Note: Spoilers ahead about the episode ‘The Long Night’.
The blood and sweat involved in creating The Long Night, the third episode of the HBO drama’s eighth and final season, was revealed in a behind-the-scenes video released on Monday. The 40-minute clip featured interviews with director Miguel Sapochnik along with key cast and crew members.
The Long Night, centred on the long-awaited battle between allied houses of Westeros and the Night King, was aired on April 28 in the United States and April 29 in India. The episode featured 78 minutes of uninterrupted battle involving major characters, including Jon Snow (Kit Harington), Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), dragons and the zombie-like White Walkers.
Sapochnik, who also directed season six’s Battle of the Bastards episode, opened the behind-the-scenes video by describing how tired everyone was after the shoot: “I don’t think anybody who did that ever wants to do that again. That was tough and I don’t think anybody realised just how hard it was going to be.”
Crafting a feature-length episode largely comprising fight sequences was a challenge, added Dave Hill, the executive story editor. “It became clear when we started planning it that the battle was going to be a series of concentric circles,” he elaborated. “It would be walls of the fences failing and the dead getting closer to the heart of Winterfell and taking over everything.”
The behind-the-scenes video features segments dedicated to the work of various departments including visual effects, set design, makeup and cinematography. The design team talks about drawing from its experiences of filming the Battle of the Bastards episode, which features Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) fight for the control of Winterfell, the seat of House Stark. Making the skeletal corpses – the soldiers of the Night King’s army – was the toughest part of the design, supervising prop maker Gavin Jones recalled.
A mix of people dressed as corpses and props joined the ranks of Army of the Dead. “The brief was to try and create a light-weight version of bodies as a sort of relief,” Jones said. “We would get dummies dressed in armour and make a huge mould of them so that our mould could capture all of the detail like the limbs, the fabric and the armour.”
The camera department talked about following Jon Snow into the Winterfell castle as he tries to make his way to his half-brother, Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright), the real target of the Night King. A remote-controlled handheld camera was used for this segment. “The camera flows through the castle and stays with the character,” camera operator Sean Savage said. “The audience are going to feel like they’re travelling right upfront with him.”
The real hero of the night, however, was Arya Stark, who saves the day (and night). “Jon Snow has always been the hero, the one who has been the saviour, but it did not seem right to us at this moment,” David Benioff, who co-created the show with DB Weiss, said. “It’s probably three years now that we have known that it’s going to be Arya that delivers that fatal blow.”
All rules were broken to shoot that moment, Sapochnik said. “It’s all in super-slow motion and heightened reality, which is not what they usually do. It was a surreal nightmare,” he added.
The series, an adaptation of George RR Martin’s Songs of Ice and Fire novel series is being shown in India on Hotstar and Star World.