It’s been a funny old season of Game Of Thrones. In barrelling full speed ahead and moving all the pieces into place to set up its grand conclusion it has at times sacrificed characterisation and in-universe logic for this admittedly necessary goal. A truncated running time would not have helped things.
But I’m not here for any real structural analysis or anything like that. My esteemed colleagues here do a fantastic enough job of that already. Shit, sometimes their recaps are more enjoyable than the actual episode under scrutiny.
Nah, I’ve had my most important say already. This time I’m just here to sit and ogle, because one thing’s for sure: Slipping story standards or not, Game Of Thrones is still a candy store binge of a treat to look at.
So let’s gorge ourselves until we’re sick by casting our eyes over the prettiest, most aesthetically pleasing, and downright sexiest shots of season seven of Game Of Thrones.
Undead Giants On The March
Way back in the first episode there was a moment when we knew we were in the far frozen North. A whiteout washed over the screen. Then, out of the obscurity, figures marched. We were immediately reminded of the stakes this season: The dead were on the move. (They’ve been on the move since forever, but now there were getting, like, super close.) As they plodded inexorably towards the camera, gradually a shape much taller than the rest became clear. And then more. ‘Shit, okay,’ we thought. ‘Undead giants are definitely a thing then. That’s not good.’
Cersei The Merciless
Look at Cersei there, feet firmly planted in the centre of the continent she wishes to hold by any means necessary, while Jaime—poor, pathetic, devoted Jaime—stands adrift in the sea, away from his beloved, cast aside. Foreshadowing!
A Lonesome Burial
Sandor ‘The Hound’ Clegane has in some ways become the scarred heart of Game Of Thrones. A perennial fan favourite from around the time he said, ‘Fuck the King!’ and struck out on his own, the nighttime burial of the farmer and his child whose death he had a hand in is a beautiful moment, and one equally beautifully shot. Joined by Thoros, the two lonely figures toil in the freezing darkness, lit only by a small nearby lamp, perhaps not daring to hope for something like redemption, but maybe, at the very least, closure.
Nothing too ambitious about a shot like this. It’s nice and simple to illustrate the basic emotion behind it: The feeling of coming home. Daenerys Stormborn, after years in exile and hardship, finally returns to the island of her birth. A hand meets land, and earthy tones complement the theme.
Shall We Begin?
I just really love the visual drama in this shot. The natural backlight silhouetting Dany as she gently caresses a map of her home continent in silence. Meanwhile the carved dragon provides a menacing contrast and warning of the noise and carnage to come. It’s gorgeous.
Looks like a painting, this. The condemned man in the shadows of his cell, and his would-be saviour, illuminated by the hopeful rays from outside.
Like Dany’s homecoming, a simple shot. Just a face. But Arya Stark’s face is a landscape of emotion during this scene, especially in this moment when she hears that her brother Jon has retaken her home from evil. Her single-minded, psychopathic facade suddenly has a crack in it, and Maisie Williams’ hyper-expressive eyes shine with something other than vengeance: Hope.
The flipside to the shot above is similar in construction: It’s just a face, reacting to events. But here instead of hope, it’s pure despair writ large on Theon’s face as his twat of an uncle captures his sister. Suddenly, all the horrors of his past come flooding back to him, playing upon his face while his surroundings burn. Alfie Allen deserves all the awards.
The White Wolf and his retinue come to meet the Dragon Queen. I just love the composition here. The very strong perspective lines receding back into the surf; the pairs of walkers; the white light and grey-blue sky. Mwah! *kisses fingers*
A Fire Queen Made Of Ice
Jesus, talk about a welcoming look. That throne at Dragonstone is probably my favourite out of all the ones on the show, just because whoever built it was clearly hypnotised by the island and was slashing lines to echo those found on the cliffs outside. And light? Who needs light. Just sit there in the gloom. It’ll make that white hair stand out. After all, only those with white hair should be sitting in this chair.
Nobody broods like our boy Jon. And he really found the best place for it when he came down to visit with auntie. Look at that landscape. Stunning, and yet incomplete until the broodmeister general planted his feet atop it, close enough to the edge that an aggressive gust could send him over. To be fair he’d probably just land in the water at its base, a thousand feet below, and then climb out after maybe an episode cliffhanger, or even a scene.
Lions On The March
Look, never mind everything else about them, it’s a simple fact that the Lannister army is a good looking army. They know how to march in formation too. So to see them descend upon Highgarden like this? Yeah, it’s annoying and sad, but also kinda cool to look at?
A Wolf Returns Home
An echo of the shot above, but this time much more poetic and—not really a word you’d usually associate with this show—wholesome. Instead of an army invading another’s home, it’s someone coming back to theirs. I mean, it is a psychopathic, face-swapping assassin returning home, but she is returning home.
A Tense Reunion
I’m a sucker for the weirwoods. I think those leaves are gorgeous, and I the faces in the wood are just the right side of the cool/silly divide. So this top-down shot of the surviving Stark children (give or take) reuniting after all that they have been through over the years, framed on both sides by the red leaves of the weirwood tree, is really nice to look at as well as being emotionally resonant.
Chain Of Command
Those diagonal lines, man. No wonder the throne inside the castle on Dragonstone is all diagonal, all the time.
Dawn Of Retribution
They look so small and insignificant, way out there. This is of course the moment before Dany finally brings the full weight of dragon fire to bear upon a battlefield (a chapter of this season heavily represented further in this post). There’s something almost documentary-like about this shot that really gets to me. Apart from the costumes and, yes, the mythical beasts soaring above the sea off in the distance, it’s quite a banal-looking beach scene. I think that contrast makes what follows it all the more powerful.
Look at that face! If there were any doubts as to what kind of person Arya had become, that battle ecstasy there should pay to them.
A Break In The Shield Wall
A Dothraki horde arrives and charges a Lannister loot train. With it, Dany, riding atop Drogon. It’s a bloodbath. A charnel house. But dammit is it spectacular to look at. The Lannister army, all credit to them, form a shield wall, quickly and efficiently. And bravely. There’s an endless horde of bloodthirsty warriors charging at them, with a dragon Queen for an escort. I’d challenge anyone to do better. Unfortunately for them, it’s not good enough, and we get so many great shots showing us exactly what kind of a game changer a giant airborne flamethrower might be in a medieval warfare scenario.
Hold The Line
But still the soldiers hold! They’re real pros. Check that scene out. It’s a few of them, and then literally everything else is on fire! The angle here makes it look like the actual sky is on fire and it’s excellent.
The Money Shot
Everyone creamed their pants when they saw this shot. It’s okay to admit it. I tried to find a still that would do it justice, but it doesn’t exist. This is as close as it gets. By showing us this clean, left-to-right, methodical dragon destruction, the show impressed upon us finally how the number soldiers or equipment is almost an academic point when compared to a dragon’s fury.
Canaletto On Fire
I mean, it just looks like a Canaletto on fire to me. With added dragon. What’s not to love?
Beneath An Amber Sky
Similar to when Jon joined the fray in the Battle of the Bastards, a great down and dirty sequence of Bronn navigating a battlefield. This particular moment in the sequence is my favourite because it really made me feel what it would be like if a freaking dragon passed right overhead. I think so anyway. To be honest I don’t really want to know.
Among The Ashes
Surveying and walking through the ashes of the army his (admittedly hated) father built, Tyrion—ever empathetic and violence-averse Tyrion—grapples with the impact that his chosen leader can have upon life. Men, horses, she can reduce them all to the same fine mist in a second. It’s almost as if Tyrion is walking on the lifeless surface of the moon. That’s how much destructive power he follows.
Kneel, One Way Or The Other
How brutal is that? Men kneeling, by choice, but only because they know—and see before them—the other choice: Those who refused to kneel ended up being brought low anyway.
Two strategists seeking each other’s counsel, perched on the steps leading up to their queen’s throne. The picture tells the full story: They have sway, but not too much.
Look To The Cliffs
Seven Set Forth
Is it too much of a cliche to compare a gate to a mouth?
Fire In The Blizzard
In the confusion and the whiteout where all is shades of grey and blue, two sabres erupt in bright, violent yellow flame. I appreciate very much that the action here is in the background, as it makes the two warriors and their swords look that much more mythical.
This shot, even more than all the aerial ones, really made me appreciate just how fucked our seven ‘Lads On Tour: On Ice’ men really were. Aerial is fine if you want logistics, but to be right there with them for a second, in the quiet before the storm, the undead enemy stretching across the horizon—well, that’s something else.
The Other Money Shot
I remember when the trailer for this season of Game of Thrones came out and they showed this shot. I really wish they hadn’t, because I thought about it endlessly, to the detriment of my day to day life. It’s perfect. It’s just the right angle, and Beric (Richard Dormer) is showing exactly the right mixture of fear and conviction. And that’s the best the show’s flaming swords have ever looked.
To Know Fear
Inevitability. This is what it looks like. The methodical way the camera tracks the Night King’s movements as he’s about to break our hearts makes it all the more tragic. We know he’s going to succeed. The camera is screaming it at us. And no matter how much we scream at it, we are powerless.
The Ice Tells The Story
Aerial shots. Logistics. This is what a pristine frozen lake looks like after an undead army is assaulted by three dragons, one of which is brought down in a ball of blood and fire. It’s a moment of stillness after the madness and it gives respite, but also perspective.
Aww. Smiles. Vulnerability. Longclaw. Promise of incest to come. It’s all there.
Nothing too special aeshetically here, but Brienne and The Hound talking proudly about Arya as if she was their terrifying murder baby is just too good to pass up.
A Queen’s Arrival
Dany, ever fond of grand entrances, needed to make her grandest one yet. I would say she succeeded. The camera keeps us grounded with her audience in this grand amphitheatre as she swoops down on her mightiest dragon, shaking the earth and sending bits of stone structure flying. Drogon, having just lost a sibling, makes sure to show his anger too.
Where Dwarves Dare To Tread
Closer to us, nice warm colours. There, where Tyrion dares to go, maybe to imminent death, cold and foreboding. We can’t even see what he sees. That’s horror movie material.
I’m a sucker for Theon Redemption. I know he’s done some absolutely unforgivable things, but for some reason I just keep rooting for him after his Ramsey ordeal. Maybe because deep down I consider it punishment enough, or maybe it’s just Alfie Allen’s portrayal. Either way shots like this don’t hurt. It’s almost Biblical.
Snow Falls On King’s Landing
Finally! Finally the dumb bastard is free! It took so long, oh-so-bloody long for Jaime Lannister to free himself of the evil grasp and toxic love of his sister. It took him so damn long that the snows came to King’s Landing. By the time Jaime finally got out, hell froze over.
The Pack Survives
This shot brought to you by Wes Anderson.
The Wall Comes Down
The whole ice dragon sequence was quite a spectacular orgy of CGI. And while I usually don’t go so mad for that kind of stuff, I have to admit that the sight of the blue dragon flame not just destroying the wall from one side, but breaking through the wall entirely was pretty fucking great at showing us exactly what kind of a coup the Night King had orchestrated.
The Beginning Of The End
DID YOU KNOW THE ARMY OF THE DEAD MADE THE STARK SIGIL IN THE SNOW WHEN SEEN FROM ABOVE, BRAN IS TOTALLY THE NIGHT KING?!
Whether that particular fan theory happens to be one of the truer ones or whether it ends up being another ‘Arya Was Totally Just Acting Dumb In Braavos’, this shot of the endless horde and their dragon-riding leader bringing death to Westeros is pretty goddamn effective at selling us on the War For The Dawn.
And, finally, of course, the sexiest of all:
Nah just kidding here you go you filthy animals
And, you know, obviously:
Jon Snow's butt pic.twitter.com/4IBpgkRTZv— Fibonacci Perfection (@FibonacciSpiral) August 29, 2017
You can thank Kristy for that one.