Let's face it. We're probably going to spend the next few years picking apart all the ways Game of Thrones' final season went wrong, especially if we keep getting these little tidbits about what might've been.
The latest dispatch from the Westeros That Almost Was is this: Game of Thrones' final season nearly brought together that epic direwolf-versus-dragon dance fans had been waiting for since both fur and scale were reintroduced to the age of men. Or so director Miguel Sapochnik says.
In a chat with the Filmmaker Toolkit Podcast (via Forbes), Sapochnik revealed that while prepping for his work on "The Long Night," he and co-creators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff decided to trim a few things out of the script, including a massive fight that would've given our four-legged friends a lot more to do in the battle against the Night King's army.
"It was a much bigger sequence than we shot. And there were many things that happened that people would've been so happy to have happen, attacks of direwolves, crazy stuff," he said. "At some point you're like, 50 direwolves attacking an undead dragon does not a good movie make."
Sapochnik didn't specify where those other direwolves might've come from, since Ghost was the only pooch on the battlefield and even he got so little screentime that his fate was unclear by the end. However, fans of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire book series will probably associate the proposed scene with the return of Nymeria and the pack she's been off forming all this time since leaving Winterfell.
The show version of Nymeria was last seen in early Season 7, when Arya (Maisie Williams) was surrounded by wolves on her way back home, and the direwolf seemed to recognize her two-legged friend, which led many fans to suspect she might be one of the MIA characters who would make a comeback in the show's final bow. Alas, even though it was in the original plans, practical considerations took precedence, and it was never shot.
"Dave and Dan were heading towards the finish line and they were unrelenting in what they expected of us. Then their mantra to us is 'It's going to kill us, but it's going to be great.' And we were like, 'No, no, it's actually going to kill us if we don't stop,'" Sapochnik explained. "They were completely ruthless when it came to that kind of thing of, 'No, we want this, we want this.' And at the same time, there were moments of realization that we physically can't do some of these things and other things we can."
Another wish list item that got trimmed in the process of shaping the battle sequence for "The Long Night" was some ground game by the Night King himself. According to Sapochnik, the showrunners originally envisioned a few fight scenes that would've seen the HZIC (head zombie in charge) making use of his ice spear.
"There was an extended battle sequence where you saw the Night King fight. Very long. There was a whole bunch of stuff that was going to happen," he said. "But when we got there, not to shooting but in the process of prep, you start to prioritize what's important, and this is a micro-version of what we're just talking about. At the end of an 80-minute battle, do I really care if the Night King's got some fancy moves with his spear? Do I really give a sh-- about that? What I care about is this moment which for me I really enjoyed doing and watching where Theon, Bran, and the Night King stand in this surreal, fairy tale-ish kind of landscape ... That's got more punch to me than now the Night King does some fancy staff moves."
In other words, if you were disappointed by the lack of direwolf content before, now you know just how much dog-on-dragon action there could've been, even if it might have trended towards the absurd with so many creatures in play. And if you thought the Night King was deprived of a more epic final stand, well, there was a version of that, too, which might've been more in line with your imagination.
Game of Thrones is available for streaming on HBO.