Featured Game of Thrones Interview John Bradley Samwell Tarly Season 6

John Bradley on Sam Tarly’s intentions at the Citadel, his plans for Heartsbane, and more

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Samwell Tarly

Samwell Tarly didn’t get a ton of screentime in Game of Thrones Season 6—he appeared in only three episodes—but according to actor John Bradley, “what I had in terms of content was the most satisfying material I ever had to work with.” The actor sounded off on Sam’s future, what he plans to do with Heartsbane, what being at the Citadel means to him, and more in a lengthy interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

Let’s start with where Sam Tarly was at the end of last year. “Over the course of season five, you did see a slow narrative of Sam conniving his way out of Castle Black and over to the Citadel,” Bradley explained.

He’s worked very hard to get here. He worked very hard to appeal to Jon, get Jon elected as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, so that Jon’s in a position to make that decision for Sam. The entire season five narrative for Sam was about getting Gilly and Baby Sam out of Castle Black, into the Citadel, and being in the environment where he can make a difference.

By the end of Season 6, according to Bradley, Sam’s achieved (or is poised to achieve) “everything he’s ever wanted.” That’s why he didn’t mind the relatively brief screentime—what he had was rich enough to make up for it. Bradley was especially taken with his 15-minute chunk of time in “Blood of My Blood,” where Sam traveled back to Horn Hill and reunited with his family. He described it as “a little play,” and liked how it added context to Sam by showing his abusive relationship with his father.

You do see him go back inside himself and how that treatment can really break a character. It starts to make sense, where all of his insecurities and pain are put into context. Sam starts to make sense. Then, at the end, when he takes the sword, he’s no longer happy to accept that version of himself. The brave new Sam, the Sam that’s achieved all of this, that’s the Sam that we end up with. But he has to face parts of the old Sam before the new Sam can disregard that treatment and not accept it anymore.

The sword Bradley is talking about is Heartsbane, a Valyrian steel sword that’s been in the Tarly family for generations. Sam knows that Valyrian steel can be used against White Walkers, but that’s not the only reason he absconded with the weapon.

I think when he took the sword, it was a symbolic gesture of him taking what’s his. He has every right to have that sword and to use it for whatever practical uses it has. But he knows only too well that if it’s wasted, and if it stays at Horn Hill…then it’s not going to do the good he knows he can do with it…It’s a beautiful moment of when someone’s impulse and bravery to do the right thing is combined with a slightly more abstract practical knowledge as well. It’s a big pay off for him.

Bradley also admits that Randyll Tarly, Sam’s father, is probably “furious” about his firstborn son taking Heartsbane, but fortunately, we haven’t yet seen him act on it. Maybe his wife talked some sense into him.

Sam and Gilly official

Overall, Bradley thinks Sam’s life is on the upswing, fugitive from his family or not. A lot of that has to do with him finding a new home away from home at the Citadel, but his romantic success with Gilly also plays a huge part.

He must have thought there was no chance he would ever fall in love. Being such a romantic deep down, that must have really had a weight, the thought he would never experience that. So the achievement of falling in love, keeping the person he loves close to him and going to a place where he’s accepted — they’re all ambitions he never thought he could achieve. It’s a pipe dream. You find him at the end of season six having achieved all of that through one method or another. It’s been a very slow and progressive success story for Sam.

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  • If this theory is right, what a fantastic way to end the show!!! I very much hope that’s the direction they will take.

    • So do I now that it’s been brought to my attention. Something like, the story ends and were left with Sam putting down the ink and quill and shutting the book he just finished writing.

    • I didn’t see there was 2 pages to this article at first. Thought you were all bat s*** crazy! Glad I read the comments!!!

      • Would be a pretty horrible ending just based off of the fact that it’s already been done exactly the same way by Tolkien, and I know Sam’s character is a heavy Nod to LOTR Sam, but c’mon.

  • The thought of this entire story being told by Samwell, in the form of a book he wrote, once he becomes a maester, is a really cool idea.

    And his quote explaining why he took Heartsbane was great insight as well. My initial reaction when watching that scene, and my thoughts afterward on it, have always been focused on Sam taking it to piss his father off and so it could be used against the dead. I had never thought of the fact that Heartsbane actually belongs to Sam since he was the firstborn son and so, he was simply taking what was rightfully his.

    Here’s hoping Sam acquires the knowledge he needs to help Jon quickly and also, if not in the show, that in the books, he also comes across Robb’s will which legitimizes Jon, etc…

  • Like him. Think his screentime this season has been good, especially the scenes at his home with his family.

    • Yes, it was a delight to finally see Sam’s family. Randyll Tarly is quite an interesting character in the books for me. He’s vicious, strict and ruthless. James Faulkner is a perfect fit for the role.

      Great job again to the casting director. Sam, Talla and Dickon are spot-on.

  • Maybe it’s not a coincidence that Samwell and GRRM are shaped somewhat similarly. I like this “Sam is the author” theory.

  • I think Sam might find the document or story that Rhaegar read and convinced him that his son would be the Prince that was Promised. Then if it becomes known that Jon is Rhaegar’s son, it all falls together. Does anyone else wonder why Howland Reed sent his 2 children to Winterfell to help Bran, but never tells them about Jon?

  • The Book Of Sam? It’d be great if this series ends with Sam, telling the tale, possibly to a young, future King of Westeros & Essos. Did it really happen or is it all just a curious tale? That would complete a circle that begins with Old Nan, telling old tales to Bran.

  • Sam being the one writing the story would actually be kind of lame and cliche. This is not a fairy tale, at least it shouldn’t be based on the first few books that made it so popular. Although you can clearly see that GRRM wrote himself into the story as Sam, so that may indeed be the case. I am actually fearful for how bad the ending may end up being. Stephen King is notorious for not being able to write endings and I wonder if we’ll get that here too. I hope not. It would be better if GRRM never finishes in that case.

    • based on george r. r. martin’s other books (non-ASOIAF content), i think we are in for a fulfilling, exhilarating ending to the series. it will most likely be well worth the wait. (here’s to hoping, at least!)

    • Since these novels are all written from more than one POV, closing the series with Sam as the last POV or even the Epilogue would be perfect.

  • The series ends with Peter Falk telling the story to his sick grandson.

    “My name is Jon Snow, you killed my father. Prepare to de.”

  • Histories in Westeros were written by maesters/archmaesters, so Sam would have been the person to write on the SONG OF ICE AND FIRE.

  • Sam has become marginalized in the show…
    What is he going to discover at the Citadel that will have an impact on the way the WW’s and their Wights are fought?
    We already know the White Walkers can be killed using Dragonglass and Valyrien Steel.
    We already know the best way to kill the Wights is with fire.
    We already know the White Walkers were spawned by the Children of the Forest.
    We already know the Wall is enhanced by magic to repel the dead.
    GRRM was developing some subplot that seemed to indicate the Citadel was aligned against magic or was having some internal war about it…not sure how that would work on TV or if it would be needed for the endgame of the show.
    I guess they’ll need some filler as they have really contracted the show with all the deaths and alliances that have been formed over season 6…

    • Sam re-discovers how to make Valeryian steel, which means more weapons made of it, particularly arrows.
      With a library of that size and scope he could discover many things but that is the first thing which comes to mind.

  • Ugh. I really hope this “Sam is the author” theory does not pan out.
    That would be incredibly disappointing and uninspiring…and I like Sam-

  • Pretty sure that GRRM has been quoted as saying that Samwell was inspired by/named after Samwise. So he has always seemed to be set up to be the author of the ‘Red Book of Westeros’ as Sam Gamgee was the keeper of the Red Book of Westmarch. He’s clearly the author’s surrogate and will be one of the endgame survivors.

  • If the Citadel is pro technology and anti magic like I hope it is, then maybe there is where we will find out that most of Planetos Magic is super advanced technology, not magic.
    The Science Fiction version of A Song of Ice and Fire: Things “magical” definitely became stronger after the dragons were born, and the awakening of the Others, but this could have been just the turning “on” of an ancient technological switch for alien terraforming. One race preferring an Ice Planetos, the other preferring a fire Planetos.
    The Children, Targaryans, and Others along with the Dragons have as many characteristics of alien races as fantasy domestic ones, in my opinion. And most characters are just pawns to the “gods”, who are in reality like “Oz” behind the curtain feeding the players “visions”, steering them in a preferred direction.
    But, then again, Magic is still pretty cool. I hope Sam finds out more about the world he lives in, and shares it with us!

  • TBH I think Sam is going to learn the irregularities (no-pun) of the long years in the Summer and Winter, how everything got thrown out of balance, and how to restore that balance. I think that’s going to effect how they will defeat the WW. Not anything about Cache’s of Dragonglass or any shit like that.

    • now that would be awesome. Of course Book Sam will be able to learn much more cool stuff than show Sam, just because of time limitations.

      I am one of the dedicated Book Readers who is not the least disturbed by the differences between the books and the show. I look at it like this: The showrunners have already told us they know George’s general ending. However the routes taken by the show vs the books will be decidedly different. I plan to enjoy both.

      Watching the TV version is kind of like having a parallel universe to the books.

      • I agree. I really enjoyed the last 2 seasons, and a large part of that was due to not knowing every twist & turn. I’ll still be up reading all night once I get TWoW in my hands, but now I can look forward to all the surprise GRRM has in store for us that aren’t in the show.

  • There are a lot of interesting directions GRRM could be headed toward with Jon. I would like for Sam to find the information that Rhaegar married Lyanna at the Citadel. But because the Targaryans lost the throne thru conquest, knowing that Jon is Rhaegars son may not be sufficient enough to make Jon the King. The rules for the order of succession in Westeros seem highly disputable at best. The most undisputed and entertaining coarse would be that the throne be taken again thru conquest, yet doesn’t send the anti war message I think GRRM is going for. Taking the throne apart and using the swords to fight the Others could be the best, most symbolic path toward democracy in Westeros GRRM has. Can’t wait to find out with Samwells help!

    • A post apocalyptic twist like the ending of Planet of the Apes would be amazing. Samwell finds an iPhone archived in a bin marked “mysterious artifacts from long long ago”.
      The insane seasons could be because the moon was destroyed or has traveled too far away to stabilize Earth.

      • Planetos moon is cracked and the dragons are said to come from a second moon that brought them. Sounds like a space faring species, along with Targaryans, the Others, and the Children.

  • I was so excited when Sam & Gilly first glimpsed Hightower. Like others have stated, I’m not sure if the show will have the time or interest left to do the Citadel subplot justice. I’d love to see Marwyn & some glass candles burning, but we might just have to enjoy that story in TWoW. I’m happy we at least get a peek inside the Citadel through Sam.