TORONTO – “Game of Thrones” fans who thought last Sunday’s fiery dragon battle was a doozy may be even further blown away by this coming episode, says Vancouver-raised cinematographer Robert McLachlan.
“When I saw the rough cuts of both Sunday night’s episode and this upcoming one, most of us actually… liked the upcoming one better than the battle scene one,” the Los Angeles-based McLachlan said in a phone interview.
“Having said that, the battle one wasn’t put together and all the elements weren’t in place and the music wasn’t there and so forth. But as a really solid, satisfying episode, I actually like (the upcoming) episode 5.
“That’s all I can tell you or else HBO will come and chop my head off if I say anything more than that.”
The two-time Emmy nominee worked on both “The Spoils of War,” the dragon episode that had fans in a tizzy on social media, and the upcoming “Eastwatch” instalment. The series is adapted from novelist George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series “A Song of Ice and Fire.”
In “The Spoils of War,” directed by Matt Shakman, Daenerys Targaryen rode a fire-breathing dragon into battle.
The show now seems poised for another big battle with the White Walkers, which McLachlan said he didn’t work on.
“I tried not to pay too much attention to that episode,” said McLachlan, whose other credits include “Millennium,” “Westworld” and “Ray Donovan.”
“They filmed it in the winter after I’d come back to L.A. to start this season of ‘Ray Donovan,’ because believe it or not I’d like to be as surprised as the rest of the audience, if I can.”
Last Sunday’s episode was huge, not just because of the plot and visual effects but also the scale of production.
“What I’m hearing is that that was maybe the most expensive episode of television ever made, actually,” said McLachlan, 61, who was born in San Francisco but grew up in Vancouver.
“As soon as you put a dragon in a shot, the price of the shot goes up absolutely massively, if it’s going to be fully 3D animated.”
Shot over about 3 1/2 weeks on the outskirts of a small town in Spain late last year, the battle scene for “The Spoils of War” was planned months in advance, first with storyboarding and then a rough animated version.
Challenges included “miserable” weather and having to wrangle 400 extras, dozens of horses, horse riders, fog machines, 50 stunt professionals — and lots of fire.
“I think at one point we were occupying about 600 hotel rooms, at the beginning of the shoot,” said McLachlan.
The dragon was created through CGI so Emilia Clarke, who plays Daenerys, had to ride “a big green mechanism” that was “almost like a mechanical bull” on set, said McLachlan.
With every detail painstakingly planned so far in advance, McLachlan said it was an efficient shoot that wasn’t as daunting as a certain infamous scene he did in a previous season.
“I think I felt less pressure, even though it was obviously a massively more expensive undertaking, than I did when I photographed the Red Wedding scene in season 3,” said McLachlan.
“Because the expectations for it to be flawless and surprising were so much higher. We definitely felt the pressure on that.”
McLachlan believes the show’s heightened drama will be sustained through the finale.
“I know for sure that these writers are going to be able to do that,” he said. “(David) Benioff and (D.B. Weiss) are extremely talented and unlike any show ever on TV, they have the entire story plotted out.
“So I have absolutely no doubt that the final six episodes will be absolutely knockout fantastic and I’m really looking forward to them — because for the first time in a long time, I won’t have worked on them, so I’ll be able to properly enjoy them.”