targaryen had burned both his dad and his brother alive last season. Sam then took that hurt and used it to turn around and tell Jon Snow the truth about his parentage. But why, exactly, was Sam grieving a father who never liked him and a brother who bullied him? Bradley visited Vanity Fairs “Still Watching” podcast to explain.
Bradley based his performance off an article he had read awhile back about how if you have a relationship with one parent that is “strained and difficult” and with the other that is warm and loving, youre likely to grieve more for the parent you didnt get on with. “It sounds counterintuitive,” he acknowledges, but once that parent has died youre left to carry so many things that are unresolved. “Its never going to get any better,” he says. “The pain is never going to get any easier” without any happy memories to cling to.
Director David Nutter, who has a reputation for eliciting huge emotional responses from his actors, stepped up to Bradley right before he had to perform and said: “This means youre never going to make it better.” The resulting emotional crumble from Sam came directly from that note.
That explains his reaction to his father, Randyll Tarly, but what about his brother, Dickon? He was nice enough to Jaime Lannister on the battlefield in Season 7, but if you cast your mind back further to Season 6 (and accept that a different actor played Dickon at the time), Sams brother was an absolute beast to him. But Bradley says he sees Dickon as a victim of toxic masculinity—that all his bullying was just posturing to impress their domineering father. Both Bradley and Samwell are able to find reserves of compassion for someone like that.
But what really makes the Sam scene so hard to watch, Bradley says, is the cold reaction from Daenerys Targaryen and Jorah Mormont. Perhaps, given that they just met, Daenerys was at a loss as to how to console Sam for what she did to his family. But Bradley points out that she just stands there and that its Sam who has to excuse himself from the room. O.K., but what about Ser Jorah? Why did he offer Sam no support? Here, Bradley takes a brave stance that might rile up the fierce Targaryen supporters in the Game of Thrones fandom:
Id be interested to know what Jorahs view on Daenerys is now. In Season 2 he tells Daenerys she has a good heart and thats why shed be a good leader, and youre not really seeing that anymore. After all of her experiences and all shes gone through and all that shes withstood and the person she is now, she doesnt seem to have that heart anymore. She seems much more—in that scene especially—she seems psychopathic almost and she seems to have regressed in terms of morality so much that I dont know what he thinks of her anymore.
In the full interview, which you can hear above, Bradley also touches on his scenes with newly minted fan favorite Bran Stark and what it means to have a nice, bookish boy like Samwell Tarly stand shoulder to shoulder with a more stereotypically heroic type like Jon Snow in the Great War to Come.
More Great Game of Thrones Stories from Vanity Fair
— Episode 1 recap: a magic dragon ride
— Why that Bran and Jaime reunion matters so much
— The emotional story behind director David Nutters return
— Plus: 17 Easter eggs, callbacks, and references you might have missed in Episode 1
Get Vanity Fairs HWD NewsletterSign up for essential industry and award news from Hollywood.Full ScreenPhotos:Game of Thrones Transformations: Season 1 to Season 8
Maisie Williamss Arya has grown from spunky tomboy to deadly assassin.Photo: Left, from AF archive/Alamy; right, courtesy of HBO.
Isaac Hempstead Wright took Bran from innocent kid to . . . whatever the Three-Eyed Raven is.Photo: Left, from AF archive/Alamy; right, courtesy of HBO.
Once upon a time, Lena Headeys queen had long hair and a closet filled with colorful frocks. Now, she rocks a pageboy—and armored black gowns.Photo: Left, from Album/Alamy; right, courtesy of HBO.
In Season 1, Emilia Clarkes princess was sold into marriage to a stranger; now, shes a warrior queen with three—no, two dragons at her back.Photo: Left, from HBO/Album/Alamy; right, courtesy of HBO.
No other characters coming-of-age has been as traumatic as that of Sophie Turners character—and nobody else may be as well equipped to survive Season 8.Photo: Left, from PictureLux/The Hollywood Archive/Alamy; right, courtesy of HBO.
Peter Dinklages Lannister black sheep has kept his quick tongue—and now has a beard and a gnarly scar to boot.Photo: Left, from PictureLux/The Hollywood Archive/Alamy; right, courtesy of HBO.
Long after Kings Landing crumbles into the sea, Conleth Hills Master of Whisperers will abide—looking exactly as appealingly sinister as always.Photo: Left, from AF archive/Alamy; right, courtesy of HBO.PreviousNext