Towards the end of Game of Thrones, the series’ long-suffering cast got increasingly liberal with their grievances over the show’s final season. Actor Nathalie Emmanuel conceded she understood viewers’ frustrations over her character’s death; Emilia Clarke put it more bluntly on the red carpet, when she cringed and said, sarcastically, “best season ever” in response to questions about her character’s final scenes; and Maisie Williams just wanted everyone to act normal during her sex scene.
It turns out, that displeasure extended to behind the camera, according to a new interview director Miguel Sapochnik gave to IndieWire’s “Filmmaker Toolkit” podcast. It turns out, Sapochnik, who won acclaim for his direction of the series’ biggest battle sequences (Hardhome, the Battle of the Bastards, the battle for Winterfell—despite the latter’s poor lighting), didn’t exactly have the same creative vision as showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff. “I was visually policed for the first three months of my shoot and it made the creation of ‘Hardhome’ really difficult because I pissed them off,” Sapochnik said. But thanks to the eventual success of “Hardhome,” the showrunners still invited him back afterwards—he went on to direct “Battle of the Bastards,” for which they gave him more space to do his thing. (More cameras, faster shutter speed, less technical interference.)
One prevailing criticism of “The Long Night,” the episode depicting the battle for Winterfell, was the relatively low stakes of the fight. Given Game of Thrones’ reputation for killing off even the most audience-beloved characters (this is a show, after all, that saw its protagonist decapitated in the first season), it came as a surprise that only a few adjacent characters died (as well as basically the entire Dothraki army, but that’s a separate issue). Turns out, Sapochnik agreed with this criticism: “I wanted to kill everyone,” he said. “I wanted it to be ruthless, so in the first 10 minutes you could say all bets are off, anyone could die. But David and Dan didn’t want to. There was a lot of back and forth on that.” Sapochnik eventually conceded to the showrunners: “There comes a point when they dig in and you just don’t want to be there,” he said, according to the A.V. Club. (Remember, these are the folks who are also going to rewrite the Civil War for HBO. Good to hear they don’t welcome creative input, perspective definitely doesn’t matter at all for that project.)
Actor Lena Headey also expanded on her previous criticism of her character’s demise towards the end of the eighth season in a new interview with the Guardian. (Headey previously told Entertainment Weekly she had hoped to “have some big piece or fight with somebody.”)
“I invested as a viewer and I have my favourite characters. And I’ve got a few of my own gripes. But I haven’t sat down drunkly with David and Dan yet,” she said. When she does, though, her criticism will be concise: “I will say I wanted a better death.” At the very least, they could have allowed her to exit her room in Belfast, wine glass in hand.