(Spoiler Alert: This story contains major plot details and reaction from Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) to the “Game of Thrones” Season 4 finale, “The Children.”)
“Game of Thrones” delivered an unexpected surprise in its Season 4 finale when Rory McCann’s Sandor Clegane/The Hound faced off in a sweaty, gruesome and dirty battle with Gwendoline Christie’s Brienne of Tarth. And the twist that took inspiration from George R.R. Martin’s “A Storm of Swords,” but went off book to feature Brienne in the battle, came as a surprise to Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) too.
“Every year, if we get renewed for a new season, me and mum go through what happens in the books and then, when I get the scripts, I start going by that story. So, I knew that The Hound was going to have a big fight and then, in Episode 1, where we meet Polliver, when that kind of all actually happens, I was like, ‘Oh God, no. This is happening way too soon.’ I was really, really worried,” Maisie said of how the reveal unfolded for her during the filming of Season 4. “And then, turns out they changed all that, wrote in loads of new stuff and then The Hound met up with Brienne at the end and that all happened.”
“That” ended up being one of the show’s most heart-pounding fight sequences to date, as two characters, who potentially could have been allies, ended up as foes, in a battle to the death.
“They could make such a fantastic team, but obviously, the way the scene goes… one character says one thing, words it wrongly and then, all of a sudden, everyone kind of flips out,” Maisie said. “The thing that kind of starts it is Brienne’s sword, Oathkeeper, because it’s Valyrian steel and we ask her where she got it from, and she said, ‘Jaime Lannister,’ and that’s it. Then, it all switches and all of a sudden, Arya and The Hound put their guards up and they’re really, really cautious of these two people [Brienne and her squire, Podrick Payne]. And actually, they were trying to do the right thing, but you can’t trust anyone in this world.”
Outside of the season opener where Arya and The Hound took on Polliver, their storyline saw them coming across mostly new characters, and missing major ones (like Sansa Stark and Littlefinger at The Eyrie). So when Maisie learned that The Hound and Arya were going to meet Brienne and Podrick in the show’s Season 4 finale, she was thrilled.
“It was really exciting to know that I was going to crossover with more characters than just The Hound, which has been fantastic and I really, really love it, but, it is so great… being on a show where you don’t really get to stray very far from your kind of circle of characters, it is really nice when there’s a twist and you get to meet some new people,” Maisie told Access. “I was really, really excited to work with Gwen and Dan [Portman, who plays Podrick], because they’re fantastic and I get on really, really well with them when we’re not on set . … I mean, it’s a massive, massive twist, but I think people are going to love it and the scene is just amazing and it was so much fun to do and I’ve seen it and it looks great.”
It looked great while Rory and Gwen were in action on set too, Maisie said.
“I don’t know how tall they are… I mean, I’m quite abnormally small anyway, so my whole life I’ve kind of been looking up to people, literally, and to see these two characters just literally fight with all they’ve got — and they were tired. It wasn’t as glamorous as you might think it would have been. They were really rolling around in the dirt and they had… all this [fake] blood all over them and, oh my God, it was really, really intense,” she said. “They had stunt doubles on set, but it was getting to the point where even the stunt guys were like, tired and they had to swap back in the actors in this hot sun on the top of this big kind of mountain thing. … You get tired and your body slows down after a while and your reactions slow down and there [were] a lot of cuts and bruises by the end of it. It was so, so intense.”
As they filmed the sequence, Maisie said she and Daniel (Podrick) served their tall co-stars like assistants.
“For a lot of the scene, it’s on them. It’s those two fighting, so I got to hang out a lot with Dan and it kind of felt like — you know when boxers go out into the ring and then when they come back to the side and people like pat them down with towels and give them water and things like that? It kind of felt like that was what me and Dan were doing for Rory and Gwen. So like, when they came off from shooting, we’d like give them their energy bars and water and things like that, and like, ‘Hey, do you want some space? Here, have my seat. There’s a bit of shade here,’” Maisie recounted. “It was intense and they have this massive armor on and Rory’s got his wig on and his big prosthetic face and these massive, full, like, heavy, heavy swords and it was great.
“It was easily, easily for me, the most epic part of the season,” she added. “It’s like, when they’re fighting, it’s brutal and so desperate almost, that honor just kind of goes out the window. They’re not fighting nicely anymore. … They’re literally using everything they have to kill each other and it’s scary, but fantastic. It’s not like any fight scene that we’ve seen before. They’re really, really struggling and there’s not an easy winner.”
After exchanging blow after blow, and punch after punch The Hound was knocked off a cliff while fighting with Brienne. In the chaos, Arya snuck away, but she came back for one final exchange with The Hound — one where she just watched as he (eventually) pleaded with her to take his life (and after he used many insults to try and get her to do it). Instead, she took his coin purse and walked away.
“This whole season I’ve been telling people Arya’s is changing and I feel like in that scene, between Arya and The Hound, we see another twist in her and it’s almost like another like, string cut and she’s spiraling further and further down this sick path,” Maisie said. “Throughout this season, the audience has kind of fallen in love with The Hound and they’ve started to see kind of more about his past and almost feel sorry for him and, you know, we’ve learnt more about his scar and things like that, and I feel like, you know, despite all that, Arya still remembers how horrible he’s been to her and things like that and I don’t think the audience are going to be very happy with her decision. But, she does what [she’s got to do] to keep herself alive.”
Their parting, which sends Arya on a new journey, and The Hound to an unknown fate – was not the last scene Maisie and Rory filmed together in Season 4. Maisie said the pair finished their journey together with a pickup scene – when they are on horseback in Episode 7.
Despite their age difference, Maisie and Rory developed a bond on set. “She’s amazing,” Rory told Access at the Season 4 premiere, of his teenage co-star. “To be honest, I’m the one that’s getting into trouble. I’m sort of the goofy one on set and she’s the one telling me to behave myself. She’s reminding me what my lines are, or where we are in the story because we don’t shoot in sequence and stuff. But it was good fun. We have great fun. … I really respect her.”
Now, with Arya and The Hound’s parting, Maisie told Access what she’ll miss the most about working with Rory.
“I’ve never really had kind of a rapport on set with anyone like I have with Rory. … Obviously, I work with a lot of adult actors, and being 16, sometimes that gets really intense, but Rory is the only person that I can actually just be myself around, and, you know, be a kid and p*** around and just, you know, crack jokes and things like that and he would too and it was just such a chilled atmosphere on set. … I’ve never had that on anything like I did with Rory, so I guess that’s what I’m going to really, really miss, is just how laid back it was on set and how normal he is and just, you know, that.”
“Game of Thrones” returns in 2015 on HBO.
-- Jolie Lash