[The following contains spoilers for Game of Thrones season 8, episode 3]
Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss explain why fans were deprived of the chance to see certain creatures from George R.R. Martin’s novels make their debut in the Battle of Winterfell. Everything on Game of Thrones from the very beginning of season 1 led up to Sunday night’s epic episode “The Long Night,” which featured a battle scene reputed to be the longest ever shot for a television show or movie.
Indeed, the Battle of Winterfell lived up to expectations in terms of epic scope, as it stretched across nearly the entire 82-minute running time of the episode and featured multiple dramatic fights, rescues and deaths. But in some ways the episode actually defied expectations, especially when it came to the fate of The Night King, who didn’t engage in a final duel with Jon Snow as many hoped but instead fell at the hands of Arya Stark. Social media was sent into a frenzy by the episode’s many twists and turns, as humans, dragons, zombies and even giants all got in on the action.
As many different creatures as the episode featured, there was one particular monster from George R.R. Martin’s novels that failed to make an appearance at the battle. Fans have long speculated about the show introducing Martin’s ice spiders, and many thought they would make a long-awaited debut in the Battle of Winterfell, but alas the monsters never arrived. Speaking to EW, GoTshowrunner Dan Weiss explained why the decision was made to leave ice spiders out of the episode, and it basically came down to the difficulties of visualizing giant spiders that would look scary instead of just weird.
“Big as hounds. Didn’t we talk about that for 30 seconds? ‘Ice spiders’ sounds good. It would look good on a metal album cover. But once they start moving, what does an ice spider look like? Probably doesn’t look great.”
Indeed, GoT has long had issues visualizing those other super-sized animals from Martin’s novels, the famous direwolves. After winning over fans’ hearts early in the series’ run as puppies, the direwolves finally grew so large that the show’s VFX artists had trouble making them look convincing and so they were largely written out (only Jon Snow’s Ghost still remains and he only got a cameo in Sunday’s episode). Luckily, Benioff and Weiss were able to make many other epic sights come alive during the Battle of Winterfell, including Lyanna Mormont stabbing an undead giant in the eye.
In Martin’s novels, ice spiders are giant arachnids that live beyond the Wall and are ridden into battle by White Walkers. Just the description of them makes it seem like they were a little too cheesy for Game of Thrones, which gets away with dragons and giants, but fortunately never tried to pull off huge arachnids with White Walkers on their backs.