When it comes to home video releases of TV shows, audio commentaries are often the most valuable special features. Pre-edited video features can be interesting, but audio commentaries give actors, writers, directors, and more a chance to let their hair down and give their unscripted feelings on what went right, wrong, and everything in between with the show.
Sometimes, the unscripted nature of the commentaries can make them boring, but at other times speakers drop unexpected treasures. We listened to all 12 of the commentaries on the Season 5 boxset (all of which are available on both the DVD and Blu-ray versions). Some are definitely more interesting than others, and we’re here to bring you all the juicy bits. Let’s get started.
“The Wars to Come” commentary, featuring director Michael Slovis, DP David Franco, and actor Cirian Hinds (Mance Rayder)
This isn’t a scintillating commentary. Hinds is a man of few words, but everyone involved seems to enjoy the show, and there’s still some info to be mined.
- This is the first time Hinds has watched this episode, despite the commentary being recorded over a month after it aired. He was filming a project in a remote location and couldn’t get to the appropriate technology.
- Slovis seems to be under the impression that viewers didn’t know that the young girl in the opening flashback (Nell Williams) was playing a young Cersei. He should have given more credit to the casting department—that was obviously Cersei.
- Like many fans, Slovis expected an older, more craggy actress to play Maggy the Frog. Apparently creators David Benioff and Dan Weiss “fell in love” with actress Jodhi May’s performance, and there you go.
- Slovis loves the mutual respect that Jon and Mance have for other during their final discussion. He also names Mance’s line about wanting the freedom to make his own mistakes as one of his favorites.
- They shot Mance’s burning with trick photography. The flames are actually a lot further away than they look.
“The House of Black and White” commentary, featuring actors Nicolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister), Gwendoline Christie (Brienne), and Daniel Portman (Podrick Payne)
This is another one where there’s not a whole lot going on. Actors’ commentaries tend to be like that. Christie, Portman, and Coster-Waldau all have a good time, and it’s fun to hear them joke around, but there’s not a lot of information here.
- Early discussion topics include whether people look up when they sail under the Titan of Braavos’ kilt thing.
- Christie points out that Brienne kneels in front of Sansa in a mimic of hot she knelt before Catelyn in Season 2.
- The actors are full of praise for Elizabeth Cadwallader, who plays Llollys Stokeworth, as they should be, because she was great. Also, Christie has a huge laugh that really fills a room.
“High Sparrow” commentary, featuring production designer Deborah Riley, costume designer Michele Clapton, and DP Annette Haellmigk
This was a really good commentary. All three of the participants seem very invested in their work and keep up a constant stream of chatter throughout.
- The interior of the House of Black and White was purposefully designed for viewers to not be sure if it was day or night inside. Mission accomplished.
- As WiC writer Ani has pointed out, Margaery and Cersei’s costumes in this episode are very carefully designed. Margaery’s gowns are being cut a little more like Cersei’s, since she’s trying to announce that she’s the queen now. Clapton adds that her gowns show less skin, because as a married woman, she no longer has anyone she needs to impress.
- Also notice how much Sansa’s costumes now look like Littlefinger’s. She’s convinced herself that she’s a Littlefinger in training, and is trying to look the part.
- Clapton on Sansa’s relationship with Littlefinger: “You just want to yell at her, don’t you? ‘Don’t trust him!'”
- All three participants point out how believable the extras looks in the Winterfell courtyard. Sometimes, extras just look like they’re wandering to and fro for no particular reason, but these ones actually looked like they had jobs to do.
- Clapton on the scene where the High Sparrow is in the brothel with seven naked women: “Not much costuming involved here, really.”
- This is probably Clapton’s final commentary, since she’s leaving the show. It’s a huge shame. Her work has been consistently excellent.
“Sons of the Harpy” commentary, featuring writer Dave Hill, director Mark Mylod, and actors Natalie Dormer (Margaery) and Dean-Charles Chapman (Tommen)
This is the best commentary yet. Having the guy who wrote the episode helps. He can provide information on high-level decisions, and Hill drops some interesting nuggets.
- As of Season 4, the show wasn’t going to go to Dorne, but Bryan Cogman came up with the idea to send Jaime there, figuring that we would be more interested if there was a main character involved. So we have Cogman to blame for that subplot, basically.
- The writers were aware that, in the books, it’s the High Sparrow’s idea to arm the Faith Militant, not Cersei’s. However, they wanted to make Cersei more complicit in her own downfall, so they had her come up with it.
- Natalie Dormer, who seems like a class act, talks about the age disparity between herself and Dean Charles-Chapman, pointing out that romantic pairings where the woman is much younger than the man are very common in movies (she holds up Blade Runner, where the 40-year-old Harrison Ford was paired with the 23-year-old Sean Young, as a random example). Also, she and Mylod talked sensitively about these issues on set—scenes between her and Tommen weren’t thrown in for titillation.
- Dave Hill admits that the point of writing that sweet scene between Stannis and Shireen was so we would feel it more strongly when Stannis killed Shireen later in the season.
- In the scene where Jaime and Bronn fight a group of Dornish soldiers, the writers originally wrote Jaime as a much better fighter. But then George R.R. Martin, who reads the outline each season, said that he should have more of a disability, having lost a hand and all.
- Everything set in Meereen in this episode was originally scheduled for Episode 5 or 6. Bryan Cogman wrote all of it.
- The writers discussed hewing closer to the books when it came to Barristan Selmy, but decided to kill him to raise the stakes for Dany.
- Hill addressed the controversy regarding how the Unsullied could lose to the Sons of the Harpy. He says that if the Unsullied had room to form ranks, the rebels would have stood no chance, so the choice to set the fight in a narrow corridor was very deliberate.