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Game Of Thrones Director Talks Intense Dragon Scene

Warning: This post contains spoilers for Game of Thrones season 7, episode 4, "The Spoils of War."

They're calling it the Loot Train Battle, or "death from the sky."

The most recent episode of HBO's fantasy drama series Game of Thrones may have been the shortest in series' history, but it certainly didn't skimp on intensity and unexpected twists. Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, the director of Game of Thrones' "The Spoils of War" Matt Shakman discussed how the episode's epic ending battle came to be. 

Just as Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) considered turning her cheek to her original plan to journey toward King's Landing, burn the surrounding towns, and take the Iron Throne, she devised a wiser but equally epic plan. Joining the Dothraki in their take-down of the Lannisters and their men, Dany flew on the back of the mighty dragon Drogon to the front lines of the war. 

What ensued was unprecedented in many regards: dragonfire touched down in the Seven Kingdoms for the first time in hundreds of years, the Dothraki hordes fought in Westeros for the first time ever, Bronn of the Blackwater (Jerome Flynn) almost killed a dragon, and Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) nearly drowned. 

Shakman spent "the better part of six months" working on that sequence, which "got the most attention" out of the entire episode and was "daunting but also exciting." The director revealed that he "ultimately decided around Jaime being the centerpiece of the battle" and wanted to covey the feeling of being on the ground when a war changes forever. 

"To see it from a traditional fighter like Jaime to see what happens when you introduce something like napalm or the atom bomb into battle and all the sudden traditional fighting goes out the window. Once I figured out what that story was, I was able to build it from there," Shakman explained. 

He looked to Saving Private Ryan, Stagecoach, and Apocalypse Now as references for the battle, with the touchstone imagery of the sequence coming from the helicopter attack in the latter film. "The idea of these helicopters flying through the smoke is very similar to Drogon flying through the smoke. And when he lands with the spear in his side, it really felt like those helicopters landing in the middle of all the smoke," said Shakman. "I also looked at Saving Private Ryan... [it's] very much what Jaime was like in the middle of the battle as he sees these people carbonized and turned to ash."

Of course, the Dothraki fighting on Westerosi land was something Shakman truly loved about the scene and had fun directing. He pulled inspiration from Western films and "play[ed] with sound and silence" to signal that the men were coming before the audience could truly hear them. 

Shakman is back to direct more chaos in next week's episode of Game of Thrones. While we wait until then, read up on everything you missed in "The Spoils of War."