Disclaimer: Major spoilers ahead. Read this after catching up on all of ‘Game of Thrones. And do it quick, before your Facebook feed spoils it for you!
Yet again, the time is upon us. The weapons are sharpened. The horses are fed. The sigils can be seen and the chants can be heard at a distance. The countdowns have begun. The memes have begun pouring at their earnest. Now the watch for ‘Game Of Thrones’ begins again. And the excitement is palpable. After all, ‘The Winds Of Winter’ was quite a ‘killer’ finale (pun intended!) It was the biggest mass slaughter of major character since the heartbreaking ‘Red Wedding’; thankfully most of them were evil. Cersei, the perpetrator of said slaughter, sits atop the Iron Throne, oblivious to the actual imminent danger approaching her – Ice from the north and Fire from the east. The new seasons spells infinite possibilities (and thus a deluge of fan theories).
We Cinemaholics aren’t ones to lag behind. So we decided to partake in the fanfare the best way we know how to – by making a list! GoT, the delectable carnage that it is, has had more than its fair share of impressive battles, with a promise of many more to come. We’ve seen everything from a little girl poking a hole in a grown man’s heart with a needle to an Imp annihilating a fleet of ships with green flames. The sheer scale and grandeur of some of these combats would make mammoth Hollywood production houses blush. To pick the most epochal battles of them all, we must look at three things – the motive of the combatants, the actual battle and the consequences of the battle and its place in the bigger picture. Enough chatter. Here’s a recap of the list of best fight scenes of Game Of Thrones.
5. The Mountain And The Viper (Season 4, Episode 8)
The foremost reason that this pacey but relatively short one-on-one combat makes this list is the build-up to it. After a brutal, callous 3 seasons, the fourth installment of ‘Game Of Thrones’ promised a pinch of redemption, when it showed the murder of the loathsome Boy King Joffrey. The hope faltered a little when his uncle Tyrion was arrested on the behest of Cersei, but they shot up when he demanded trial by combat, since he had survived one already. The enigmatic Prince Oberyn Martell, with a revenge quest of his own against the heinous Sandor ‘The Mountain’ Clegane, seemed like the one to finally turn the tide of the sombre proceedings around. It seemed like the victory of good over evil was finally beginning.
Alas, it was not to be. Oberyn, after some animated sparring, made critical wounds to the mountain with his stealth, was so hell-bent on getting a confession of his crime out of the giant that he let his guard down. The rest is burned into the brain of every viewer. This battle made me give up on the good guys ever winning on GoT. The most impressive bout of single combat on the show nonetheless.
4. The Watchers On The Wall (Season 4, Episode 9)
Aah, when living people were the most dangerous things trying to pierce the wall. Simpler times. Right after the crushing (damn, I have to stop making these puns!) defeat of Prince Oberyn at the Mountain’s hands, we have a rare episode which focuses exclusively on one storyline: the Wildling assault on Castle Black and the Wall, and the Night’s Watch defense, led first by Sir Aliser Thorne and then by the de facto hero of the series, Jon Snow (who leads two more battles higher up the list). Although the battle now seems rather insignificant when looking at the big picture, it is an important part of the ‘Night’s Watch’ story arc. It provides proud deaths to many minor characters on the wall, and also completes Jon’s metamorphosis into a true leader.
The episode was helmed by Neil Marshall, who was also behind the ‘Blackwater’ fight. The clear difference between strength and tactical brilliance was highlighted perfectly, as the Watch managed to sustain the night despite being terribly outnumbered. The battle is terribly beautiful in its violence. The stellar choreography and precision of the entire battle can be seen through ambitious aerial shots such as a 360′ swing across the castle. Precise and flawless.
3. Massacre at Hardhome (Season 5, Episode 8)
If the fight at the Fist Of First Men provided us a taste of terrors of the White Walkers, the massacre at the eponymous Wildling village of Hardhome was a seven-course meal. Jon travels beyond the wall to eke out a truce with the Wildling elders to stick together in the time of need, but as soon as the ominous barking of dogs signalling the arrival of the undead army begins, it is massacre in the most brutal sense. If our last entry and the entry after this are lessons in precision and control, this battle, right from everyone trying to scramble to safety amidst swarms of wights pouring from all sides, to the night king walking amidst flames, is chaos incarnate. But it is stunning in its execution, with its time divided between long-standing protagonists and newfound characters we were almost growing to endear (like the Wildling chieftain Karsi).
‘Hardhome’ features some of the most terrifying images in ‘Game Of Thrones’, some of which would even put ‘The Walking Dead’ to shame, the most infamous being the revival of the martyred by the night king before Jon Snow’s eyes, as if to taunt him. The massacre at Hardhome came from nowhere and left us gasping for breath.
2. Battle of The Blackwater (Season 2, Episode 9)
The entire episode dedicated to the climactic Battle of the Blackwater, in which the Lannister army, commanded by acting Hand of the King Tyrion Lannister, defends the city of King’s Landing as King Stannis Baratheon’s fleet stages an attack at Blackwater Bay, is a stroke of storytelling genius. The battle managed to divide our sympathies (in a manner however lopsided) between Tyrion, who underwent massive character growth during the battle to show us his bravery along with his tact, and Stannis, the actual true King who was doing nothing more than claiming what was rightfully his, with the presence of Ser Davos granting him some more popularity points. The unexpected appearance of the allied Lannister-Tyrell forces adds a nice climactic touch.
The unique aspect of this battle is the insight it provides into the characters who are a part of the battle without fighting in it. Cersei’s acerbic words of wisdom to Sansa while all the ladies lay low add to the intensity of the skirmishes. So do her desire to control the goings-on from inside the battlements (like the orders to have Joffrey withdraw from the field and almost poisoning Tommen when the loss appeared imminent. Add dollops of the precise tactical calibration and smart camera work by Neil Marshall make the battle at Blackwater Bay a standout episode of the second season, and would have certainly topped this list if it weren’t for the cinematic brilliance and pulsating raw physicality of our ultimate entry.
1. Battle Of The Bastards (Season 6, Episode 9)
To see the Stark sigil fly over Winterfell again is a joy!
Red and grey, mud and blood, chaotic brute force and fastidious battle formations, throbbing, fast-paced action with a hint of SloMo here and there. In a nutshell, the best of both worlds. The battle between the eponymous bastards Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton finally offered us the redemption of a good ol’ ‘Good over Evil’ win we had been craving for years. And boy was it worth it! Much has been said about the resources put into filming the epic showdown, and the result is unlike anything ever seen before on television. Certain moments, like Jon gasping while being buried under a mountain of bodies, or the Bolton army climbing over the pile of dead bodies and their own men into the Chakravyuha in which they’ve trapped Jon’s wildling army are veritable and gritty war portrayals.
Another huge case for the iconic status of this battle is made by the long-overdue transition of Sansa into a true heavyweight instead of the victim. Her arrival with Littlefinger’s army in the nick of time trumped the surprise of our penultimate entry big time. Last, but definitely not the least, if ‘Watchers On The Wall’ made Jon Snow a commander, this battle made Jon Snow a king. Heck, I’d put this battle on the top of the list just for Jon beating the shit out of that cocky Ramsay and Sansa feeding him to his own hounds! An iconic piece of television and the most iconic battle we’ve seen in the realm. Here’s hoping it gets dethroned by a grander fight in the seasons to come!
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