6 Things We Know About the Battle of Winterfell in 'Game of Thrones' S8

"The fans will not be let down."

It all comes down to this. The Great Battle of Winterfell, the main event of all of Game of Thrones, will air in a few weeks on HBO in an upcoming Season 8 episode that we’re pretty sure is Episode 3. As the culmination of eight seasons of political turmoil, alliances, betrayals, heartbreak, and war, the Great Battle of Winterfell is where Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen lead the united forces of Westeros against the Night King’s army of White Walkers.

You’d think HBO would do everything possible to keep the details of this historic television event a secret, but there’s only so much you can do when you’re filming the most epic battle in television history. Thanks in large part to a set visit feature published by Entertainment Weekly in March 2019, we already know a fair amount about the Great Battle of Winterfell.

Here are six things to expect in Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 3.

6. “The fans will not be let down.”

In the set visit published by Entertainment Weekly, showrunners David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, and director David Nutter promised that no matter what, the event will live up to expectations. It will also contain some surprises.

“The fans will not be let down,” Nutter said, adding that the episode will also feel almost like an Avengers movie given the array of characters and diversity in tone. (Note: Miguel Sapochnik will direct the episode containing the Battle of Winterfell, but Nutter is a veteran Thrones collaborator.)

“There are a lot of firsts in these episodes. There’s the funniest sequence I’ve ever shot on this show, the most emotional and compelling scene I’ve ever shot, and there’s one scene where there’s so many [major characters] together it feels like you’re watching a superhero movie.”

5. It Will Prominently Feature These Main Characters

While the episode will undoubtedly have all the names and faces you’ve come to expect in Game of Thrones, Entertainment Weekly specifically mentioned the following characters as having the most important focus: Jon Snow (Kit Harington), Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), and Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), all of whom are “fighting for their lives, impossibly outnumbered against a supernatural enemy.”

Game of Thrones Season 8
Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emiliia Clarke) in Season 8 of 'Game of Thrones'.

4. It Will Have a Bigger Sequence Than The Lord of the Rings

“The Battle of Helm’s Deep,” an extended battle sequence from Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), remains the gold standard for all cinematic medieval warfare. While Game of Thrones has come close at a few points in its epic run, it’s never topped Jackson/Tolkien in any sense of scale.

That is expected to change with the Battle of Winterfell. EW wrote that the episode “is expected to be the longest consecutive battle sequence ever committed to film.” Filming involved 11 weeks of 750-plus people working through “grueling” night shoots in freezing 30-degree temperature.

Director Miguel Sapochnik told EW that he studied Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers, primarily to know when the audience might get “battle fatigue” from all the clanging and banging of swords and steel.

“It feels like the only way to really approach it properly is take every sequence and ask yourself: ‘Why would I care to keep watching?’” Sapochnik said. “One thing I found is the less action — the less fighting — you can have in a sequence, the better.”

Game of Thrones Kit Harington Maisie Williams
Kit Harington (left) and Maisie Williams (right) in the final season of  'Game of Thrones'.

3. Arya will get in on the action.

While Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) has spent all eight seasons of Thrones training to become a warrior, Williams revealed that the Battle of Winterfell will finally show Arya Stark in action.

“I skip the battle every year, which is bizarre since Arya’s the one who’s been training the most,” Williams said. “This is my first taste of it. And I’ve been thrown in at the deep end.” Too bad Arya doesn’t have any mechs.

In fact, Sapochnik warned Williams to begin training a whole year prior to shooting the episode, “because this is going to be really hard.”

“Nothing can prepare you for how physically draining it is,” Williams confessed. “It’s night after night, and again and again, and it just doesn’t stop. You can’t get sick, and you have to look out for yourself because there’s so much to do that nobody else can do … there are moments you’re just broken as a human and just want to cry.”

Confirming his own involvement with the battle sequence, actor Iain Glen (who plays Ser Jorah Mormont) called it “the most unpleasant experience” he’s ever had on the series. “A real test, really miserable,” he said. “You get to sleep at 7 in the morning and when you wake in the midday you’re still so spent you can’t really do anything, and then you’re back. You have no life outside it. You have an absolute f—ked bunch of actors. But without getting too method [acting] about it, on screen it bleeds through to the reality of the Thrones world.”

Added Rory McCann, who plays the Hound: “Everybody prays they never have to do this again.”

2. “Rumor has it it’s 90 minutes long.”

On set, Sophie Turner asked Sapochnik about a rumor she heard regarding the episode’s super length. “Rumor has it it’s 90 minutes long,” she said. Sapochnik, according to EW, playfully didn’t respond.

The longest episode of Game of Thrones Season 8 is indeed Episode 3, coming in at one hour and 22 minutes.

1. It Is Not the Final Episode

While Game of Thrones fans can speculate when the Battle of Winterfell will take place, you can be assured that it won’t be the final episode, which will be directed by the show’s creators Weiss and Benioff, EW confirmed.

Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9 p.m. Eastern on HBO.

Media via HBO