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As we all eagerly await the final season of “Game of Thrones,” HBO’s mega-hit adaption of George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, we’ve looked back at the biggest and best battle sequences.
Because with an estimated budget topping $US100 million for six episodes, they can only get better from here.
Executive producers David Benioff and D. B. Weiss have raised the bar for the quality of special effects we expect to see on our TV screens — some might even say they’re doing it better than the big movie studios.
While this isn’t an exhaustive list of every Game of Thrones battle, this is about the ones that we experienced in all their blood, gore and glory.
5. Daenerys versus the Lannisters
Commonly known as the “loot train battle,” the Dothraki and Drogon Vs Lannisters battle finds the Lannister army, fresh from a victorious surprise attack on House Tyrell, completely outnumbered — and outmuscled — by Daenerys, Drogon and the Dothraki.
It’s the first appearance of the Dothraki army that Westerosi fear so much — and the first time the Mother of Dragons has unleashed one of her children on the Seven Kingdoms.
As Jamie Lannister does his best to wrangle an already terrified army into formation as the ground shakes beneath them from the pounding of Dothraki screamer’s hooves, Drogon’s roar pierces the sky right before he does. It’s reminiscent of his first entrance saving Daenerys in the pits of Meereen, but this time she isn’t in trouble, she’s in total command.
The sequence of events masterfully changes perspective between characters equally beloved but on opposing sides, raising the stakes in a way only a narrative as complex as Game of Thrones can achieve.
We watch from Tyrion’s eyes, as his Queen is victorious at the expense of his brother and friend, with no way of being sure either will survive. We see for the first time how powerless the Iron Throne’s army is against a grown dragon, and the episode finishes with an insight into how ruthless Daenerys has become.
4. Battle of the Blackwater
The Battle of the Blackwater — Sir Bronn of the Blackwater’s namesake — was the first significant battle for Game of Thrones, and held the mantle for best battle sequence for a long time afterwards.
Terror grips Kings Landing as wannabe-King Stannis Baratheon’s fleet approaches the city, intent of sacking it and taking back the Iron Throne from Joffrey and the Lannisters.
Stannis’ fleet, led by Ser Davos Seaworth, looked to have the edge, before Tyrion’s wildfire plan tore through it in spectacular fashion.
It was a mesmerising moment — and just the beginning of Game of Thrones’ dominance in awards categories and pop culture alike.
The episode-long battle also featured a few big changes to the playing field, with Sandor “The Hound” Clegane defecting from the Lannisters, and the beginning of the Tyrell’s alliance with the Lannisters.
It also has one of the greatest war-hype speeches of all time, culminating in Tyrion yelling: “Those are brave men knocking at our door. Let’s go kill them.”
3. Night King Vs Daenerys
This battle is infamous for all the wrong reasons — but if nothing else, the spectacular visual effects cannot be denied.
While a lot of this battle was physically played out in a car park in Iceland complete with a green screen and fake ice lake, the biggest moments were the result of special effects so life like it still hurts.
In the first true battle between ice and fire, Daenerys discovered her children are not as untouchable as she believed, and the scales start to tip in the Night King’s direction.
After watching an entire episode go by without a single casualty among the all star lineup beyond the wall, watching Viserion crash into the frozen lake while Raegal and Drogon call for him is the gut punch we weren’t expecting, and are unlikely to forget the next time the Night King picks up an ice spear.
There are many elements of this episode that are frustrating (the entire premise of the plan, Daenerys’ timing, Jon’s “sacrifice” to name a few), you can’t deny that it’s visually outstanding and whets the appetite for season 8.
2. The Battle of the Bastards
The Battle of the Bastards was the payoff the audience deserved for six seasons of suffering at the Stark’s hands. Not because of anything they did, but for everything that was done to them.
There are many small moments within the episode that still stung — Rickon and Wun Wun’s deaths for instance — but there are more that restore your faith in the Stark’s ability to eventually triumph. Well — in Sansa’s ability.
From the sheer scale of the soldiers and cavalry involved to the most minute details in the character’s interactions before, during and after the battle, the episode brought new scale and production value to an already outstanding series.
In any other list ranking battles for sheer brilliance, it would be number one — but looking at visual effects, it is let down only by the fact that most of the action was played out in real life.
Battle of the Bastards was the world’s introduction to director Miguel Sapochnik, and became a world record breaking episode of television — winning seven Emmys.
The episode was so impactful, it’s no surprise Sapochnik is one of only two people outside of David Benioff and Dan Weiss given a chance to direct a movie-length episode in the final season.
It was the battle that no one expected, but everyone couldn’t stop talking about.
As an episode, it’s a storytelling masterpiece.
We meet, fall in love with and mourn one character in less than an hour. We watch some of the best fighters in Game of Thrones struggling against an overwhelming number of wights, only to then watch the Night King re-raise his army simply by lifting his arms.
And after five seasons of half answers, all of a sudden the questions we needed to ask changed dramatically.
This was also the first time book readers couldn’t sit in smug satisfaction as show-watchers looked on in horror. As Hardhome completely diverted from the series’ source material, it was a shock for everyone.
As the final season will be.
Mark you calendars for April 14.
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