'Game of Thrones' Director: Tyrion Shocker 'Defines Next Two Episodes' (Q&A)

Alik Sakharov tells THR the scene that will have fans cheering is "a very big setup" for what's to come.
Neil Davidson/HBO

[WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Sunday's episode of Game of Thrones, "Mockingbird"]

Game of Thrones has set up some major plot points this season, and now it's time for it to all play out.

Director Alik Sakharov, who handled this week's episode as well as last week's trial of Tyrion, says Oberyn's (Pedro Pascal) decision to stand as a champion for Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) will pay off in a big way in the remaining episodes.

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"That scene basically defines the next two episodes. It's a very big setup," Sakharov tells The Hollywood Reporter.

Here,  Sakharov also discusses the logistics of getting LIttlefinger's big scenes right and reveals which actor was incredibly sick during a key moment of shooting the episode.

Aidan Gillen has had a great season as Littlefinger. What did you two talk about for this episode?

This is one of the only times where Littlefinger was very, very honest with Sansa. He usually has this ulterior motive with everyone. With Sansa he tells her she's more beautiful than her mother. The way he is with her, it comes out of absolute sincerity. Aiden just nailed it. He came in so prepared and so nuanced that it only took three takes to get where we needed to be.

And Sophie Turner, who is a much younger actor, held her own with him in the kissing scene.

Sophie was great because she understood the scene from such depth. She got where she needed to be very, very fast. For me it was not very challenging to just go through the scene. The only thing that was challenging was our schedule. Our schedule is always tough and we have to finish everything within 10 hours. We had three big scenes at the Eyrie.

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The Eryie scenes are as beautiful as ever. How did you create the garden section?

We recycled a few sets and we redesigned them or redressed them to make them look like Eyrie gardens.  The Eyrie garden scenes are a showcase of talent for the set designers. They are brilliant.

How does the moon door work?

We do it in steps. We can't throw the actress in there. We have to create and extend that moon door. What you see out of the moon door is done by special visual effects. We have a green screen there, and then we shoot elements, and those elements are composited. We shot Lysa Arryn on an air mattress, and she was pushed from a platform. She's falling down onto the air mattress, which is green. I again have to note Aiden for his measuredness. He was phenomenal in that scene, as was everybody else, but he was particularly good.

Jon has a small but important moment. What was shooting that like?

Kit Harington was very sick that day, but he turned it on and he pulled it off. You would never think he was sick. He is such a great actor.

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Tyrion has three meaningful conversations in his cell this episode — each memorable despite being in a small space. How'd you manage that despite the backdrop being stagnant?

I think those scenes excite me the most. I was pleased with the scenes with Peter Dinklage in his cell. Tyrion realizes he doesn't have a champion for himself. He cannot fight the Mountain. That scene basically defines the next two episodes. It's a very big setup. They were simple but they were great. They were performance-based scenes.

What scene was the hardest to get right?

They are all very challenging because every single scene is so nuanced. We felt like we need to pay proper attention to every little turn and twist. Whatever is being asked in the script. It's not like one scene takes precedence over the others. They are all very important. There are very few scenes in the episode. It only has 24 scenes or something. Each scene is sort of like a block that moves toward the other scene. They are not throwaway small scenes that last 20 seconds or 30 seconds and move on. They set up where the characters are going and what's going to happen next.

This is your second and final episode of this season. What's your big takeaway from this last year of work?

You're working on probably the best show on television right now. One feels particularly lucky to be involved in something like this. The dedication of every person and every department and the attention from the writers and producers is enviable. It's very rare that you come across something like this. It's a very special feeling.

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