WARNING: Major spoilers ahead for the seventh season of Game of Thrones! Read at your own risk...
The jaws of Game of Thrones fans were stuck to the ground on Sunday night, as the episode concluded with one of the show's biggest battle scenes to-date. Daenerys finally lashed out against the Lannister army, torching many of Jaime's men with her dragon, and sending a horde of Dothraki after the rest.
It was truly spell-binding television.
What made the battle scene even better was learning that it was director Matt Shakman's first time helming an episode of the series. A veteran of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Shakman immediately hit a homerun with his first Game of Thrones at-bat.
Since 'The Spoils of War' aired, Shakman has spoken out about the episode, and just how much work went into making that battle come to life. He has also revealed that his turn on Game of Thrones had deep roots in some highly-celebrated war films.
While speaking with The New York Times, Shakman said that movies like Apocalypse Now and Saving Private Ryan helped make 'The Spoils of War' possible.
Spoils of War Influences
The interviewer asked Shakman if we went back and watched older battles to prepare for the Loot Train Attack.
"I certainly did," Shakman replied. “'Hardhome' and 'Battle of the Bastards' are incredible, and Miguel Sapochnik [who directed those episodes] is a great director. Neil Marshall also did a brilliant job early on with his battles. ['Blackwater', 'The Watchers on the Wall'].
"This battle had elements of the 'Battle of the Bastards' in it, and it had the surprise ambush quality of 'Hardhome', but everything about it on the micro level was very different. On a macro level, too, given the dragons. So what I looked at more were things like Apocalypse Now, the helicopter attack on the village, which felt very similar in terms of shifting points of view and the horror on the ground. Dealing death from above — going through swirling clouds of smoke and napalm and all of that — felt much more like what I was trying to create.
"I looked at Saving Private Ryan, the opening battle on the beach, where the sound drops out and Tom Hanks is watching men being burned alive and shot to death. That to me was very much what it should feel like for Jaime, watching men die left and right around him. I looked at John Ford. I looked at Children of Men Bronn running through the field of horror was very similar to some of those Clive Owen oners [single continuous shots] as he’s running through hell with death all around him. I looked at a lot of different references and did what I could to pull from them as inspiration."
How Was This Battle Different?
At one point during the interview, Shakman was asked what made the Loot Train Attack different from some of those earlier Game of Thrones battles.
As you can imagine, the inclusion of dragons had a lot to do with it.
"It was the first time we saw a battle with the dragons between people that we actually like. We’ve seen them in heroic situations — Daenerys taking on the slavers in Meereen and watching from above as she deals death from the sky. But this was a chance to frame it in a different way.
"So one of the first decisions I made was to focus more on Jaime and Bronn than on Daenerys — to focus on what it was like to be with these men on the ground in the middle of this horrific moment when war changes forever, when traditional fighting goes out the window and suddenly you have the introduction of something like napalm. That was the chief thematic focus of the episode. To hang it on Jaime’s shoulders as he sees his men dying was the most important thing for me."
Many will be watching to see how the director can possibly top his debut episode, but quite a few others will be worried about resolving that cliffhanger.
Jaime Lannister's life was left in the balance as last Sunday's episode concluded. Fortunately, Shakman may have already addressed that issue.
Earlier this week, the director was asked about the battle, and he spoke about Jaime as if he was certainly going to be around in the future.
“And all of a sudden the Lannister army — which is a Roman army in a way, an army of order and precision, who can handle pretty much any obstacle — they encounter something they cannot handle and realize that war has changed forever," Shakman said. "Jaime, especially, is a great soldier and realizes this is going to be a new era.”
Shakman's next episode, 'Eastwatch', will air this Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO.