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  • >> Speaker 1: Last episode we brought you five brilliant moments in some of our

  • favorite action sequences.

  • Until Game of Thrones came along and delivered a master class.

  • So here are three more brilliant moments from the Battle of the Bastards.

  • >> [MUSIC]

  • >> Speaker 1: Can we just gush for a little bit?

  • Like, my God, what an incredible 30 minutes.

  • This is why we love cinema, beautiful and horrifying and nerve-wracking and

  • just aah.

  • With intricately designed choreography reminiscent of Braveheart,

  • CGI set pieces reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings,

  • cinematography reminiscent of 2015's Macbeth, and

  • a vastness of scale that clearly and admittedly pays homage to Kurosawa's ran.

  • The Bastard Bull's pedigree is clear and it is prestigious.

  • But besides looking like a million bucks or

  • 30 million, what made this episode so incredible?

  • What specifically about it that kept us on the edge of our seats?

  • Or jumping up and down on our couches,

  • screaming at the TV, which I totally didn't do the whole time.

  • And I think the clue is in the question, we were jumping up and down, and

  • screaming, and crying, and cursing, and losing our breath, and

  • stress eating the LD 50 of Doritos.

  • We were emotionally involved.

  • It didn't feel like we were watching the fight, it felt like we were living it.

  • Which is exactly what the mad Game of Thrones genius that is Miguel Sapochnik

  • set out to accomplish, to put his viewers inside of a pitched battle

  • in all its pain and chaos and randomness.

  • Sapochnik may have had a lot of intellectual ideas about war and

  • battle and what it is or is not good for, but instead of investing all of his

  • energy trying to convey the concept war is bad, he tried to show us how war feels.

  • So first up, let's take a look at Rickon's decidedly neither zig nor zag demise.

  • >> [MUSIC]

  • >> Speaker 1: Hitchcock famously talks about suspense and surprise,

  • the differences between them, and

  • how the former is far more relevant to film making than the latter.

  • You take a scene with a bunch of people at the dinner table, and

  • then half way through boom, a bomb blows up from underneath.

  • Surprise.

  • But you play the same scene and instead reveal the bomb beneath the table in

  • the beginning and all of the sudden every moment and word and itchy knee

  • carries the dread intention and anxiety of will they or won't they discover the bomb?

  • But here Sapochnik basically says, [BLEEP] it, why not both?

  • And the why is simple.

  • Isn't Jon Snow's experience here exactly the experience of suspense followed by

  • relief followed by surprise?

  • The dread and terror and anxiety that his brother will be killed and then the breath

  • of fresh air when it looks like he's safe and then the shock at his sudden death.

  • That's how Jon really feels here.

  • I mean that's how we'd be feeling if our brother was about to be,

  • we need to talk about Kevin by a medieval psychopath, but

  • just showing us Jon Snow feeling this way isn't enough.

  • No, Sapochnik draws on age-old techniques to force the feelings inside of us.

  • And he does this by planting a bomb.

  • In this case, an arrow into Rickon's back.

  • And then teasing us over and over about how it might go off.

  • So first he sets it up.

  • Rickon has to run or be shot in the back.

  • And then he toys with the detonator.

  • He gives us a beat of Ramsay shooting the arrow and a shot of Rickon 's back,

  • which in this context is less of a shot of Rickon the character, so

  • much as a shot of Rickon the target.

  • So we know exactly what is going on.

  • The arrow is going to end up in Rickon 's back.

  • But then it misses.

  • No worry though, he's gonna repeat the pattern and tease again.

  • Ramsey draws, fires, we see the target and the miss.

  • In the meantime the distance is closing, so

  • here we go one more time with the repetition.

  • This time he makes a much bigger meal out of it.

  • Ramsey's drawing.

  • Rickon is running.

  • Jon is galloping.

  • Ramsey is firing.

  • Rickon is panting.

  • Ramsey is watching.

  • The inter cutting is has intensified between the three spaces,

  • the shots are shorter, the music is swelling to a climax, and by this point,

  • remember, we're smart cinema viewers and we know two things for sure.

  • One, Game of Thrones likes to kill its characters, and

  • two patterns come in threes.

  • So by the time we see the third shot,

  • we know that if there's going to be an arrow that kills Rickon, this is it.

  • See, Sapochnik isn't just playing with elements on screen,

  • he's playing with elements in our mind.

  • He knows how we expect things to work and is using that to build the kind of dread,

  • Jon Snow must be feeling.

  • Jon Snow isn't thinking, shit, this is the third arrow, I know things come in threes,

  • this one is definitely going to get him.

  • No, this pattern repetition is a storytelling artifice introduced in

  • order to induce us to feeling the sense of dread that Snow is feeling in that moment.

  • So when the third repetition misses, we breath a sigh of relief.

  • For a moment it looks like he's in the clear, which again is how Jon's gotta

  • be feeling now that he's within spitting distance of Rickon.

  • Movies won't show things a fourth time, and we know this.

  • It would be redundant.

  • We would feel cheated.

  • And sure enough, we're right.

  • Sapochnik specifically does not repeat the pattern of teasing expectation draw,

  • shoot, miss.

  • We get a breath of air, we leave Ramsay behind, we don't see him do anything else,

  • we're probably assuming he's out of range.

  • And then he shoves an arrow through him with no warning, and

  • it's [BLEEP] brilliant.

  • Imagine this sequence on its own with no suspense.

  • Rickon running and then [SOUND], he's dead.

  • Kind of a let down, right?

  • Or imagine if he'd actually gone down on the third arrow.

  • We would have felt, ugh,

  • I knew it was going to happen, but that's now how Jon Snow is feeling.

  • Jon Snow isn't resigned to Rickon's death, like Sansa is, Jon Snow has hope.

  • Jon Snow rides out there because he thinks he can make it.

  • And Sapochnik realizes this, so

  • he plays us against the expectations we have for the show.

  • Sets us up for a death we know is coming and then doesn't give it to us.

  • We say holy shit, Game of Thrones has gone soft, and

  • then he rips it away because that's how Sapochnik thinks death feels.

  • Not a completion of a pattern but a sudden violent removal of a life from a body.

  • A viscous out of nowhere arrow to the chest, it feels like we've been cheated.

  • It feels like we've lost the relief we'd earned, and Miguel gets this thing.

  • >> [MUSIC] >> Speaker 1: Last time we talked

  • how Lord of the Rings does something rare and

  • incredible with its action that we dubbed pyramid action.

  • It positions its heroes at the tips of its narrative thrust such that every one of

  • their actions had consequences that rippled down to the entire war.

  • And then Battle of the Bastards came along and flipped it on its head.

  • No, really, it flipped it on its head.

  • Jon does exactly two things that affect the battle.

  • He starts it and he defeats Ramsey,

  • the last of which honestly really could have been anyone.

  • The rest of the time, he's just a really, really bad ass soldier.

  • Jon is a victim of this battle, not a causal agent in it.

  • So in this case, the pyramid is upside down.

  • It isn't Jon's actions that ripple down to tell us a story of the battle,

  • it's the story of the battle that ripples down to tell us the story of Jon.

  • But the key important part is that both are being told together.

  • We are able to keep track of the micro and the macro because they're connected.

  • And nowhere is this

  • better than the fantastic

  • fog of war running.

  • >> [SOUND] >> Speaker 1: [INAUDIBLE]

  • This part is

  • mother [BLEEP]

  • incredible, why?

  • Well partly because it's a solid unbroken minute of a massive choreographed battle,

  • but partly because while it is so chaotic it's also so bloody clear.

  • It simultaneously shows us everything that is happening to Jon

  • without allowing us more than a second to see what's coming next.

  • Miguel Sapochnik designed this shot around a scene description in the script that

  • called it Jon's Fog of War.

  • I mean, that's exactly what it is.

  • The layered framing privileges us a massive wide view of

  • the entire battlefield while still keeping us in an intimate space with Jon.

  • And we get to follow his personal journey while contextualizing

  • it within the greater conflict.

  • But the real brilliance is that while we get a survey of the entire

  • battlefield at a distance right up close to Jon,

  • our peripheral vision is narrow, threats arrive with little warning from the side,

  • from behind, from above and there's a ruthlessness to how long the shot holds.

  • He doesn't let us look away.

  • He doesn't allow it to let up.

  • We're stuck in a fray with Jon and the odds?

  • They don't seem so hot at any given exchange.

  • So when the seconds turn into minutes, it looks bleak.

  • Sapochnik has taken every decision at his disposal and pointed them all in one

  • direction linking the cinematic experience we're having on our Lazy Boy loveseats

  • with the battle experience our hero is having in up in North Westeros, and

  • he does this the whole damn time.

  • When the heroes collide, when Jon is stuck in the world's worst mosh pit,

  • when he's standing there readying himself for

  • death, everything about the experience is designed to make it feel immersive.

  • And it works so bloody well, we just have to appreciate it.

  • >> [SOUND] >> Speaker 1: Finally,

  • we wanna talk about decision.

  • We [BLEEP] love The Two Towers, and we raved about it all last week.

  • But Game of Thrones takes its tactical approach and one ups it.

  • In Helms the tactics are important, the battles were a wits between Betta and

  • Saruman, each trying to outsmart and

  • out muscle the other and push through their defenses.

  • And all the heroes rallied the armies in support of these tactics.

  • But in Game of Thrones, tactics are extensions of character.

  • Tactics are emotional decisions made in the heat of the moment.

  • They're reflections of a mental state,

  • not necessarily clear-headed moves on a chessboard.

  • Ramsey isn't playing Jon's army, he's playing the army's commander.

  • He's playing Jon.

  • Look at how Sapochnik suggests this by pitting them against each other.

  • Shot against reverse shot despite the physical distance between them.

  • For Jon, Davis, and Porman the tactics are reactionary, they're flawed,

  • they're made on tilt, they're influenced by morals and

  • pity and desperation and feelings of utility and anger.

  • Sapochnik takes time and

  • expends energy trying to explore why these decisions are made.

  • He builds to Jon's anger when he charges.

  • He contrasts Thabus' humanity when he tells the arches to hold their fire.

  • He illuminates Torman's desperation when he flees the encircled.

  • This is a brilliant character focused way to look at a battle.

  • It's completely in keeping with the personal narrative approach.

  • But the decision we wanna look at because it's tiny, and beautiful, and simple, and

  • a little different, is Jon's decision not to kill Ramsay.

  • >> Speaker 2: Aah!

  • >> [SOUND]

  • >> Speaker 1: It's small and

  • it's simple and

  • it's over in

  • two shots but

  • this moment is

  • perfection.

  • Jon's beating Ramsay and beating Ramsay and beating Ramsay and beating Ramsay.

  • And when all of a sudden shot, reverse, and boom.

  • Jon has remembered Sansa and decided that this is not his victory.

  • How do we know that's what Jon's thinking?

  • We know this because we're thinking.

  • Because Sapochnik let's us come to the conclusion just moments before he shows

  • Jon doing it.

  • The first shot tilts up and the camera just notices Sansa.

  • It remembers that she's there with a slight tilt and a clever focus rack,

  • it shifts our attention.

  • Remember her?

  • Yes we do, we're thinking.

  • Shit, what about Sansa?

  • Shouldn't she get a say with Ramsay, we're thinking.

  • By the time we're thinking that we're looking at Jon,

  • looking at Jon looking up at Sansa.

  • So we project our thoughts onto him.

  • Snap, Jon is recognizing it, Jon is noticing Sansa.

  • And look at him remembering her stake in it.

  • Sapochnik let's us explain his story for him.

  • The tilt and rack of his shot and

  • the adjusted position of his edit guide us to do the work.

  • He plants in us a seed, lets it grow, and then lets his story reap the heart.

  • So what do you think?

  • Did you like this kind of episode?

  • Would you like more deep dives into single scenes?

  • Were there any other moments from Battle of the Bastards you loved?

  • How about that finale?

  • Let us know the comments below and be sure to subscribe for more Cinefix movies.

>> Speaker 1: Last episode we brought you five brilliant moments in some of our