WORK IN PROGRESS
- "Creatively, it made sense to us, because we wanted it to happen" redirects here.
In the Season 5 Blu-ray commentary, the TV writers made two incongruent statements:
- Benioff and Weiss bluntly admit that they rewrote the entire Dorne subplot to focus on Ellaria Sand, a relatively minor character, as a vanity project to show off actress Indira Varma, stunt-casting her in her own role. As they put it, "we reconceived the role to make it worthy of the actor's talents."
- They repeatedly refer to Sansa stark as "strong", "powerful", and "a player"...even as her character is changed to be a rape victim and prisoner of Ramsay Bolton. They insist that Sansa is still "a player" because she is resilient and not emotionally broken. However, during the Blu-ray commentary for Sansa's rape scene itself, as Sansa's dress is being torn off and Theon is standing there helplessly crying, Bryan Cogman states "Theon and Sansa are both players in Season 5."
Theon is a character who was broken by Ramsay's abuse, and who stopped resisting him, yet the writers continue to bizarrely apply the words "strong" and "player" to him, just as much as Sansa, until the terms ring hollow. It appears that they are describing the actors and their "strong" emotive performances: "Theon" is not "strong", but "Alfie Allen" is. Thus "Sansa" isn't even strong in the sense of being resilient: "Sansa" is only "strong" in her invented rape subplot, because Sophie Turner the actress is giving a "strong" performance during it. They reconceived the role of Sansa in order to make it worthy of the actress's talents - to show off the actor's talents.
Reviewing the prior, cited statements by Benioff and Weiss, they have actually consistently described every major change between books and TV series in terms of wanting to show off the actors - not the fictional characters they are playing.
Not simply most major changes, but every single major change from books to TV series, since the beginning of the project.
Fundamentally, when all the showrunners are worried about is "Did the actor give a strong emotive performance on set today?", the actual "plot mechanics" needed to set up why this is happening in-universe become irrelevant. This explains plot holes such as the Night's Watch mutiny against Jon Snow being nonsensically changed to due to Jon letting wildlings through the Wall...when they were already through the Wall. All that really mattered to the writers was Kit Harington's performance during his death scene, and thus they simply stopped bothering with setup.
Indeed, reviewing the Blu-ray commentary tracks recorded by Benioff and Weiss themselves, they bizarrely consist of nothing more than the duo praising the cast members for a full hour, and never mentioning story-writing decisions. This furthers the impression that they think only in terms of how they can maneuver the cast members around to put them into positions where they give melodramatic, histrionic emotive performances, with no thought to the story repercussions.
This trend has actually been present since the initial casting process for Season 1, but became particularly pronounced starting in Season 5 - after the success of the Red Wedding at the end of Season 3 turned the series into a true international mega-hit. Afterwards, Benioff & Weiss felt emboldened to make more drastic changes - but due to the overlapping production schedule, the scripts for Season 4 were largely already finished by the time the Season 3 finale aired.
From their comments, all that seems to matter to Benioff and Weiss is if the characters emoting heavily with their non-verbal facial expressions - to the point that they are actively trying to make scenes with little dialogue in them. Linda Antonsson of Westeros.org has accused in her reviews that Benioff and Weiss were making dialogue-less scenes for characters such as Sansa Stark or Stannis Baratheon because they couldn't think of what they should be saying in such drastically altered scenes. In reality, Benioff and Weiss truly think these scenes make sense - because if the actor is emoting heavily, it is automatically "good" - specifically in the case of Stannis Baratheon's death scene, they admit that they actually scripted much more dialogue for it, but cut the lines out to focus on the actors' non-verbal performances.
An actor is having a "strong" performance day on the filming set, regardless of whether their fictional character is experiencing positive or negative events. At one end of the spectrum, this means that Ellaria is "strong" to Benioff and Weiss when she is non-sensically taking over Dorne, because Indira Varma the actress is giving a "strong" performance. At the other end of the spectrum, Theon Greyjoy is "strong" to Benioff and Weiss, even when he is being tortured throughout Season 3, because Alfie Allen, the actor, is having a "strong" performance day on set. Thus, in the Blu-ray commentary, the TV writers incongruently describe Sansa Stark as "strong" and "a player"...even as she is being raped in Season 5. Later in Season 6, despite Sansa not really taking any direct story actions against Ramsay Bolton, they consider her a "strong player", because Sophie Turner, the actress, had a "strong" scene confronting him face-to-face - a "strong" example of the actor's emotive talents.
The fundamental reasons behind these changes appear to be:
- 1 - Benioff and Weiss were simply never professional Television writers. Prior to the TV series, they were novelists who occasionally worked as script doctors for movies. They truly have no prior experience working with a cast of live actors - and thus they truly do not understand the relational difference between "actors" and "fictional characters". Even by Season 6, they have frankly admitted in interviews that when the TV series began, they didn't know how casting worked.
- 2 - These changes were always present since the initial casting process, but became drastically more pronounced from Season 5 onwards, due to the success of the Red Wedding emboldening Benioff and Weiss with the belief that they could do no wrong.
- 3 - Also since the Red Wedding, Benioff and Weiss appear to have a drinking problem: a serious, public alcoholism problem. They were always heavy drinkers, and Benioff has repeatedly boasted in public of the time at the Season 2 wrap party that he got so drunk that he shattered every bone in both his hands...and didn't notice for several hours. By Seasons 5 and 6, in what few public appearances they have made - the Oxford Union panel, SDCC 2016 - they have shown up to panels openly drunk. At SDCC 2016, Benioff and Weiss began the panel by announcing that they were very drunk from vodka shots, and would not be taking any questions for the next hour. Vulture.com reported with disgust that Benioff "spoke at most six words" in the entire panel. Whether this alcohol issue is specifically affecting their writing, or simply emboldening them to go through with rushed storyline ideas, is unclear.
In short, it seems that Benioff & Weiss genuinely think that Varma emoting "Anger" on-cue at the camera is a great display of her acting talents, and thus rewrote the Dorne subplot to focus on this - without really setting up logical in-universe reasons why the fictional character is doing this.
Dorne, Season 5 onwards
In the Blu-ray commentary for the Season 5 finale, "Mother's Mercy", executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss bluntly admitted that the entire Dorne subplot was rewritten to focus on Ellaria Sand, a relatively minor character, because they are massive fans of the actress Indira Varma, from HBO's Rome. Impressed with her emotive range as an actor, they then rewrote the entire Dorne storyline to make her role the central character, to "make it worthy of her acting talents". Ironically, essentially all major reviews heavily criticized the rewritten Dorne storyline as not only nonsensical, but a poor display of Varma's acting talents: while it is a display of her ability to emote "Anger", the in-universe reasons behind this seem nonexistent.
Moreover, they also admit in the Blu-ray commentary that they originally never intended to include the Season 5 Dorne subplot at all. Typically, the next season the TV show is already written by the time the last one is airing. Benioff and Weiss were so impressed by Varma in Season 4, however, that - very much at the last minute - they impulsively added it back in, heavily re-written to focus on Varma the actor (not "Ellaria the character"). Even putting aside concerns about story logic and accepting as a given the goal of making a new Dorne subplot focused on Ellaria, this completely ignored the logistical nightmare of adding in a major new location and 40 minute subplot, very much at the last minute. Major critics and even casual reviewers therefore pointed out how rushed the Dorne subplot felt: from rushed fight scenes, to costuming, and basic dialogue. It feels rushed and half-finished because it blatantly was - and all because Benioff & Weiss impulsively wanted to "show off the talents" of Indira Varma, with no thought to the repercussions.
Sansa Stark rape subplot
Benioff and Weiss genuinely believe that "Sansa and Theon were both strong players in Season 5".
Io9.com's Charlie Jane Anders, while not aware of this full quote, commented no how bizarre it was that the writers still spoke of Sansa being "a player" with "a long game" in mind, when all she's doing is focusing on escape.
The plot mechanics, as presented, for Littlefinger's plot to marry off Sansa to the Boltons are simply nonsensical. Marriage doesn't work like that in Westeros: no one ever undermines their enemies from within. In Season 6, the TV show even bizarrely has Littlefinger admit to Sansa that his entire "plan" for her and the Boltons didn't make any sense.
What mattered to Benioff and Weiss was that Sophie Turner, the actress, was having a "strong" performance during her rape subplot. This represents a genuine break with reality: they weren't setting up Sansa for revenge against Ramsay later, nor did they do this as a plot twist, nor did they do it to be "shocking" because they "like rape". The full significance of having a character raped like this simply did not occur to them, and their Blu-ray commentary is filled with them bizarrely praising how "strong" Sansa is in these scenes.
The fact that "Sansa", the character, was being raped, was irrelevant and meaningless. Sophie Turner could have been "emoting heavily" about Jon Snow's death, or thinking Bran is dead, or getting her hand cut off like Jaime Lannister - the actual cause of her fictional character emoting heavily, in this cape rape, was trivial. What mattered is that Benioff and Weiss randomly maneuvered the character into such a position that the actor could give a "strong" emotive performance.
Sansa's rape and Theon's face
Many reviewers heavily criticized that Sansa's rape scene in episode 5.6 has the camera pan away from her, then zoom in on Theon's face - saying that, intentionally or not, this made the scene focus on him instead of Sansa. In response, in interviews, the TV writers insisted that this was purely to keep the camera off Sophie Turner's face out of respect. As widely reported from an EntertainmentWeekly.com review of the Blu-ray commentary, Bryan Cogman stated it was purely out of respect to Sophie (i.e. they could just as easily have focused on a candle or a wall).
A full transcript of the Blu-ray commentary, however, reveals that in literally the next sentence, Cogman then admits that they made the second, separate choice to zoom in on Theon's face in post-production - because they were stunned by the amazing emotive performance of Alfie Allen, able to cry on cue.
Essentially, the incident zooming in on Allen's face is a microcosm of how Benioff & Weiss have approached the entire TV series: Impulsively change scenes to "show off the actor's talents" - emphasis on "impulsively". Cogman wasn't "lying": the cognitive dissonance simply didn't occur to him that the sentence after he said "we only zoom in on Theon out of respect to Sophie" he then confirmed "and we zoomed in on Allen's face in post-production to show off his performance". In effect, they "reconceived" the scene to show off the actor's talents, with no thought to the story repercussions.
Gilly's near-rape in season 5
No direct quotes have been given about the invented near-rape of Gilly in episode 5.7. In the context of Sansa's rape in the immediately preceding episode, however, the cause appears to be because Benioff and Weiss wanted to give actors Hannah Murray (Gilly} and John Bradley-West (Samwell) a "strong" scene to emote in.
Therefore it was not because Benioff and Weiss "like rape" or because they think "rape is dark and thus makes for good drama" - but because the distinction between "actors" and "fictional characters" has outright broken down for Benioff and Weiss, and they truly think they gave Gilly a "strong" scene, because the actress is having a "strong" emotive performance in the near-rape assault.
Sansa Stark in Season 6
Even if their intention was to put Sansa into a formulaic "revenge for rape" storyline, Sansa was essentially forgotten in her own revenge subplot: she does nothing that actively contributes to Ramsay's defeat in Season 6.
Once again, in behind the scenes interviews, Benioff and Weiss fixated on Sophie Turner's performance in her one main scene confronting the already-defeated Ramsay as he dies. They believe that "showing off the actor's talents" automatically makes the fictional character "strong" and a "player".
After the heavy critical backlash against the multiple invented rape scenes in Season 5, director Jeremy Podeswa said that Benioff and Weiss were influenced to re-assess how they were approaching it in Season 6 - either from them directly responding to the backlash, or HBO executives complaining to them about the backlash. Aftrewards, Benioff and Weiss felt compelled to state in a subsequent interview that no critical reaction ever influenced how they write the show, and to deny Podeswa's remarks. Regardless, there were no invented rape scenes in Season 6. Yet the invented rape scenes were only one symptom of the overall changes to Sansa's storyline (and every storyline) which continued into Season 6: how to maneuver the actor into a position in which they give a "strong" emotive performance, with no thought to the story context or repercussions. Thus Sansa was randomly declared "strong" in Season 6 despite not performing story actions which played a major role in Ramsay's defeat, just as she was randomly declared "strong" and "a player" in Season 5 during a rape scene - because Sophie Turner, the actress, was giving a strong emotive performance.
Ramsay Bolton's invented torture scenes
Multiple critics by seasons 5 & 6 remarked on how Ramsay Bolton was getting many invented scenes torturing other people: the complaint not being that they were violent in and of themselves, but repetitive. Numerous scenes of Ramsay torturing Theon, not directly based on scenes from the novels. Particularly, Ramsay's drawn out murder of Osha in Season 6, largely repeating notes from earlier scenes.
Just as actors can be giving a "strong" performance even when their fictional character is being tortured, actors can give a "strong" emotive performance even when it is technically being repetitive. Most scenes are in fact usually filmed across multiple takes, so the crew filming on-set experiences the same performance multiple times in the same day - making it more difficult to tell when it is being repetitive in the final version.
It appears that Benioff and Weiss were so stunned by Iwan Rheon's amazing performance as the psychopathic Ramsay Bolton that they kept inventing new torture scenes, to "show off the actor's talents". This is not because they genuinely liked seeing "dark" scenes of Ramsay torturing people: their entire focus was on Rheon giving a "strong" performance during a torture scene, so they decided to add yet another one, with no thought to the repercussions.
Stannis Baratheon's death
Multiple critics, such as Westeros.org, negatively reacted to how badly truncated Stannis Baratheon's defeat was in the Season 5 finale - when in the books, he is successfully rallying the Northern vassal houses for a major stand against the Boltons.
In the Blu-ray commentary, rather than remark on the tragedy of Stannis's defeat, Benioff and Weiss continue to fixate on the actor's performance, and how "strong" it is. Repeatedly expressing their awe at his emotive performance and declaring "look at his face!" - as if this is self-evident proof of how "strong" he is being.
Moreover, they admit that they actually scripted and filmed much more dialogue for Stannis's death, but cut it out of the final version, because they felt it stood in the way of the actor's non-verbal emotive performance.
Thus it appears that all of the bizarre condensations to Stannis's storyline in late Season 5 - his army crippled by Ramsay and "20 good men" burning his supplies, none of the Northern houses rallying to him as in the novels, and drastically changing the circumstances of Shireen Baratheon being burned at the stake - happened because Benioff and Weiss "reconceived the role to show off the actor's talents".
Brienne Season 5
Multiple reviewers criticized how Brienne of Tarth's storyline was derailed in Season 6, sending her to the North, even though she doesn't go there at al in the novels: Brienne then spends most of the season silently staring at a window, waiting for a candle that Sansa will light as a message. Actress Gwendoline Christie even remarked at SDCC 2015 that fans stopped her in the street to complain to her that "all she did was stare at a candle" in Season 5.
In the Blu-ray commentary, during the candle scenes, Beniof and Weiss do nothing but actually praise how "strong" Brienne is being: Gwendoline Christie is emoting heavily, making a serious-face at the camera, and that's really all that mattered to them. There wasn't even dialogue, but that would have gotten in the way of her performance, as it did with Stannis.
Thus Benioff and Weiss didn't "forget" about Brienne: they wanted to put her in a scene in which she heavily emotes at an empty window waiting for a candle, because this is a great display of the actress's ability to emote on cue. They reconceived the role to show off the actor's emotive talents.
Jon Snow & the Mutiny at Castle Black
All that Benioff and Weiss cared about was Kit Harington, the actor, giving a "strong" emotive performance as Jon is assassinated. Changing the circumstances of the assassination from due to the Boltons to due to the wildlings - who are already through the Wall - made no in-universe sense. Yet to them, this was irrelevant: they reconceived the storyline to show off the actor's talents.
Jon Snow & the Battle of the Bastards
Multiple reviewers, such as reddit moderator BryndenBFish, criticized that Jon Snow's actions in the Battle of the Bastards are nonsensical, blindly charging around the battlefield.
Benioff and Weiss paid no attention to this, but in their interview comments, keep fixating on the amazing emotive performance of Kit Harington - as, on cue, he is capable of emoting a performance in which his eyes are smoldering with rage.
According to director Jack Bender, this was the entire focus of the writers in early drafts of the battle...to the point that the scripts they originally gave him were unfilmable. The original drafts contain scenes showing Jon Snow/Kit Harington, focusing on his face as he charges in front of a line of dying horses. Bender desperately tried to convince Benioff & Weiss, repeatedly, that it was logistically impossible to train that many stunt-horses in a limited amount of time (the battle included 70 live horses), and that the horses simply would not calmly work around that many stuntmen fighting in a melee scene. Only grudgingly was he eventually able to have them make another draft which has the pincers of the Bolton army made up of infantry instead of cavalry.
In the behind-the-scenes videos for the episode, Weiss even boasts that it has minimal dialogue in it, so that the camera mostly just focuses on Jon Snow's face - that is, Kit Harington's facial emoting.
It is possible that the "Battle of the Bastards" won't even occur at all in the next novel, but Stannis will defeat the Boltons, and Theon will personally kill Ramsay. It may be that - just as with making Ellaria the main character of Dorne - Benioff and Weiss totally rewrote the North storyline as a vanity project to show off Kit Harington, the actor: they reconceived the role to make it worthy of the actor's talents.
Benioff and Weiss earlier expressed how impressed they were that Kit Harington did all of his own sword stuntwork in Season 4's Battle of Castle Black. Subsequently in Season 5, they invented the large-scale battle scene of the Massacre at Hardhome - which happens off-screen and doesn't even involve Jon Snow - possibly just because they felt compelled to show off Harington's stunwork abilities again, and the same may also have been true of the Battle of the Bastards.
Arya's chase scene in Season 6
Many reviewers were baffled at the implausibility of Arya having a running chase scene through Braavos at the end of Season 6, despite having been stabbed in the gut numerous times. It is possible that this was a deleted subplot in which Jaqen, wearing an Arya disguise, actually gets stabbed, as a test for the Waif, but this was later abandoned. If true, what's more important is that Benioff and Weiss thought they could abandon this subplot with no change to the storyline, despite obvious plot holes.
Critics think in terms of fictional story, Benioff and Weiss think in terms of "is the actor getting a lot of face-time this episode? Are they emoting heavily?" As with Jon Snow in the Battle of the Bastards, Benioff and Weiss had a mental image of Maisie Williams, the actress, emoting heavily during a chase scene (with minimal dialogue). It is equally possible that there was no abandoned subplot, and they simply wrote a chase scene not realizing that it doesn't make sense for Arya to be capable of this much physical exertion after being near-death from stab wounds. What mattered was that they were showing off Maisie Williams's non-verbal performance.
Robb Stark and Talisa
There were prominent fan theories that Jeyne was changed to Talisa to make her a secret Lannister spy: ultimately, it is irrelevant whether she was a spy or not.
If, as presented in the final version, Jeyne was just a love interest for Robb Stark - who doesn't have a "romance" story in the novels - it was to show off Richard Madden acting out a romance storyline (which the writers have admitted to).
If their original plan was to make Talisa a secret Lannister spy (as Jeyne's mother was in the novels), the goal wasn't to create a plot twist to shock the viewers. Plot twists are part of a fictional story, and they weren't thinking in terms of fictional story: even if Jeyne was a Lannister spy, it would have been to show off Richard Madden's emotive performance as he learns of the betrayal.
Thus whether Talisa was meant to be a spy or not is meaningless: the real, core change, was rewriting the storyline to show off Richard Madden's emotive performance in a romance story.
Related to Robb Stark and Talisa, multiple critics pointed out that Catelyn Stark's political agency had been largely removed from the TV series, and replaced with scenes of her crying and weeping over her children. In particular, a prominent invented scene in Season 3 in which she nearly cries about Jon Snow, of all people, who she hasn't even seen in two years.
Judged from the perspective of fictional characters, "Catelyn Stark" isn't doing anything in these scenes, nothing that expresses "narrative agency".
Judge from the perspective of the actor, Michelle Fairley is giving a "strong" performance in these crying scenes.
Thus it appears that Benioff and Weiss invented scenes of Catelyn Stark crying about Jon Snow, in order to show off Michelle Fairley's "strong" ability to convincingly emote a crying scene on cue: they reconceived the role to make it "worthy" of the actress's talents.
Benioff and Weiss repeatedly remark on how amazing Peter Dinklage performance is. Multiple critics reacted negatively to scenes they invented which consisted of trying to make new "funny" Tyrion moments, particularly in Season 6.
This wasn't because Benioff & Weiss think in in-universe terms and wanted "Tyrion" the character to be making witty quips. They think in terms of the actors, and they thought these scenes were good because "Peter Dinklage", the actor, is good at delivering funny dialogue.
Benioff and Weiss have bluntly admitted that they were so infatuated with actress Sibell Kekilli that they expanded her character Shae, to the point that she is credited as a starring cast member in Season 2, even as Gethin Anthony (Renly) and Finn Jones (Loras) are not. They have made repeated, cited statements that this was purely to show off Kekilli, the actress - they weren't trying to build up Shae somehow, to increase the shock when Tyrion later kills her.
There have been several scenes, not her overall storyarc, in which critics expressed that Daenerys had repetitive or over-emotive scenes. One example is Daenerys's infamous line shouting "Where are my dragons?!?!" very loudly at Qarth in Season 2.
In Season 6, multiple critics such as Westeros.org pointed out that the scene of Daenerys winning over the Dothraki's allegiance appears to have been split into two scenes from a single one in the books.
It appears that in the novel version, Daenerys will burn all of the Dothraki khals using her dragon Drogon, as the Dothraki fear dragons to the point of near-religious awe.
In the TV series, Daenerys burns the khals by knocking over all-too-conveniently placed fire braziers in their tent, then walking out of the fire unburned - even though George R.R. Martin himself has repeatedly stated that Daenerys is not immune to fire all the time, under normal circumstances, and only survived Drogo's funeral pyre because it was a magical event relating to the birth of her dragons. Later in Season 6, Daenerys finds Drogon while already on the march with her Dothraki army, and gives another big performance, in a speech saying they are all now her bloodriders. As Westeros.org pointed it, it appears that this is one long scene/speech that the showrunners split across two episodes, because it shows off the actress's emotive talents.
The High Sparrow
In interviews, Benioff and Weiss repeatedly praise how lucky they were to get esteemed actor Jonathan Pryce to play the High Sparrow, and how impressed they are with his performance - not "the High Sparrow", the fictional character.
Many reviewers criticized that in Season 6 the High Sparrow has numerous scenes, apparently just padding for time, in which he gives lengthy and repetitive speeches (to Tommen, Margaery, etc.). These are not speeches by "the High Sparrow", because Benioff and Weiss do not think in terms of characters, but of actors: these are speeches showing off "Jonathan Pryce", the actor. They reconceived the scenes to make them worthy of the actor's talents.
The accusation could be made that Benioff and Weiss "reconceive the role to make it worthy of the actor's talents" because they are cynically pandering for Emmy awards: that they only re-wrote Sansa to be raped because they wanted Sophie Turner to give an amazing emotive performance in a rape scene, so she would win an Emmy award for it (in which case, it didn't work, as she wasn't even nominated, while Maisie Williams was).
This does not, however, appear to be the case: if Benioff and Weiss want to win Emmy awards it is because they genuinely believe these changes make good storytelling. There is absolutely no indication that they are self-consciously awards-pandering.
A major piece of evidence that they are not awards-baiting is that the pattern of "reconceiving the role to make it worthy of the actors talents" - and impulsively making such changes - extends to even second and third tier characters who could never possibly hope to be nominated for Emmy awards. Rather, they are just so impressed with the actors' performances that they add in new scenes to show them off, with little thought to the repercussions.
Grey Worm & Missandei
There are several cases in which Benioff and Weiss made changes which don't really "contradict" anything from the novels, in that they involved secondary characters whose actions may have occurred "off-screen" in the novels. The TV series invented a romance storyline between Grey Worm and Missandei starting in Season 4. They are relatively minor characters in the novels so something on this scale could have happened - albeit in this case, Missandei is 10 years old in the novels and too young for romantic interests.
Nonetheless, this change was well-received by most major critics as a good exploration of these two characters - particularly, that it was expanding two of the few non-white characters in the story.
In interviews, however, Benioff and Weiss described the change purely in terms of giving the actors more to do, showing off the actors. They stated that they were impressed with the skills of Nathalie Emmanuel and Jacob Anderson, so they expanded their roles - to show off the actors' talents. They never phrased this in terms of thinking that expanding Missandei, the fictional character, would be a good chance to explore the mindset of one of the few characters not from Westeros but from Sothoryos, or to explore the character of ex-slave Grey Worm and his journey to reclaim his humanity (though other writers like Cogman have described it in such terms). Thus Benioff and Weiss primarily made this change, again, because they think in terms of showing off the actors.
Olly barely has any speaking lines, and actually never exchanges any dialogue with Jon Snow whatsoever. Benioff and Weiss explained that Olly was originally a one-shot character in Season 4 but they kept inventing new scenes for him because they were impressed by the performance of the actor, not because they thought the nearly silent fictional character was interesting. They reconceived the role to make it worthy of the actor's talents.
Benioff and Weiss have repeatedly and publicly boasted that Locke was originally scripted to die in Season 3, thrown into the bear-pit. Yet they were so impressed with the actor, as they explain word for word, that they decided to include him in an invented return to Craster's Keep subplot: thus they reconceived and expanded the role to make it worthy of the actor's talents.
Similar to Locke, Orell the wildling was somewhat expanded because, as the writers state, they were impressed with the actor and wanted to give him more to do.
Ramsay's bedwarmer/lackey Myranda was originally supposed to be a one-shot character. As the writers have stated, they enjoyed the actress's performance, so they turned it into a recurring role.
While on a loose level Myranda serves the narrative function of Ramsay's gang of lackeys from the novels known as the Bastard's Boys, this story element was not the primary focus in creating the character. Benioff and Weiss stated that they reconceived and expanded the role, to show off the actor's talents.
Ros was one of the first characters drastically changed or expanded from the novels: she is actually a "new" character, in that she is a condensation of half a dozen other prostitute characters from the novels.
In the Blu-ray commentary, however, Benioff and Weiss state Ros was originally going to be a one-shot character in the first episode, and they only made it recurring because they were impressed with the performance of actress Esmé Bianco. This was not simply an attempt to make a condensation character to stand in for a dozen other prostitute characters. Rather, the very first major "new" character invented for the TV series, was created when Benioff and Weiss "reconceived the role to show off the actor's talents".
In multiple interviews, Benioff and Weiss have admitted that during the casting process for Cersei Lannister, actress Lena Headey didn't match their original conception of the character. They were so impressed with her performance, however, that they not only cast Lena Headey but started writing Cersei to be more like her: Headey is capable of being "funny" and "motherly and caring" in ways that Cersei was never originally intended to be. As a result of casting her, however, they started inventing scenes purely to show off Headey's emotive performances. For example, the large change in episode 1.2 when Cersei gives the invented detail that she had infant son with Robert who died in the cradle, before Joffrey. At the time, many reviewers assumed this was an attempt to show Cersei as a more nuanced character with her own internal emotions: for all of her flaws, book-Cersei is a pathetic human being who has a warped love for her own children, even if she twists this to bad ends.
Benioff and Weiss, however, have admitted in interviews that they made these changes basically to demonstrate that Lena Headey is capable of giving a "sad" emotive performance, or a "sympathetic" emotive performance, and at other times a "funny" emotive performance. They didn't rewrite "TV-Cersei" into a new, coherent fictional character. Rather, they reconceived the role to make it worthy of the actor's talents - a pattern they have been following since the casting process for the primary characters on the pilot episode.
"Creatively, it made sense to us, because we wanted it to happen"
In an interview with EntertainmentWeekly.com after episode 5.7 "The Gift, David Benioff was asked why they made the - comparatively minor - change of accelerating Tyrion's storyline so that he actually meets Daenerys in Meereen by the end of Season 5, when as of the most recent novel, he has arrived in Meereen and caught sight of her at the gladiator games but they haven't met yet. The answer Benioff gave was to bluntly give the bizarre, circulate explanation that "Creatively, it made sense to us, because we wanted it to happen".
He did go on to explain that pacing reasons were also a concern, but for critics and viewers reeling from massive changes tot he Dorne and Sansa storyline - which Benioff and Weiss simply declined to give any comments on - this answer become something of a meme and catch phrase for the lack of transparency on their production, and how they were approaching the adaptation process. Westeros.org's official review for Season 6 even closed by declaring that all of the changes seemed random, made at whim, purely because (quoting), "Creatively it made sense to us, because we wanted it to happen".
Reviewing all of the comments that Benioff and Weiss have ever made about changes they made to the TV series, this does not appear to be the case: they are not making purely random changes, at whim, but due to a single, coherent pattern of behavior. It doesn't make sense to critics because they think in terms of fictional storyline and fictional characters, but it does make sense if, like Benioff and Weiss, the changes are framed in terms of the actors: "We reconceived the role to make it worthy of the actors' talents" - and these "talents" are contextless emotive performances, preferably non-verbal. It appears that Benioff and Weiss, with absolutely no prior experience working with live actors, are genuinely in awe that actors are capable of giving convincing crying performances on-cue for the cameras, so they add in more of them, with no thought to the repercussions.
Moreover, based on the complaints given by Jack Bender about the Battle of the Bastards, or Michele Clapton and Miguel Sapochnik about the Dorne storyline, even accepting as a given that they wanted to make these changes, ignoring all story and characterization concerns, they are making these changes impulsively, with no thought to the pragmatic logistics required. This extends up to the point that they added in the Dorne subplot at the last minute, an entire new region with difficult new location shoots, new costumes that needed to be designed, fight scenes that had no time to rehearse, and were willing to spend 40 minutes of screentime on it hastily taken away from other storyline - purely as a vanity project to show off Indira Varma, the actress, and making it "worthy of her acting talents".
The phrase "Creatively, it made sense to us, because we wanted it to happen" is broad and vague: more accurately it can be expressed, based on Benioff and Weiss's own cited comments, as:
- "Creatively, [reconceiving the role to make it worthy of the actor's talents] made sense to us, because we wanted it to happen."