Warning: spoilers ahead for the "Battle of the Bastards" episode of Game of Thrones.
Game of Thrones presented its biggest battle yet in the penultimate episode of Season 6. "Battle of the Bastards" pitted Jon Snow and his army of wildlings and allies against Ramsay Bolton and his own powerful forces in an epic fight sequence that was choreographed so well that it felt almost too real. As it turns out, however, the epic clash actually involved some major improvising on the part of the cast and crew. There was just so much to be done in "Battle of the Bastards" that bad weather completely threw off the 25-day shooting schedule and forced director Miguel Sapochnik to come up with a Plan B. According to Sapochnik, that necessary audible led to the creation of one of his favorite shots of the episode.
I think that this section of the fight -- in which Jon is almost buried alive by a stampede of panicking wildlings -- turned out as one of my favorite little moments in the sequence. No VFX, no fighting, just Kit giving a stellar performance and a crazy top shot as he pushes his way back out (we affectionately called it the "rebirthing" shot). The other reason I liked it is because of what it meant to be allowed to follow my gut and go for it. That kind of trust you can't buy and it felt like a privilege to have been given that kind of support to go into unchartered territory by the producers in such a high stakes game.
If I had to pick a shot from the battle that I'd guess was improvised, Jon Snow being trampled by his own army isn't the one I'd go with. Kit Harington really sold Jon's pain, despair, and panic as everything fell apart on him, and the metaphorical element of the "rebirth" scene seemed awfully deliberate in an episode about the bastard Jon Snow retaking his childhood home. Miguel Sapochnik, who shared his thoughts with EW, really did a fabulous job of making that scene feel as though it was integral to the episode rather than a result of mother nature throwing the filming schedule off. He didn't reveal what he had to cut from the script in order to finish the episode within his 25 days, but he certainly managed something that fit right in with the plot.
We already knew that the filming had to be crazy just based on the number of feet and hooves on the battlefield. There were five hundred extras, six hundred crew members, twenty-five stunt performers, and seventy horses for the better part of a month to film the big fight sequence. Miguel Sapochnik's story of improvisation only makes the episode feel all the more remarkable.
"Battle of the Bastards" marked the second big episode that Miguel Sapochnik's handled for Game of Thrones. He also directed last year's "Hardhome," which featured the first major faceoff of the Night's Watch and wildlings vs. the White Walkers and wights. "Hardhome" was a pretty fantastic episode, so it's no wonder that Sapochnik had some trust to go off-script for "Battle of the Bastards."
The Season 6 finale -- which was also directed by Miguel Sapochnik -- will air on June 26 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. Don't forget to check out our breakdown of what we know so far about Season 7 of Game of Thrones for a peek ahead.