Apart from the politics, sex and gore, Game of Thrones has always sought to raise the standards for epic battle sequences with each passing season. From the Battle of the Blackwater to the Battle of the Bastards, each skirmish has shown us a unique form of warfare, while simultaneously progressing individual character arcs. Last weekend, 'Stormborn's conclusive incursion conducted by Euron Greyjoy was no different. The magnanimity of Euron's attack and the sense of utter despair among the Iron Fleet was palpable throughout the last 8 minutes of the episode. Considering how difficult it is to choreograph action sequences at sea, how did HBO achieve such a complicated feat in such a short span of time?
Establishing Euron As An Unstoppable Force:
Apart from shoving Balon Greyjoy off a bridge, Euron hadn't done much to position himself as the next 'big bad' after Ramsay Bolton's death. So, the showrunners had to establish him as an important villain in Season 7, and what better way to do so than giving him a humongous ship?
According to producer D.B. Weiss, the Silence served as a mirror reflection of Euron and the brute force that he brings to battle,
Silence is supposed to be a very different kind of boat. The boat itself is a projection of the personality of the man who built it. It's a big 'fuck you' boat by a big 'fuck you' guy. The boat itself doesn't come into play as a real thing that people need to interact with until it's connected to Yara's ship. And so we decided that the best way to really put across the true size of this boat is to build a section of it, the bow section that rams into Yara's boat.
In addition to intimidating the Iron Fleet with the sheer magnitude of the Silence, Euron took the meaning of "hostile takeover" quite literally by latching onto Yara's ship. It was achieved with the help of a boarding device called the corvus, which consisted of a heavy spike-shaped tip that digs into the deck of enemy ships. This goes to show that Euron isn't just an egotistical murderer, but also an incredibly adept warrior.
As the degree of damage Euron can inflict was established with the Silence, the next step was showing the extent to which he can incapacitate his enemies.
Action Choreography And The Iron Fleet:
Apart from having loads of blood spouting from everyone's bodies, the hand-to-hand combat needed to demonstrate how powerful one Greyjoy is in comparison to the other.
Stunt Coordinator Rowley Irlam and director Mark Mylod talked about the sequence and the nature of the fight that best suited Euron's character,
"The boat at Banbridge is quite restrictive. We had 40 stunt guys on there, six cast members and the crew. So, it was quite a challenge and it was very wet and it was very cold. I wanted it to feel like the violence of a riot or football terraces, when there's a flash of violence and it just kicks off."
"The set itself became almost comically crowded with everybody doing this dance. We agreed that the violence should be brutal and feel un-choreographed, that it shouldn't feel structured."
However, as these sequences can turn out to be tiring for the actors in question, assistant stunt coordinator Richard Bradshaw devised a way to make it simultaneously effective and visually engaging,
"In a lot of fight choreography, it's challenging to achieve that if you're trying to do a specific fight piece. And also long takes by their nature, make people exhausted. So, one of the things that we did to achieve that was, no take was more than ten seconds long. So, all we were asking the cast and the stunts to do, was to go nuts for ten seconds."
These short bursts of action helped preserve the actors' energy and create the illusion of chaos. With nowhere to go, the relentless slaughter of Yara's fleet accurately depicted that Euron and his army is a force to be reckoned with.
Sealing Theon And Yara's Fate Amidst The Riot:
The assault on Yara's fleet was not only a strategic move for Euron, but also a form of revenge for the time Yara escaped the Iron Islands with Euron's ships. This is why the attack also needed to register at an emotional level.
After robbing Yara of all her ships, Euron administered one last blow by showing the mental condition of Theon Greyjoy. According to Gemma Whelan, seeing Theon escape deprived Yara of her the last glimmer of hope,
When Yara gets taken by Euron on the boat and he has the axe to her throat, initially, she feels like Theon's back, it's okay, he'll do something, he'll do the right thing and the change that happens in his eyes, she realizes that he's not gonna stay, I think she's heartbroken at that point.
According to producer D.B. Weiss, Theon's breakdown was the result of the carnage he was witnessing, which reminded him of his own suffering in Ramsay's torture chamber,
It really all comes down to close-ups on three people. And where they're at, at the end of this experience. That we'd maybe fooled ourselves into thinking that Theon was out of the woods on his whole Reek experience and as we were writing it, we realized that you don't just get over what happened to him, that's something that's gonna be a part of him for the rest of his life.
This is a place that triggers the worst of that experience as he sees his people around him doing the kinds of things that Ramsay used to do to him. And to see Euron's pure psycho greed throughout the whole thing when Theon jumps overboard, ... that's the character's encapsulation ... that's why this is somebody you should be worried about.
Within a matter of 8 minutes, Game of Thrones provided a villain who can wreak havoc through strategic planning while being level-headed enough to exact his personal vendetta. As Euron Greyjoy has successfully acquired the "gift" he had intended to offer Cersei, there's a fair chance that he'll be on her good side very soon.
What are your thoughts on Euron Greyjoy as a villain? Let me know in the comments.
(Source: Game of Thrones YouTube)