Game Of Thrones: Why Season 6's Big Battle Was A Nightmare To Shoot

HBO’s Game of Thrones is remarkable in many ways, but it’s particularly incredible for the epic battle sequences that have taken place over the years. The Battle of the Blackwater in Season 2 felt straight out of a movie, and Jon Snow and the Wildlings vs. the ice zombies in Season 5 sent chills down spines in the best way. As it happens, Thrones has something even bigger in store for Season 6. According to co-showrunner David Benioff, the epic and bigger-than-ever Season 6 battle was a nightmare to shoot for some pretty major reasons.

Miguel did such a fantastic job with ‘Hardhome’ we thought we should bring him back – this time with horses. Horses are not easy, at all. And certainly in terms of numbers – number of extras, number of stuntmen, number of shooting days – it’s the biggest we’ve done.

David Benioff’s chat with EW about the big battle reveals a few tidbits about what’s in store for us in Season 6. Most of the major battles involving horses have occurred off-screen, presumably for the sake of easier filming. This fight must be a game-changer for the series for the showrunners to raise the stakes despite the difficulties. Given that Miguel Sapochnik directed the fight, we can at least count on the battle being as unforgettable as the march of the White Walkers on the wildlings in Season 5’s “Hardhome.”

Benioff recently shared that he considers Season 6 to be the best of Game of Thrones to date, so we can bet that what Miguel Sapochnik pulled off with the latest clash between armies is part of what has him so excited. According to Benioff’s fellow showrunner Dan Weiss, however, the awesomeness of this sequence won’t mean that there will be lots of them in the future.  

We wondered, ‘Why don’t you see more fully fleshed-out battles in movies and TV?’ Then you get into the nitty-gritty of what it takes to actually shoot these things in a way that isn’t just helter-skelter chaos but actually gives you a sense of battle geography and the ebb and flow, and you realize why.

Keeping the number of big battle scenes of the series low is a good thing, all in all. The rest of the episodes need budgets as well, and too many grand showdowns could water down what is so breathtaking about them.

Unfortunately for those of us who like to have a clue of what’s on the way, Game of Thrones is officially outpacing the source material of the A Song of Ice and Fire book series thanks to author George R.R. Martin failing to deliver Winds of Winter before Season 6's premiere. We have no way of knowing just which characters and which countries will be involved in the upcoming big battle, and if it takes place in the traditionally high-staked ninth episode, we’ll likely be well past the point of book lore.

Fortunately for all of us, though, the Season 6 premiere of Game of Thrones is only about a month away. The series returns to HBO on April 24 at 9 p.m. ET. For a peek ahead, be sure to check out our breakdown of what we know so far about the sixth season.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).