Do not mess with her dragons. After waiting seven seasons to introduce Daenerys Targaryen’s (Emilia Clarke) dragons to Westeros, Sunday night’s “Game of Thrones” finally unleashed the fiery fury on everyone’s favorite gold-handed Lannister in “The Loot Train Attack.” A battle so big and so hot it may have topped last season’s epic “Battle of the Bastards.” And that’s with just one dragon — Dany’s got two more waiting in the wings.
Warning: spoilers ahead.
The fourth episode of the seventh season of “Game of Thrones” (officially titled “The Spoils of War”) unleashed two of Daenerys’ biggest assets: her dragons and the Dothraki army. And if you remember the words of late King Robert Baratheon, “Only a fool would meet the Dothraki in an open field.”
After the episode, HBO unveiled an elaborate look at the making of its mad battle, which it dubbed “The Loot Train Attack.” Here’s everything we learned from the detailed, behind-the-scenes reveal.
A medieval western
If there was any doubt that this was executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’ version of “The Great Train Robbery” or “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” labeling their big episode moment a “loot train attack” should leave no doubt.
“It’s definitely got a bit of that western feel, but then you throw dragons in on top of that,” said Benioff in the video special.
Sure, it doesn’t quite roll off the tongue like titles of previous combat scenes such as “The Battle of Blackwater Bay,” “The Battle of Castle Black,” “Hardhome” or “The Battle of the Bastards.” But when you make a show that has millions of viewers across the globe cheering on a dragon assault, you can call your fight whatever you want, so “The Loot Train Attack” is here to stay.
Thanks to this breakdown we now have a better idea about the abilities of Dany’s dragons. For example Drogon — the dragon in Sunday’s episode — can fly up to 100 feet in the air (possibly even higher) and breathe fire in a column over 30-feet wide.
That’s a whole lot of computer-generated carnage. “To give an idea, in Season 6 — which was our biggest season up to that point — we had 11 shots that featured Emilia riding the dragon” said visual effects supervisor Joe Bauer. “In ‘Loot Train’ we have over 80.”
In other dragon filming insight, in order to capture the tight shots of Clarke on her scaly steed, the actress was filmed riding a motion base in a stage in Belfast in front of a green screen, while the battle scenes were shot in Caceres, Spain. Because dragons aren’t real.
The Dothraki army did actually stand on their horses
One of the more impressive shots from the battle wasn’t the CG dragon or even witnessing the scorpion — the giant dragon-slaying crossbow — in action thanks to Bronn (Jerome Flynn). It was when the Dothraki hordes descended upon the Lannister troops and, right before they clashed in hand-to-hand combat, the Dothraki stood up on their saddles to fluidly shoot arrows at their foes.
Episode director Matt Shakman explained in the after-episode special that on set “horse master” Camilla Naprous wanted to bring something no one had ever seen before.
“She said ‘What if they all just stood up on their horses and started shooting arrows at them,” Shakman recalled. “And I thought, ‘That sounds great but it’s not possible.’” But it was!
Naprous and her “GOT” team built what one on-camera Dothraki called a “metal shoe” that allowed the stunt riders to stand up mid-charge.
“We were kind of thinking to do something ‘Mad Max-y,’” said Naprous. Enter a field full of Dothraki dangling from the sides of their rides, flipping off the backs of their horses and attacking their opponents from all sides. “They’re just these absolute mad men on horses.”
A new burning man record
With a fire-breathing dragon on hand, naturally, there were a lot of flames in “The Loot Train Attack.” The crew in the video claims that its scene set fire records, specifically that it set fire to the most stunt crew ever in a single shot and in a single sequence.
U.K. unit production manager Duncan Muggoch claimed, “We have potentially the most burns, full burns ever done in TV history. Which is burning 20 men in one shot.”
The idea of burning 20 men all at once ramped up safety precautions and special effects supervisor Sam Conway broke down the nitty-gritty of such an elaborate burn, specifically calling attention to the stunt members in the middle who would face the brunt of the heat from the fire.
Another interesting fire fact from the “GoT” crew: When the stunt person is actually on fire they have to hold their breath. (Which sounds like asking a lot of a person who is on fire.)
Westeros is full of famous people
It would appear as if the “Game of Thrones” extras are a mix of highly trained professionals and celebrity super fans. The next in a long line of “GOT” cameos (including musicians from bands like Coldplay, Sigur Rós and Mastodon and singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, who promptly left Twitter shortly after his appearance) is athlete Noah Syndergaard.
A pitcher for the New York Mets, Syndergaard was spotted hoisting a spear for Team Lannister.
The surprise was received more warmly by fans than the aforementioned Sheeran cameo, probably because he was nearly impossible to spot. And also just look at him: Syndergaard’s nickname is Thor for a reason, this guy was born to lob spears at his enemies.
RIP Jaime Lannister?
Folks online were freaking out at the possible end of Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), last seen sinking to the bottom of a lake after unwisely charging directly at Daenerys and Drogon.
One could point out that just a few years ago Jaime tried to murder a child by pushing him out of a window. But now he has a hand of gold to match his heart, so whatever! Either way, fans were in a frenzy. However, we all know death is but a footnote in George R.R. Martin’s land, plus there’s always the possibility of a crossover.
Confirmed: Dany and Jon Snow are starting to fall for each other
And something totally unrelated to the battle (but equally interesting) was the very-much-related twosome of Daenerys and Jon Snow (Kit Harington) clearly starting to get sweet on each other. So if you’ve been awkwardly shipping this in-family connection, you’re not alone. The showrunners have been fueling this flirtation the whole time, and they finally admitted it.
In a separate “after the episode” breakdown, Benioff confirmed the crush. “To make it all even more complicated, they’re starting to be attracted to each other,” he said. “So much of it is not from dialogue or anything we wrote, it’s just the two of them in a small space, standing near each other, and us just watching that and feeling the heat of that.”
So yes, their love is real. But it’s not at Luke and Leia levels of awkwardness yet.
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