Michael Slovis on directing Brienne’s “Nightmare” fight scene

Some fans complained that last week’s episode, directed by Michael Slovis, was a little slow on the action. They can’t complain about his second outing–last night’s “The House of Black and White”–as we got major plot momentum in several story lines. The biggest action scene came about halfway into the episode, when two plot lines that passed like ships in the night last week came to a head at Westeros’ most popular watering hole, the Inn at the Crossroads.

If you haven’t seen the episode, be forewarned: SPOILERS AHEAD.

Slovis sat down with The Hollywood Reporter over the weekend to discuss the making of “The House of Black and White.”  Among other things, he talks about how he wasn’t expecting John Bradley (Samwell Tarly) to steal the nomination scene quite that hard and how he relied on Benioff and Weiss to help him get the tone of Dorne right, since it was the audience’s first visit. But the real meat of the story involved a discussion of that fight scene between Brienne and Littlefinger’s loyal Eyrie soldiers.

First, Solvis tells us what it was he had originally planned.

I had this incredibly beautiful image in my head that the entire fight was going to happen out in the middle of that stream, where at the end Poderick gets to the water and his horse won’t cross. When we first went to the farm where we shot that, it was a teeny, tiny trickle of stream. We built a dam further down the river, and we cut out with a backhoe a space for the guy — after he gets stabbed in the neck — to fall into so it would be safe. And we did all of this planning, because they were going to be sloshing around in the water for this fight.

That “trickle of a stream” certainly didn’t look small on camera. It turns out that was a total surprise to the production the day they showed up to film.

On the way into work that morning, the stunt coordinator Rowley [Irlam] called me in the car and said, “We can’t shoot the fight the way we planned it.”

Our little trickle of a stream was now a raging torrent of a river, because of the rains of the previous weeks. Even a modest sized show has trouble changing direction in short notice. But certainly something the size and complexity of Game of Thrones has an even harder time. To everybody’s credit, we shot our horse chase that day and we went in and we reblocked the fight.

That explains why the fight happens on the path by the river, instead of in the river itself. It also explains why Pod was the only one to go into the river–they kept that part, since Daniel Portman is, by all accounts, a superb horseman, and could handle doing the stunt. Not that you could tell the fight was reblocked at the last minute. The results were very impressive, and only furthered Brienne’s reputation as a bad ass. I imagine she’s going to need those fighting skills too, as she stubbornly follows after Sansa.