The long-discussed battle episode of Game of Thrones’s final season is upon us. Game of Thrones Season 3 Episode 3 will indeed be the Battle of Winterfell episode, whose production has nearly entered the realm of myth. It took 11 weeks to shoot, all involving night shoots, and up to 750 people were necessary to put it all together. At 1 hour and 22 minutes in length, the episode will be the longest in Game of Thrones history, all of which will be battle-oriented, making it the longest continuous battle sequence ever put to film.
Game of Thrones producers turned to Miguel Sapochnik to take the helm of the officially untitled episode given his experience directing the iconic “Hardhome” and “Battle of the Bastards” episodes. And while this epic battle episode could have been broken into chunks to make the shoot easier, Sapochnik lobbied to film everything in one, long, three-month shoot to maximize the quality of what they’d capture onscreen:
“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 says. “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.’”
The producers agreed. “When you have rapid cutting [in an action scene] you can tell it was all assembled in post-production,” Benioff says. “That’s not the show’s style and it’s not Miguel’s style.” So they approved a schedule that became infamously known among the team as “The Long Night.”
These first two episodes of the show’s final season have been quite a bit of setup, but given that this midway point marks the largest battle in the show’s history—one in which we’re fully expecting at least a few major characters to die or become White Walkers—it makes sense that the show’s writers wanted to use the first two hours to not only get all the characters into one place, but give fans one last quiet moment to savor these relationships we’ve come to love over the course of the series. ‘Cause it’s about to go off…
This Battle of Winterfell trailer thankfully doesn’t reveal too much, keeping the majority of the episode under wraps so we can all experience it fresh next weekend. So take a look below and compose yourself. Winter is here at last.