Whether you are a devoted reader of George R.R. Martin's books or an avid watcher of the Game of Thrones show — nobody expected the battle of Hardhome.
What starts as a meeting between the Night's Watch and the Wildlings quickly becomes a struggle for survival. The armies of the dead pound at the gates of the makeshift town and it becomes a last ditch effort to save as many men, woman and children as possible from the Others.
Believe it or not, the scene was originally going to be much bigger in scope than what we saw on screen. In a new behind-the-scenes video, showrunners David Benioff, D.B. Weiss and director Miguel Sapochnik talk about the challenges of bringing the battle to life, including having to scale back their initial vision.
The idea of locking the gates and the zombie hordes breaking through the wall came from Sapochnik, and from there, he says the rest of the battle fell into place. It became more of a massacre than an actual battle — something out of a horror film. This allowed the show to make the fight more intimate while also showing overhead shots of the chaos that was engulfing the camp outside Hardhome's sturdy walls.
HBO brought on more than 200 extras to play the various undead wights (which come in three forms) and the Wildlings who set up camp at Hardhome.
"When we were shooting it, it was chaos," said Kristofer Hivju, who plays the character Tormund. "You can't fake chaos. It was hundreds of people running against you."
Bringing that kind of authenticity to the battle definitely paid off. "Hardhome" proved to be one of the best episodes of the show yet — truly showing off how much of a threat the Others and their undead army are to the rest of the realm. You can read more about the battle – and how the show continues to separate itself from the books – here.