Kingdom M Come
SFX|August 2017

Worlds are colliding in Game of Thrones season seven. Craig McLean is on set for the beginning of the end

It’s lunch hour in Westeros. More specifically, it’s fag-break time.   Long-haired warriors stroke gingery beards and exhale cigarette smoke into the damp air. Tall-walking, earth-shaking Brienne of Tarth tucks into a polystyrene box of stodge, a carb-heavy diet the better to march on the salad-munching southerners of King’s Landing. The newly anointed King in the North, though, isn’t quite at battle stations. Jon Snow may be fully kitted out in war-council regalia, but into his leather boots are tucked not a blade or two but an iPhone and 20 Marlboro Lights.

It’s September 2016 and at Northern Ireland’s Linen Mill Film and Television Studios, hidden in the countryside 25 miles from Belfast, it’s the calm before the storm. Filming on season seven of Game Of Thrones is in its early stages. Out here near the town of Banbridge, and in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter, the vast army of cast and crew are hard at work filming episode two. Even in a truncated, seven-episode season for HBO’s fire-breathing, ratings-topping TV juggernaut, there’s still a mountain to climb. And, perhaps, a Mountain to return to his skull-crushing ways.

In season six’s thrilling climax, “The Winds Of Winter”, multiple loose ends were tied up – and many knotty problems teed up. Cersei Lannister incinerated the Sept of Baelor, and many of her adversaries, allowing the now childless queen to claim the Iron Throne. But for how long? Having triumphed over the Boltons at the Battle of the Bastards, the Starks are busy uniting the families of the North under Jon Snow – the families oblivious to the newly uncovered secret of the bastard Snow’s paternal parentage: he’s half Targaryen.

Meanwhile, across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys Targaryen has finally set sail for Westeros, mob-handed with dragons, Dothraki, Dornish, Unsullied, Ironborn and, most dangerous of all, Tyrion Lannister.

What could possibly go right?

In a corridor off set, one of the men charged with wrestling these competing narratives on to screen is nursing a coffee. How is it for writer/producer Bryan Cogman, orchestrating the convergence of these armies and families?

“Tremendously fun and hugely challenging,” he replies cheerfully. “I think in many ways this new season is an entirely different show. It’s sort of phase three of Thrones. Dany’s imminent arrival changes everything. So that was a lot of fun to play with. Worlds colliding is a good theme, I think, for this season.”

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