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Game of Thrones finale director explains his epic opening sequence

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HBO

The first 25 minutes of HBO’s Game of Thrones season 6 finale was unlike anything we’ve seen on the Emmy-winning drama before. As directed by Miguel Sapochnik, who also helmed the previous week’s incredible “Battle of the Bastards” episode, the King’s Landing sequence was a tone-poem of death and destruction as Cersei Lannister executed her plan to kill all her enemies — along with scores of innocents unlucky enough to be caught in her cataclysmic vengeance. We got to ask Sapochnik about staging that sequence and here’s what he said:

“The main goal of the sequence was to bring all these intersecting storylines surrounding King’s Landing together and end them. Initially I was quite surprised that they chose to blow up the Sept, but [showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss] always have an eye on the big picture and I think they were absolutely right in their choice.

“The first step was looking for a way to achieve it within the constraints of a television budget and schedule. First, the explosion was only seen from outside the Sept but I really wanted to see the High Sparrow get it so I story boarded a sequence that included this and David and Dan liked it so we put it in.

“The main chunk of the sequence was essentially a courtroom drama and then lots of little scenes surrounding it shot in many different sets and locations and even countries so it took a long time to get all the pieces into the [editing system] and start actually editing.

“Key to all of this was looking for a piece of music that would tie everything together and make it feel of a piece. I fell in love with a piano piece that was perfect but not very Game of Thrones, and so we began searching for something more within the show’s vernacular but still as emotionally charged as the piece I’d chosen. Unfortunately or fortunately, we never did find anything better and so when I submitted my cut I also sent a note to David and Dan explaining why I had left this piece of music in because it conveyed tonally exactly the right mood for this particular sequence.

“I fully expected them to replace it with something else other than a piano and so I was surprised and very pleased when [composer Ramin Djawadi] scored such a beautiful piece of score using piano as its main instrument. As The Dude in The Big Lebowski would say; ‘It really tied the room together.'”

We also asked Sapochnik about an intriguing comment made by star Lena Headey in our interview: That Septa Unella’s fate was originally something “even worse,” but that the Thrones team “couldn’t do it.”

“I don’t know the details of that,” he replied. “Although I suspect it wasn’t pretty. I think everyone pretty much got what they deserved in pretty much the way it was written. And anyway, who says Septa Unella’s dead?”

For more insight from Sapochnik, see our interview with him about his “Battle of the Bastards” epsiode. Keep reading “The Winds of Winter” coverage: Here’s our interview with Lena Headey revealing her point of view on those game-changing finale twists. Actor Finn Jones on Ser Loras’ sad fate. Our breakdown of that Tower of Joy revelation. And here’s star Emilia Clarke making her bold season 7 predictions. Our very deep-dive recap is now live with our opinions. And don’t forget to subscribe to our Game of Thrones Weekly podcast (New episode posted below)!

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