It was a sword fight fans never knew they wanted until it happened: Arya Stark vs. Brienne of Tarth. The petite Stark sister challenged the imposing warrior to a sparring match during Sunday’s episode of Game of Thrones, a practice fight in the Winterfell courtyard that actresses Maisie Williams and Gwendoline Christie say they loved filming.
“It’s an incredible moment when Arya walks into the courtyard and Brienne says ‘nice sword,'” Christie tells EW. “When she first sees Arya, it’s not just that she sees the living embodiment of Catelyn Stark, but also she sees something of herself in another young girl. I don’t think Brienne has seen something of herself in somebody like that before. So when she hears Arya has returned to Winterfell, and sees Arya dressed not entirely dissimilarly to Brienne, it’s not just that feels like part of Catelyn Stark is alive but that she’s now in a position of education. It’s a very distant form of parenting for Brienne and not one she ever thought she’d have.”
As for the fight itself, the duo practiced a bit for the unique face-off, which had the 5-foot-1 Williams going up against the 6-foot-3 Christie.
“Arya and Brienne are both very intrigued by each other and it’s nice of them to meet again in a much safer and happier circumstance,” Williams says. “And working with Gwen was great fun. She’s been fighting people around the same height as her, and I’ve been used to fighting people who were close to my height, so we both had a lot to get used to.”
“Oh, it was really fantastic,” agrees Christie. “We worked really hard on it. It’s exciting when you learn skills on a job but even more when you get to develop those skills. It was exciting to see that development somebody else too, in Maisie.”
The last time the characters saw each other was under much more hostile circumstances back in season 4, when Brienne ended up fighting The Hound. Even then, however, Arya was intrigued by this fellow female warrior. In “The Spoils of War,” both characters get to really size each other up in a friendly yet competitive way.
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“The day we were filming we knew that fight backward,” Christie notes. “We got to really put some energy into it. There isn’t a desire to hurt each other, it’s about a matching of skills. And I thought that was very enjoyable to show those characters who happen to be female that when they spar it’s not with any bad intention.”
“It’s just a wonderful scene between two women who are both very skilled at what they’re doing,” Williams adds. “I think Brienne is trying to keep it civil and trying to be grown up about it. The first half the scene is Arya nitpicking and trying to get a reaction and being annoying. It’s nice to see her show she’s a changed girl — which is what she’s been trying to portray to Sansa.”
Speaking of which: Williams also spoke to EW.com along with her co-star Sophie Turner about that big Arya-Sansa reunion sequence, which was particularly odd for the actors as they’re such close friends off-screen. Read more on that here.
Read more ‘The Spoils of War’ coverage:
— Nikolaj Coster-Waldau on Jaime’s uncertain fate
— ‘Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams on their reunion: ‘We couldn’t keep a straight face’
— Showrunners, director on that epic dragon battle
— EW’s deep-dive recap: Best episode of the season?
— EW’s Game of Thrones podcast
Game of Thrones airs Sundays on HBO.