The eighth and final season of HBO's Game of Thrones promises to go out with a thunderous — and most definitely bloody — bang. But before fans can learn who, if anyone, wins the claim to the Iron Throne, they'll have to watch one of the most epic battles in not just Westerosi, but also cinematic, history.
This battle with the Night King's army promises to take fans on an emotional journey. Blood will be shed. Prominent characters will die. And there's a good chance you'll need tissues — or, at least plenty of Game of Thrones-themed snacks and drinks. Here's everything we know about season 8's highly anticipated battle:
It'll be the largest battle in cinematic history.
Miguel Sapochnik, who also directed "Battle of the Bastards," took the lead on the legendary fight scene, sometimes called the Battle of Winterfell, that reportedly took 11 weeks to shoot and promises "to be the longest consecutive battle sequence" in cinematic history, according to Entertainment Weekly. Assistant director Jonathan Quinlan backed this claim in a now-deleted Instagram post, which said the cast and crew filmed for "55 consecutive nights" in three different locations. Sometimes, multiple crews would be shooting different scenes simultaneously. Later, the cast also filmed in indoor set locations.
According to the Motion Picture Association of America's blog, The Credits, the length of that shoot absolutely breaks cinematic ground. The MPAA couldn't name a single other film or television show that had ever used a fight scene that took as long to shoot.
"What we have asked the production team and crew to do this year truly has never been done in television or in a movie," Game of Thrones co-executive producer Bryan Cogman told EW. "This final face-off between the Army of the Dead and the army of the living is completely unprecedented and relentless and a mixture of genres even within the battle."
The actors were miserable filming it.
Filming something so incredible comes with a cost — and, in this case, that meant that the actors were physically, mentally, and emotionally spent.
"Nothing can prepare you for how physically draining it is," Maisie Williams, who plays Arya Stark, told EW. "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."
Iain Glen, who portrays Jorah Mormont, agreed, adding, "It was the most unpleasant experience I've had on Thrones."
At least one unnamed actor even fainted during shooting, reported the mag.
While Williams didn't give eager fans too much insight into the filming process, she did sometimes share small details on Instagram, including a photo of her phone's weather app that read the temperature was 7 degrees Celsius (roughly 44 degrees Fahrenheit) and raining. Another picture showed her shins and bloodied shoes with a caption that read: "goodbye belfast. goodbye arya. goodbye game of thrones. what a joy i've had. here's to the adventures to come."
Their hard work didn't go unnoticed. Quinlan's since-deleted Instagram post, captured by the site Watchers on the Wall, praised the cast and crew for their dedication.
"When tens of millions of people around the world watch this episode a year from now, they won't know how hard you worked," Quinlan wrote. "They won't care how tired you were or how tough it was to do your job in sub-freezing temperatures. They'll just understand that they're watching something that's never been done before. And that's because of you."
It'll bring the cast together like never before.
EW reports that in addition to Arya and Jorah, many recognizable characters were present at the night shoots, including Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), Jon Snow (Kit Harington), and even Samwell Tarly (John Bradley).
This will be the first time we'll see some of these characters from different Houses fighting alongside each other.
The battle was extremely expensive.
We don't know just how much this battle cost to shoot; however, if the numbers from the "Battle of the Bastards" are any indication, it was likely an astronomical amount. That episode, which took 25 days to film, cost upwards of $10 million, according to EW. We can only presume the expenses associated with the Night King Battle were even greater.
People think only Arya makes it out alive.
Williams' Instagram photo (above) also included a hashtag, which read, "last woman standing." Many speculated that this means all of the other women in the show — including Cersei Lannister (Lena Heady), Sansa, Daenerys Targaryen, and Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) — died in battle or by other means. None of the actors or showrunners (David Benioff and D.B. Weiss) have confirmed these speculations. Likewise, they haven't verified which of the men live until the end.
The battle comes before the series finale.
"I'm shooting again with Miguel [Sapochnik], so we've got a couple of very exciting episodes ahead of us. But I can't, unfortunately, tell you anything about it," Wagner said. Though he did add, "We're shooting Episode 3 and Episode 5."
If this is true, it means that some of our favorite characters could perish before the series finale, adding even more suspense to an already anxiety-inducing ending. ScreenRant also predicts that the Battle of Winterfell could be the perfect setup for an intense fight against Cersei as the remaining characters duke it out for the Iron Throne. It's a compelling argument, but we'll just have to wait to see which Game of Thrones fan theories come true.