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Based largely off of the first half of George R.R. Martin’s behemoth of a book, A Storm of Swords (which is longer than the entirety of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy!), the third season of HBO’s Game of Thrones brings all of the plot lines, character beats, and thematic developments from the first two years to a climatic head.
And as the show’s lingering questions are answered and bombshell revelations are dropped, this column (It Is Known: An Analysis of Thrones) will help wade viewers and book-lovers both through the narrative overload that will be at hand. What it won’t do, however, is spoil the story; the hope and intent is elucidation, not ruination.
Given the death, destruction, and – gasp – hope that await in the next three episodes, such illumination will be needed.
It is known.
Episode 308: “Second Sons”
The commentary track for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon may have more than its fair share of flaws – most of them owing to screenwriter James Schamus behaving in a way that can only be labeled as a schmuck – but it tends to stick out in a film lover’s memory for an entirely different reason: an exchange between the writer and director Ang Lee (about two extras having a somewhat silly and certainly inconclusive fight) that calls attention to a facet of filmmaking that tends to usually be glossed over in behind-the-scenes material – background action.
The behavior and general conduct of all the extras, speaking or not, of any given scene can do more to establish realism or tear down believability than nearly any other single element, a star’s performance included. Instructing day players on how – or, perhaps more importantly, how not – to carry themselves and giving them bits of business to perform require a huge amount of coordination and dedication of the entire production team, starting with the assistant director(s) and moving on up the chain of command to the highest suits. For this reason alone, creating quality background action can be a nearly insurmountable task.
(For more on this, and in keeping with the commentary vibe, check out the track laid down by Ronald D. Moore, David Eick, and director Michael Rymer for the Battlestar Galactica pilot miniseries, in which the performance of the extra who plays the co-pilot of Colonial One is addressed with much gusto and insight. It is guaranteed to make one look at movies or television in an entirely different way forever more.)
Game of Thrones is a production that has tended to hit the background nail on the head more often than not, and to typically do so in a creatively satisfying way; whether the slaves of Astapor or the smallfolk of Winterfell, there is a level of believability achieved that would otherwise be impossible to attain (yes, even with the usually exquisite set dressing taken into consideration). The makeshift camp of the sellsword company the Second Sons outside the city walls of Yunkai is arguably the strongest example yet, with servants hustling and bustling and horseback mercenaries riding hurriedly to and fro in a continuous – and graceful – fashion. It sells the realism of a hastily-thrown-together settlement on the verge of war, underscores the dialogue-heavy emphasis of the scene with some kinetic energy, and furthers the viewer’s immersion in a faraway land that never existed without the slightest of hiccups.
Well, almost; if there is one critique to make, it would be that the production team was a little too worried about crisscrossing its horseback traffic throughout the entirety of the scene. Once noticed, the viewer is left with the unmistakable impression that he is watching a medieval version of the city-planet Coruscant’s incessant sky traffic from the Star Wars saga rather than the real comings and goings of a real camp erected in the real Middle Ages. Call it hyper-realism, a pitfall just as important to avoid as asynchronousity, and one that has already robbed the series of the flamboyant, Swiss Guard-esque dress of a number of characters, Daario Naharis chief among them.
Season Three Reviews:
- 301: Valar Dohaeris
- 302: Dark Wings, Dark Words
- 303: Walk of Punishment
- 304: And Now His Watch Is Ended
- 305: Kissed By Fire
- 306: The Climb
- 307: The Bear and the Maiden Fair
Season Two Reviews:
- 210: Valar Morghulis
- 209: Blackwater
- 208: The Prince of Winterfell
- 207: A Man without Honor
- 206: The Old Gods and the New
- 205: The Ghost of Harrenhal
- 204: Garden of Bones
- 203: What Is Dead May Never Die
- 202: The Night Lands
- 201: The North Remembers
Season One Reviews:
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