Warning! You’re entering dangerous spoiler territory, so if you haven’t seen Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 3, minimize the window until you watch it. Now that we’ve got that out of our way… Damn! The night really was dark and full of terrors. But thank you, Melisandre, for liting up our screens. It would have been a pity to miss out on the reportedly longest battle sequence ever put on film. Director Miguel Sapochnik told Entertainment Weekly he couldn’t find a longer battle scene in a movie. The closest was the 40-minute siege of Helm’s Deep in “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers,” which has become the gold standard for epic cinematic combats. Naturally, after the fans of the HBO show devoured the Battle of Winterfell, they flooded social media to post their reactions to it. Here are some of the best ones!
If you look at Sapochnik’s resume, it becomes pretty obvious why he was chosen as director for this episode. He shot “Hardhome” and “Battle of the Bastards” — arguably the two most intense and acclaimed action sequences the show has done before season 8.
“What we have asked the production team and crew to do this year truly has never been done in television or in a movie,” says co-executive producer Bryan Cogman. “This final face-off between the Army of the Dead and the army of the living is completely unprecedented and relentless and a mixture of genres even within the battle. There are sequences built within sequences built within sequences. David and Dan [wrote] an amazing puzzle and Miguel came in and took it apart and put it together again. It’s been exhausting but I think it will blow everybody away.”
One of the biggest directorial challenges was figuring out which character to focus on in each scene when so many heroes are involved. “The [GoT battles] I’ve done previously were generally from Jon’s perspective,” Sapochnik said. “Here I’ve got 20-some cast members and everyone would like it to be their scene. That’s complicated because I find the best battle sequences are when you have a strong point of view. I keep thinking: ‘Whose story am I telling right now?'”
Part of Sapochnik’s strategy is asking the actors to fill in the blanks of their storyline of what happens whenever the camera focuses on somebody else. As John Bradley (the actor who portrays Samwell Tarly) said, “We may not have seen Sam for 10 minutes but something has happened to Sam in those 10 minutes — you’ve been fighting, or you’ve been running, or you’ve been hiding. How has your story developed? You have to hold in your mind what’s happened since we saw you last.”
“We built this massive new part of Winterfell and originally thought, ‘We’ll film this part here and this part there,’ and basically broke it down into so many pieces it would be shot like a Marvel movie, with never any flow or improvisation,” Sapochnik added. “Even on Star Wars, they build certain parts of the set and then add huge elements of green screen. And that makes sense. There’s an efficiency to that. But I turned to the producers and said, ‘I don’t want to do 11 weeks of night shoots and no one else does. But if we don’t we’re going to lose what makes Game of Thrones cool and that is that it feels real.'”