Game of Thrones season 5 opened with the show’s first-ever flashback scene, with a young and entitled Cersei Lannister coaxing a prophecy about her future from hermit witch Maggy the Frog. The scene is culled from George R.R. Martin’s A Feast for Crows, and we asked both the author and Thrones showrunner David Benioff about the moment.
First, strictly speaking, Benioff notes the scene is not technically a “flashback” because it opens the episode rather than breaking from a previously established setting to flash back to an earlier time. But putting the matter of showrunner terminology aside, young Cersei (Nell Williams) and her friend enter the hut of Maggy (Jodhi May), who proceeds to predict that the Lannister princess will eventually become queen, have three children, that she will see die, and that she will be overthrown by a younger and more beautiful queen.
“Prophecy is a staple element in fantasy, but it’s tricky,” Martin noted. “You want to play with the notion of prophecies coming true but in an unexpected way. You want to be unpredictable about it. Shakespeare is the ultimate example of that—when the forest of Birnam Wood coming to Dunsinane Castle, MacBeth will fall. Everybody laughs—how can the forest come to the castle. [Malcolm] came camouflaged with branches and so on. Also, during the War of the Roses, one of the lords was prophesized that he would die at a certain castle. So he always took pains to avoid that castle. But then in the first The Battle of St Albans, he was wounded and died outside a pub that had that castle on its pub sign. You have to look at prophecies carefully and look at the weasel-wording. Maggy the Frog tells Cersei a prophecy, but could Cersei make it happen through her efforts to avoid it?”
Thrones has used a big prophecy before, with Melisandre burning three leaches to represent a death curse put upon three contenders for the Iron Throne—Joffrey Baratheon, Robb Stark, and Balon Greyjoy. In Martin’s books—spoiler alert for non-book readers—all three are dead, but on Thrones, the Greyjoy patriarch is still alive.
“The interesting thing about prophecies is they don’t always come true,” Benioff says. “Melisandre thinks she sees things in the flames and sometimes she’s right and sometimes she’s not. One of the things we like about George’s books is it’s not as if everything always hones to where some enigmatic prophecy determines the fate of each character.”
More Game of Thrones premiere coverage: We have an interview with Mance Rayder himself, Ciaran Hinds, about his big send off (with a Bonus Question that fans of the books will find particularly intersting). That’s coming after the West Coast airing at 2 a.m. ET. Our recap of the premiere is now live where we breakdown all the action. And if you didn’t catch my Reddit AMA about Game of Thrones, fans of the saga asked some really smart and fun questions.