Dragon at­tack heats up ‘Game’

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By Mered­ith Wo­erner

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”) uti­lized 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.

Dragon facts

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, to cap­ture the tight shots of Clarke on her scaly steed, the actress was filmed rid­ing a mo­tion base in a stage in Belfast, North­ern Ire­land, in front of a green screen, but the bat­tle scenes were shot in Cáceres, 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 mid­charge.

“We were kind of think­ing to do some­thing ‘Mad Maxy,’ ” 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 mad­men 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 stunt­per­son 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.

Conf irmed: 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.

Pho­to­graphs from HBO

THE LAN­NIS­TER army faces Daen­erys’ Dothraki hordes and one of her dragons in “Game of Thrones.”

DRO­GON is one of three dragons un­der Daen­erys Tar­garyen’s com­mand.


EMILIA CLARKE por­trays the Mother of Dragons, who rides Dro­gon into bat­tle against the Lan­nis­ters.


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