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George R.R. Martin has a ‘least favorite’ Game of Thrones scene — and it’s not in Season 8

By Benjamin Bullard
George R.R. Martin

George R.R. Martin has a “least favorite” Game of Thrones' scene, and it’s probably not what you think. The author of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels still wishes HBO could get one GoT scene in particular back for a do-over — and it hails from the series’ very beginnings; not its much-debated final season.

Speaking with Entertainment Weekly’s James Hibberd to preview Hibberd’s upcoming GoT retrospective book Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon (where he also dishes about the conspicuous small-screen absence of Lady Stoneheart), Martin said budget constraints during Season 1 — before the show blew up to become a pop culture phenomenon — forced a bare-bones location shoot that, if we’re being honest, a lot of us likely wouldn’t have noticed — if only he’d never pointed it out.

Glossing past historical accuracy, it turns out, is Martin’s unpardonable sin. “Where we really fell down in terms of budget was my least favorite scene in the entire show, in all eight seasons: King Robert [Baratheon] goes hunting,” he explained, adding that no royal hunting excursion would’ve set out with a paltry party of just four people. “Four guys walking on foot through the woods carrying spears and Robert is giving Renly s***,” he said, setting the stage.

“In the books, Robert goes off hunting, we get word he was gored by a boar, and they bring him back and he dies. So I never did [a hunting scene]. But I knew what a royal hunting party was like. There would have been a hundred guys. There would have been pavilions. There would have been huntsmen. There would have been dogs. There would have been horns blowing — that's how a king goes hunting!" Martin bemoaned. "He wouldn't have just been walking through the woods with three of his friends holding spears hoping to meet a boar. But at that point, we couldn't afford horses or dogs or pavilions.”

It’s not as if the series was working with table scraps from the outset; each Season 1 episode had a reported budget of $6 million. That’s certainly plenty of money by typical TV standards, but still constraining for an epic fantasy like Game of Thrones, whose rampant popularity allowed HBO to more than double that figure (at $15 million per episode) by the time the show reached its final season.

Looking back at Martin’s scene of shame, though, we’d be none the wiser — if only the author weren’t so candid when it comes to critiquing his own material.