This article contains spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 8, "No One."
This week’s episode of Game of Thrones, "No One," is a bit of a slow burn, but Arya Stark's adventures in Braavos deliver enough blood to the brain for the whole hour. Mark Mylod directs as Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) negotiates with Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) and avoids a siege with the Blackfish (Clive Russell) at Riverrun, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) messes up in Meereen and sparks the beginning of a war, and The Hound (Rory McCann) is robbed of bloody vengeance by the Brotherhood Without Banners. The adrenaline-pumping highlight of the episode is Arya (Maisie Williams) in no-holds-barred sprint through the congested city streets with her murderous nemesis the Waif (Faye Marsay) in hot pursuit.
The scene isn't your average Hollywood chase. Already injured from multiple stab wounds at the Waif's hands, Arya doesn't do glamorous jumps, dives, and rolls. She takes each fall hard, at one point re-opening her wounds. Williams tells Entertainment Weekly how she, Mylod, and the stunt team sought to preserve her fear of imminent death during the intentionally graceless acrobatics. "I wanted her to look like she was struggling," Williams says. "I didn’t want [the chase stunts] to be unnecessary or superhuman. I got on set and they were [going to have Arya] rolling around, and diving, and I was like, ‘That looks amazing, but no.’ I’d be like, 'Why would she run over there? She’d just duck under here and just get out.' It doesn’t look quite as cinematic, maybe, but they’ll have to find something else if they want cinematic. And I felt awful because the job of the stunt guys is to make everything look as crazy and cool as possible.”
This sort of collaboration is fairly typical of Game of Thrones' stunts. The show’s chief stunt coordinator, Rowley Irlam, described his process in a behind-the-scenes featurette from Season 5. “We start with the script, we’ll step through the fight, and then work out what the journeys of the characters are, and how many people are involved. And then we’ll just start playing with ideas," Irlam says. "Someone will have thought of a move or a disarm. And then basically its like you have a little melting pot of people. I bring the stunt guys in. We shoot the sequence. We’ll cut a rough edit, with a rough idea of how it might look. But they show what the idea of the fight or the sequence might be.”
Its interesting to consider sequences like this as a sort of collective team effort, deliberated and worked through by the director and stunt specialist as well as the actors performing them. During the eighth episode of After The Thrones, the show’s hosts Chris Ryan and Andy Greenwald suggest that if Arya is really finished with her Faceless Man training, she may want to consider enrolling in some parkour classes. We can’t help but think they might keep her from breaking a bone. Arya's final moment in the episode is a hard-won, flashy victory speech in the Hall of Faces (which you can learn more about here) complete with a Mr. Miyagi head nod from her teacher, Jaqen H'ghar (Tom Wlaschiha).
Game of Thrones airs on HBO Sunday nights at 9 PM EST.