‘Game of Thrones’ director Miguel Sapochnik says Battle of Winterfell will feel like 'survival horror'
The third episode in season eight will center around the Battle of Winterfell where the living with their two dragons face the White Walker army and the Night King — who has his own zombie dragon
'Avengers: Endgame' is hardly the only big-budget spectacle that will be on our minds this weekend. After spending two episodes setting the table, the long-awaited Battle of Winterfell in 'Game of Thrones' will be telecasted on Sunday night. The 80-minute episode will center around the Battle of Winterfell where the living with their two dragons take on the White Walker army and the Night King — who has his own zombie dragon.
The episode, directed by Emmy-winning 44-year-old Miguel Sapochnik, is already billed to be one of the longest battle sequences ever put on television or film. Sapochnik won an Emmy for directing the 'Battle of the Bastards' episode on 'Game of Thrones'.
The director recently told Entertainment Weekly that he prepared for the Battle of Winterfell by studying Peter Jackson's 'The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers', particularly the acclaimed Helm's Deep battle sequence.
"The siege is a 40-minute sequence, but it's actually three different battles in three different places intercut. That was the biggest thing I could think of that was contemporary. I was trying to get a sense of when do you tire out. I think we're going to blow past that. It feels like the only way to really approach it properly is to take every sequence and ask yourself: 'Why would I care to keep watching?" Sapochnik said.
"One thing I found is that less action — the less fighting — you can have in a sequence, the better," the director continued. "We also switch genres. There's suspense and horror and action and drama and we're not stuck in killing upon killing because then everybody gets desensitized and it doesn’t mean anything."
Describing the tone of the Battle of Winterfell, he said, "This is survival horror." Maintaining a sense of perspective was the biggest challenge for the director — given how many characters the Battle of Winterfell involves.
His previously directed battle episodes — 'Hardhome' and 'Battle of the Bastards' — were from Jon Snow's perspective. "Here, I've got 20-some cast members and everyone would like it to be their scene," Sapochnik said.
"That's complicated because I find the best battle sequences are when you have a strong point of view, and here the point of view is objective even when you go from one person's story to another. Because when you're cutting back and forth, [the perspective] becomes objective whether you want it to or not. I keep thinking, 'Whose story am I telling right now? And what restrictions does that place on me that become a good thing?'"
While Sapochnik can't say any more about the Battle of Winterfell before it airs, he told the outlet that he originally requested to direct the third, fourth and fifth episodes of the final season of 'Game of Thrones'.
However, given the logistics of the show's shooting schedule, filming three episodes was going to be impossible. Besides, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss wanted only Sapochnik to work on their imagination for the Battle of Winterfell.
"What I really like about three, four, and five is they’re a complete piece with a beginning middle and end," Sapochnik said. "I try to approach all these [episodes] like they're one. Like in Season 6, [episodes 9 and 10, 'The Battle of the Bastards' and 'The Winds of Winter'], were to me one thing. Yes, there was the talk of that. Thank god it didn't happen. I would be so dead right now."
Considering how Sapochnik views the three episodes as one piece, it can be assumed that the battle will commence with the Battle of Winterfell episode and continue through the next two. This seems exciting since a lot of fans complained that the first two episodes of the final season slowed down the action.
'The Battle of Winterfell' will air on Sunday at 9 pm ET on HBO.