In his Sport of Thrones debut, veteran TV director Matt Shakman left us all in awe.
“The Spoils of Battle,” an episode full of Stark reunions, romantic pressure between Jon Snow and his unwitting aunt Daenerys Targaryen, and Brienne and Arya’s exhilarating swordplay, additionally boasts probably the most jaw-dropping battle the HBO epic has ever staged.
It’s the primary time we see the Mom of Dragons’ rage unleashed in Westeros, with the complete drive of a ruthless Dothraki horde and a dragon the scale of a 747 exacting her revenge on the Lannisters. Jaime and Bronn mount a doomed protection as scores of younger males and an important bounty of meals burn to ash in a battle Shakman approached as its personal mini-epic, a fantasy-Western full with a three-act construction. Filmed on location in Spain, the battle got here to life with the assistance of revolutionary digital camera expertise, spectacular stunt coordination, a military of props masters, visible results, and an emotionally resonant throughline—all buoyed by affecting performances from Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Jerome Flynn, and Peter Dinklage, amongst others.
Shakman and his crew set a report whereas filming what they name “the loot practice assault” for setting probably the most stunt performers on fireplace in a single go (20!), simulating the Lannister troopers incinerated in Drogon’s 30-foot-wide column of flames. On the earth of the present, Shakman says, that is the second when conflict “adjustments without end”—when a dragon, the Westeros equal of a nuclear-grade weapon, instantly enters the fray.
The episode additionally returns Arya Stark to Winterfell and pits her in a pleasant match towards the one warrior she would possibly name her equal: Brienne of Tarth. Shakman says each Maisie Williams (who performs Arya) and Gwendoline Christie (Brienne) realized the whole thing of the struggle choreography themselves—and for probably the most half, it’s the 2 actresses you see onscreen duking it out.
The Each day Beast talked to Shakman (whose title could also be acquainted from his 44 directing credit on the Thrones team’s favorite live-action comedy, It’s At all times Sunny in Philadelphia) about staging the spectacular battle, whether or not we nonetheless root for Daenerys, Jon and Dany’s budding romance—and alas, the destiny of probably the most maligned bard in Westeros, Ed Sheeran.
There’s a long-standing mutual admiration between It’s At all times Sunny in Philadelphia, which you’re primarily recognized for steering, and Sport of Thrones. Is that the way you got here to work on this episode?
Sure, in an odd means. I imply, I’d labored with David Benioff on a movie that by no means acquired made years in the past—a Western, truly, sarcastically—and so I knew him and have all the time thought the world of him. So he ended up coming onto It’s At all times Sunny final 12 months to do a cameo and we reconnected. And it was throughout that dialog that he introduced up the thought of coming to work on the present. At first I believed he was kidding. I used to be like, “Positive, after all, yeah. Anytime.” (Laughs.) It turned out he wasn’t, thank god. And it turned out to be simply the spotlight of my television-directing profession.
The loot practice assault is such a spectacle to behold. It’s the primary time we see Drogon and the Dothraki on the full peak of their energy, and the three conflicting views—Daenerys, Jaime, and Tyrion—actually heighten the emotional stakes. A behind-the-scenes featurette highlights how a lot work from all departments went into the battle, however what was the toughest a part of it out of your perspective?
It was tough from starting to finish. (Laughs.) Actually once I first acquired that script in hand and stored turning the pages and seeing that the battle simply by no means appeared to finish, I knew my work was minimize out for me. But it surely was so thrilling—the prospect to have a battle of that scale, however most significantly, a battle between those who we actually like. Quite than hoping, you already know, Jon Snow will defeat evil Ramsay, or watching Daenerys take out the Slavers, now you’re watching Daenerys and the Lannisters combating one another. And Tyrion is type of our perspective of that. He’s caught between two those who he loves and is standing in for the viewers that feels the identical means. How will this prove?
So for me, it was nearly initially, determining what the story of it was. It boiled down actually to the perspective of being on the bottom throughout a dragon assault. We’ve all the time been up within the air heroically with Daenerys, and now we wished to really feel what it’s wish to be on the bottom with individuals when conflict adjustments without end and demise is round them. It’s a really totally different expertise. That perspective form of rooted it for me, after which from there I began to construct it virtually like a script by itself, with a three-act construction—a starting, center, and finish—and the way all these beats would go. As soon as that was all achieved, we storyboarded and turned it into an animated model of the sequence, then simply tore it aside frame-by-frame in assembly after assembly with a tremendously proficient group of individuals. After which we exit to Spain and truly shoot the factor, and that was additionally robust.
It’s in all probability among the many extra harmful set of stunts the present has achieved, proper? With setting twenty guys on fireplace directly—a TV report!—and having them maintain for 12 seconds.
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Undoubtedly. The battles on the whole are harmful simply because you may have stunt performers, horses, and also you’re trying to create one thing that appears extremely harmful whereas making it protected. However then while you add dragons to it, it adjustments fully. Now you’re coping with fireplace near actors and stunt performers and horses and people issues don’t all the time go nicely collectively. So we needed to be very, very, very protected. Fortunately, we had been in a position to make use of visible results to reinforce fireplace that was actually near the performers and stunt performers. There’s only a sure restrict to what you are able to do, clearly. Even simply being 20 toes from a large blaze feels such as you’re gonna, you already know, go up in flame. So getting actually near that form of fireplace is inconceivable at instances, in order that’s what visible results did to assist us. However the stunt coordinator Rowley [Irlam] is extremely good and security was all the time our chief concern, so fortunately nobody was harmed.
So Ed Sheeran’s character is toast now, isn’t he?
(Laughs.) A number of characters, for certain.
The battle additionally casts Daenerys in a darker mild than we’ve seen her earlier than, an impact of the sheer brutality of the dragon assault. Is it meant to shift the way in which we root for her?
I believe it’s meant to ask that query. Actually Tyrion has talked about it, Jon Snow talks about it on the seaside within the episode. “For those who take one in every of your dragons and also you go and also you burn individuals, watch out. Folks will see you in another way than you need them to see you. Watch out how you utilize your energy.” So the query is, is that this past what she ought to be doing? And definitely she’s fired up. She’s misplaced her allies, she’s feeling pushed again by Cersei and anxious that she’s come to Westeros and is already dropping the conflict earlier than she’s even began. It’s Daenerys who’s fired up, no pun meant, coming into this battle. And there’s an depth to her that we haven’t seen earlier than.
That is additionally the primary time we actually start to see romantic pressure construct between Dany and Jon Snow, who occur to be aunt and nephew. She smiles when Jon Snow reveals up on the steps at Dragonstone and Davos has that line about Jon observing her “good coronary heart.”
Yeah, I imply this can be a relationship that, for me as a fan, having watched the present for a lot of, a few years, seeing these two come collectively, it’s a giant deal for all of us who love the present. To think about how that’s gonna develop is likely one of the key issues we’re all watching, after all. Mark Mylod’s earlier episode introduced them collectively in a terrific means. It’s all very formal—they’ve all their attendants there type of talking for them. Then on this episode we get to see them unvarnished, in a means, with out their attendants, and Jon takes her into this quiet, secret internal cave and gives her proof for what he’s been speaking about. I believe she sees that and takes it in, however is unwilling to maneuver off her personal political ask. So you may have each the political dialogue of “will you bend the knee” and “will you come save us all from the White Walkers” balanced with this rising intimacy and draw between these two characters that all of us love and respect. We see them discover that love and respect for one another.
Arya going toe-to-toe with Brienne was one other nice second. It begins off as pleasant sparring then ramps up into this dazzling show of each girls’s swordplay. What went into placing that scene along with the actresses?
Maisie Williams is terrific. She and Gwendoline [Christie] simply killed themselves preparing for that struggle. They practiced for near a month, I consider. Then we spent a pair days taking pictures it. And so they had been simply terrific. I imply, the truth that they had been in a position to do all the struggle themselves—except just a few photographs that stunt performers did, however they had been able to doing all the factor—actually helped make that factor. As a result of a lot of it’s concerning the actor, not the stunt strikes, you already know, and seeing how they’re relating to one another. How stunned Brienne is to see this little ninja come at her and the respect Arya wins on the finish of it, all of the when you see Sansa taking it in: “Who’s my sister now? Who is that this individual that appears just like the Arya that I as soon as knew however is clearly not the identical individual anymore?”
The digital camera additionally lingers on the Valyrian metal dagger that passes from Littlefinger to Bran to Arya, seemingly suggesting it should come again into play later.
I actually couldn’t say about the place it goes, however simply to speak about it within the episode, the dagger is a present from Littlefinger to Bran but it surely doesn’t go the way in which Littlefinger needs. He’s used to having the ability to woo individuals and get them to his aspect, and right here he encounters this type of unmovable drive within the Three-Eyed Raven. And Bran, after all, cares not for these possessions and shortly passes it on to Arya. When Littlefinger sees his dagger having moved across the Stark kids and impulsively, it’s now with Arya, he’s fairly stunned. He sees that his assembly with Bran actually didn’t go nicely in any respect. (Laughs.) And so yeah, he’s making an attempt to determine who Arya is and what her presence at Winterfell means for his plans, and the way he’s gonna navigate the brand new energy construction there with the Stark children all reunited.