Amidst murmurs of sloppy writing and incredulously quick land/sea/raven travel from disgruntled viewers, one thing that is undeniably impressive about Season 7 of Game of Thrones was the jam-packed memorable fight and battle scenes. Girl power was very much in the forefront and that could not be better demonstrated than the thrilling duel between Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) and Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) in "The Spoils of War".
As if watching the youngest Stark daughter returning home to a snow-covered Winterfell isn't emotional enough, getting to see the diminutive 5'1" Williams taking on the towering 6'3" Christie in a sword fight was a real eye-opener.
Arya Stark: The Girl Got Skills
In "Warrior Women", the latest episode in the seven-part, behind-the-scenes series from HBO titled The Game Revealed, there were detailed revelations of just how impressive this duel was. Besides the obvious differences in height, Williams - to her credit - was fighting as a lefty, as #AryaStark is left-handed (as stated in the books), while Christie fights right-handed. This made the uneven sparring match even more fascinating as entirely different fencing styles are at play.
While the two actresses are training in rehearsal, take note that the last Valyrian dagger 'flip move' made by Arya on Brienne that ultimately won her the match was no CGI trick, but a genuinely slick maneuver executed to perfection by the young actress. Impressive indeed!
Even though Stunt Coordinator Rowley Irlam admitted that stunt doubles were used in certain shots for "skills sets and to keep (the actresses) out of harm's way", you can clearly see that most of the sparring was done by Christie and Williams themselves.
Christie, whose character is a seasoned swordswoman, shares her excitement to be going head-to-head with the Stark warrior.
"It was so exciting to train for the fight. And we trusted each other."
As for Williams, whose character has long been a trained assassin, she admits the differences in height was challenging.
"To be fighting Gwen, who is over a foot taller than me, and for her to be fighting someone far, far shorter than her, it's been a massive challenge."
Ultimately, the two co-stars delivered and the production crew couldn't ask for more. Robert McLachlan, Director of Photography for the episode, sums it up best:
"I don't think we had to do too much to it to make it very fun to watch, because everybody’s wanted to see these two together for a long time."
Fans who were already impressed with what they saw on-screen were even more impressed after the "Warrior Women" #behindthescenes video was released, especially when they discovered that Arya's lightning-fast flip of the dagger was real.
On Game of Thrones' YouTube comments column, user GeekFurious gushed,
"Wow. I thought that was CGI but Maisie actually did the knife flip."
While user Nextura Nex crooned,
"Damn that knife swap she does - I genuinely thought they used a stunt double or CGI or something 'cos that sh*t was smooooth."
Home Sweet Home: When Arya Met Sansa
Arya and Brienne's duel isn't the only impressive sequence in "The Spoils of War", arguably the best episode of Game of Thrones Season 7. The action-packed installment also featured Littlefinger giving Bran Stark the Valyrian dagger (which Arya used in the fore-mentioned fight and to eventually seal Littlefinger's fate), Jon Snow presenting cave drawings to Daenerys and, most significantly, Dany and the Dothraki laying serious damage on the Lannister army.
And then there was the little matter of Arya arriving home at Winterfell. The Game Revealed also showed another behind-the-scenes exclusive from Episode 4 entitled "Home Sweet Home," capturing the emotional moment the Stark sisters finally met again after five seasons apart.
Though this snippet is less dramatic than the Arya-Brienne fight, it was hugely significant in the #GameofThrones storyline for House Stark. As episode director Matt Shakman explains,
"Everybody been waiting to see the Stark children to be reunited, me included."
If the scene of Arya and Sansa reuniting in the Winterfell crypt brought you to tears, the scenes of real-life best mates #MaisieWilliams and #SophieTurner giggling during filming, riding on Bran's wheelchair together (is that thing automated?), and how they reacted to the script will bring a smile to your face.
The Game Revealed series is released every Monday on HBO and the official Game of Thrones Youtube channel. Game of Thrones Season 8 is due to return end 2018 or early 2019.
What do you think of Arya and Brienne's duel in "The Spoils of War"? Drop us a comment below!
(Sources: cosmopolitan.com, vanityfair.com)