WARNING SPOILERS FOR GAME OF THRONES S07E04. You have been warned.
In what might be the most explosive conclusion to a mid-season episode yet, ‘The Spoils of War’ saw Daenerys and her dragons take their first real stab at trying to win the Iron Throne. In what has become a constant pursuit of the show, Game of Thrones constantly pushes the boundaries of TV combat. There were actual dragons, explosions, and a lot of murder.
Yet in-between all of the fire, explosions and killing, there was an example of a shot we’ve seenin past episodes of the show; the tracking shot. As Bronn races towards the Dragon destroying cross-bow, he is knocked off his horse by a Dothraki solider amputating his horse, thrusting him onto the battlefield. The camera follows him, reacting to explosions and enemies.
The last time we were treated to an example of this type of shot was in the now infamous ‘Battle of the Bastards’, the number one IMDB rated episode of GoT and the conclusion to Ramsay Bolton.
So why does this shot stand out? Well, it helps immerse the viewer into the action in two ways:
- The camera becomes MotivatedA motivated camera reacts to the actions happening on-screen. An explosion will knock the camera to one side, as if someone in the battle was actually holding the camera. It will often have a mind of its own, showing you the action through its perspective, rather than allowing audience to passively experience the events unfold, which is what the majority of shots in TV and Film do. The active camera thrusts the audience into the battlefield, bringing them along for the ride. There are also no discernible cuts (there are cuts they’re just well hidden), helping add to illusion of being in the combat, fighting alongside the characters.
- The camera stays lowA motivated camera isn’t anything special on its own. But when the camera is kept low, that’s when it starts to grip the audience. This low angle empowers the character we’re following, but also takes away a sense of superiority from the audience. We are in as much danger as the people we’re watching. Low angles in the vocabulary of cinema are often used to make the characters on-screen feel powerful, but when the audience feels as if they’re a character, that idea is flipped on its head. It’s what helps get your heart racing as the bodies natural fight or flight instincts are activated.
Of course, these techniques are not themselves special, they’re used in a multitude of films, but it’s exciting to see such immersive combat in a TV series. This shot isn’t the only choice that made the battle in this episode good, but it added something exciting and unique. The production team have managed to make this type of sequence feel unique to the Game of Thrones Universe and helps become immersed in the combat we’re watching on our TVs. Watch out for more examples of this technique, there are more battles to come.