The final season of Game of Thrones may have divided fans with its outcomes, but there's no doubt that the HBO fantasy hit delivered an epic final round of episodes full of massive moments, many of which fans were waiting years to see. According to director Miguel Sapochnik, there was one major moment of fan wish fulfillment that didn't make the cut: a direwolf army.
Sapochnik is one of the show's most important directors, who helmed vital episodes like "Hardhome" and "Battle of the Bastards" and directed two key episodes of the six-episode final season: "The Bells" and "The Long Night," the massive battle at Winterfell between the armies of the living and the army of the dead. That episode featured everything from a dragon vs. dragon aerial battle in a snowstorm to a doomed Dothraki charge to the last stand of Jorah Mormont, all building to the climactic moment when Arya Stark leaped at the Night King and stabbed him -- even after he seemed to stop her.
In a recent episode of the IndieWire Filmmaker Toolkit podcast, Sapochnik broke down how he approached "The Long Night," covering everything from the grueling 55 nights of shooting to how the events of the episode were discussed and broken down beforehand with the show's creators, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. According to Sapochnik, initial plans for the unprecedented battle sequence had several ambitious ideas that were later cut, including a virtual army of direwolves.
"It was a much bigger sequence than we shot. There were many things that happened that people would have been so happy to happen, attacks of direwolves and crazy stuff," he said. "And at some point, you're like, '50 direwolves attacking an undead dragon does not a good movie make.'"
This tidbit is particularly interesting because the idea of a wolf army was among the most prominent Game of Thrones fan theories heading into Season 8, and it all stemmed from an encounter Arya had with her direwolf, Nymeria, back in Season 7. Nymeria was released into the wild by Arya early on in Season 1 to protect her from the wrath of Joffrey and Cersei Lannister. When the two reunited years later, Nymeria was a full grown direwolf leading a pack of smaller wolves through the forest. The pack surrounded Arya but allowed her to leave when Nymeria recognized her, while Arya seemed to understand that her long lost pet belonged in the wild now. The two parted ways, but not before the seed was planted for one of the two remaining direwolves to show up and help her own mistress in her hour of need.
It didn't happen, of course, and given everything else that was going on in "The Long Night" already, perhaps that's for the best. Sapochnik confirmed on the podcast that it was never something they shot for the episode, just a concept that was jettisoned in the planning stages. But if you were wondering how close we got to a wolf army in the final season, you now have your answer.