One of the biggest complaints fans had with the later seasons of Game of Thrones is the usage of the direwolves. The early seasons teased the Direwolves as firesome guardians with a strong bond with the Stark children, so it’s only natural for us fans to expect to see the remaining Direwolf, Ghost or a returning Nymeria leading a pack of wolves charging into battle. However, Ghost was completely left out of the Battle of the Bastards and also had close to zero on-screen action during the Battle of Winterfell. And Nymeria? Well, she hasn’t been seen since her encounter with Arya a couple of seasons ago. This left a slightly sour taste in the mouths of fans, even those, like myself who have remained largely positive throughout season 8.
Interestingly enough, season 8 was actually supposed to have a huge Direwolves vs undead dragon fight sequence. In a recent interview with IndieWire, director Miguel Sapochinik, (Battle of the Bastards, Winds of Winter, The Long Night and The Bells) revealed that the scope of Season 8 during the planning stages was initially much, much bigger and even included a fight scene between 50 Direwolves and the undead dragon Viserion.
“There were many things that happened that people would’ve been so happy to happen – attacks of direwolves and crazy stuff. And at a certain point you’re like, ’50 direwolves attacking an undead dragon does not a good movie make.’ … This was stuff we did not shoot – it’s part of the process.”
I’m not sure if Sapochinik literally means 50 Direwolves or just 50 wolves. I believe it’s probably the later. In the books, Arya’s Direwolf Nymeria has been seen roaming the jungles gathering a large pack of wolves. Perhaps that idea was written in the cliff notes given by George R.R. Martin to Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, but budgeting constraints prevented it from coming to fruition.
Miguel Saphochinik also commented on another season 8 criticism which is that, the final season sacrificed substance for style and epicness.
“I don’t know whether that’s for better or for worse. If I go back to my original conversation with them, they said they want this to be viewed in a 70-hour period, they want it to be watched as one complete film – which is why they don’t want different directors trying to make it differently, they want one style that’s consistent. If I am to understand that correctly and extrapolate from that, that means this was the end, therefore it needed to be big, because it’s based on 70 hours of build-up. You’re not going out with a whimper on this one. You reach your conclusion and that’s a specific choice that they made.”
Whether you love the eighth season of Game of Thrones or was let down by it, one thing we cannot deny is Benioff and Weiss’ passion for the project. According to Miguel Saphochinik, the showrunners were gung-ho and were willing to put everything on the line to make the final season excellent.
“Season 8, David and Dan were heading towards the finish line and they were unrelenting in what they expected of us, and their manta to us is, ‘it’s gonna kill us but it’s gonna be great,’ and at some point we were like, ‘no, no, it’s actually going to kill us if we don’t stop. But they willed it into being, they were completely ruthless when it came to that thing of ‘no we want this, no we want this,’ and at the same time, at some point there were moments of realization of ‘we physically can’t do some of these things, and some things we can.’”
Game of Thrones is available to stream on HBO Go and Astro Go.