'Game of Thrones' Director on Bathtub Scene: Ramsay Is a 'Master of Manipulation' (Q&A)

Alik Sakharov also tells THR that Tyrion's trial allowed Peter Dinklage to show off his "remarkable" acting chops: "He understands where he needs to go and how he needs to get there."
Helen Sloan/HBO

[Warning: Spoilers ahead for Sunday's episode of Game of Thrones, "The Laws of Gods and Men"]

Game of Thrones brought us two not-so-happy family reunions in Sunday's episode.

In one, Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan) discovered her brother Theon (Alfie Allen) had become a tormented creature called Reek. In the other, the Lannisters put Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) on trial for the murder of King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson).

Director Alik Sakharov says the episode's most disturbing scene – in which Ramsay Snow (Iwan Rheon) bathes a physically and mentally scarred Theon – owes its success to the phenomenal performances of its actors.

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"They have such chemistry in the frame you really feel it. When they look at one another – or if they don't – you go, 'Oof!' You feel it. It goes right into the core," he tells The Hollywood Reporter.

Here, Sakharov also breaks down Tyrion's epic trial, the "malice of Tywin's mind" and reveals whether he thinks Ramsay was coming on to Theon in that soon-to-be-classic bathtub scene.

Peter Dinklage gave one of his finest performances of the series this week. What did you two talk about for the trial scene?

Working with Peter is not very complicated because he gets his character so well. Speaking with Peter, we talk about nuance and controlling his emotions. If he were to show right off the bat that he's bothered by this trial, then it would diminish the ending, which the scene has set up.

It's a long scene, so it must be a challenge for Peter to maintain all of that.

It lasts about 20 minutes. It's a huge chunk of time. To be able to maintain one's performance and basically adhere to the arc is remarkable. He understands where he needs to go and how he needs to get there. He gives me choices – little things here and there – so in editing I have ways of modulating his performance even further.

There are so many other great performances in the trial scene as well. What were some of your favorites?

In addition to what she said, Sibel Kekilli [Shae] does much of it with her eyes. And there's a big moment in which Tyrion challenges Varys, basically accusing him of forgetting that it was Tyrion who saved them all at the Blackwater. Varys says "Sadly my lord, I never forget a thing." There is a setup there that perhaps Varys could help his friend in the future.

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What did you make of Tywin taking Jaime's deal so quickly? Was this is plan all along?

It was Tywin's intent all along to do this and to manipulate Jaime into exactly what Jaime offered. It's a brilliant scene that shows the intensity and malice of Tywin's mind. Both actors are at the top of their form.

What did you tell the actors who play Jaime and Tywin to get this scene so right?

Working with Nikolaj [Coster-Waldau] and Charles [Dance] is a no-brainer. These guys will nail it. So basically you are nitpicking small little thing -- delivery here, delivery there. I also wanted Nikolaj to play the stakes. I wanted him to come in harder and be more accusatory of his father. Charles really understands his character well, so he was just playing it cool. It becomes quite a challenge in the editing room because you go, "What do we use?" You want to use everything!

This episode also sees things getting worse for Theon  -- or at least there now seems to be no hope of rescue.

It's sad for Yara because she realizes that she has lost her brother, and it was quite an emotional shift for her. She's a brave girl. She's very strong. She did not show any of it, but we know she felt it.

In your mind, is Ramsay making a pass at Theon in the bathtub scene?

It's about control. He is the master of manipulation. He knows how to play Theon and he knows which buttons to push. Here, for the first time, he's being kind to him. Viewers will go, "What is this guy thinking? Is he going to hurt him?" The actor who plays Ramsay is a very strong actor and Alfie is an equal match. They are wonderful together. They have such chemistry in the frame you really feel it. When they look at one another – or if they don't – you go, "Oof!" You feel it. It goes right into the core.

What can you tell us about what's to come?

Being that I'm such a lucky guy, I always get stuck with episodes that are set-up episodes for something grand to come so other directors can show their prowess. (Laughs.) But that makes me enormously happy. This was a very quiet episode. It was a very internal episode, but it's a great setup of what's to come.

Share your thoughts on the episode in the comments, and check back to THR.com/GoT Monday afternoon, when we will have a Q&A with the episode's writer, Bryan Cogman.

Email: Aaron.Couc@THR.com
Twitter: @AaronCouch