Love or hate what Game of Thrones became in its later series, that show knew how to stage a battle. Every time the swords started swinging and the mud and blood started flying, Thrones became the best show on television all over again. And battles don’t get much bigger than in the season eight episode ‘The Long Night’.
That episode finally saw one of the biggest Game of Thrones storylines come to a head, with Jon Snow leading the human members of the Game of Thrones cast against the undead army of the White Walkers. For those of us with a good enough home cinema setup to make out what was happening through the darkness, it was one of the best TV series of the 21st century on top form.
But the scene proved to be a logistical problem for the creative team behind the best fantasy series around. The seat of House Stark at Winterfell simply wasn’t built for a sequence of this gargantuan scale. In fact, the set in Northern Ireland risked sinking into the Belfast mud.
“It was a logistical nightmare. The very ground that Winterfell was built on was not conducive to what really needed to be done,” production designer Deborah Riley told Dezeen in 2019. “The amount of rain in Belfast and the lay of the land where Winterfell was originally built meant that mud would go up past your ankles.”
Such was the level of technical work around the scene that Riley “felt like we had every piece of heavy equipment in Northern Ireland out in Winterfell”. She concluded: “It was a fantastic thing to be involved in, but none of it was fun. I was very proud to have survived.”
Thankfully, the result was sublime. Whatever you think about the writing of the Battle of Winterfell, it’s a technical marvel from the show that had already given us the bloody spectacle of the Battle of the Bastards and the Battle of the Blackwater. We also got a big chance for Arya Stark, one of the best Game of Thrones characters, to shine as bright as possible by taking out the Night King.
Of course, the world of Westeros is still present and correct on our screens, so we’re counting down the days until we can see House of the Dragon season 2. In the meantime, we asked an AI to write a Jon Snow spin-off, and it was even more terrible than we expected.
And if you want to look even deeper, find out about the new Game of Thrones spin-offs we want to see and learn why Tyrion had a much more heart-breaking past in the books.