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Game of Thrones' Battle of Winterfell to be a full hour of 'survival horror'

By Jacob Oller
Isaac Hempstead Wright as Bran Stark in Game of Thrones

Everything in Game of Thrones has been leading up to this week’s episode. The third episode of the fantasy epic’s final season boasts the Battle of Winterfell, a long-coming showdown between the armies of the living and those of the dead. The Night King is here and now we know a little bit more about what fans can expect from the fight.

EW interviewed the episode’s director, Miguel Sapochnik (who did both “Battle of the Bastards” and “The Winds of Winter”), about the upcoming action — and he had plenty to say. First off is the actual genre of the episode itself. Fans know it’s going to be a huge fight, that’s why last episode featured all their favorites sitting around and chewing the fat for one final peaceful evening. But fans may not have anticipated that the episode will be just as much John Carpenter as Lord of the Rings.

“This is survival horror,” Sapochnik said. “That’s the whole episode for me. What we realized is you look at like Assault on Precinct 13 — movies where a group is under siege — usually there’s an ensemble cast and a central theme in there.” The director then explains that since there will be about 20 characters all vying for the spotlight this go 'round, the battle will be told less from an individual’s perspective and more from the perspective of an objective.

If the last episode set up the objective at all, it would seem to be about getting to The Night King while protecting Bran. These plotty aspects help keep things moving. “There’s suspense and horror and action and drama and we’re not stuck in killing upon killing,” the director said, “because then everybody gets desensitized and it doesn’t mean anything.”

Those ideas will come to fruition over more than an hour of solid battle. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers was the touchstone when it came to length because of the 40-minute Helm’s Deep sequence. Being one of the longest and most successful fantasy battles in cinema meant that it was a good comparison for when and how an audience could get worn out. “I was trying to get a sense of when do you tire out. I think we’re going to blow past that.”

“One thing I found is the less action — the less fighting — you can have in a sequence, the better,” Sapochnik teased. But fans shouldn’t worry: there will be plenty of fighting (and plenty of death) when the episode airs on April 28.

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