“A long, long slog” is how Kit Harington described the experience of filming The Battle of the Bastards, the spectacular penultimate episode of Game of Thrones’ sixth series. Broadcast earlier this year, it saw Harington’s Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton’s armies finally square off in the shadow of Winterfell.
Here, we have Snow gasping for breath in the thick of the battle as Bolton’s men close in from every angle in a pincer-like circle of shields (below). According to director Miguel Sapochnik, this scene was inspired by Alexander the Great’s fourth and final major victory in the Battle of Hydaspes in 326 BC. Nothing about Game of Thrones is less than epic.
This hour-long episode was Game of Thrones at its finest. A cast of hundreds, a budget of millions, explosive set pieces and lots of beloved characters in peril. It was the biggest Game of Thrones episode to date – and one of the most brutal and elaborate battle sequences in small-screen history.
Fittingly, it also catapulted the HBO fantasy series into the TV history books, winning several Emmy Awards in September (including Outstanding Directing and Outstanding Writing) to place Thrones on 38 gongs, ahead of Frasier’s previous record of 37.
What makes Game of Thrones’ on-screen Westeros truly magical is the real-life, Northern Irish grit that underpins the extraordinary fantasy scenes, from the hordes of locally-grown sweaty, beardy extras to the incredible locations that CGI couldn’t dream up.