The Loot Train Attack (aka ‘The Battle of the Goldroad’) was a battle in Daenerys Targaryen’s war for Westeros in which Daenerys Targaryen’s Dothraki horde ambushed the combined Lannister-Tarly field army and supply train as it was returning east to King’s Landing after successfully sacking Highgarden. It was the first time that Daenerys used her dragons in battle in Westeros, riding Drogon in combat.
The episode named “The Spoils of War” is the fourth episode of the seventh season of Game of Thrones, it was written by series co-creators David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, and directed by Matt Shakman. The episode set 73 stuntmen on fire –– an industry record –– including 20 people at once for a single shot. The sequence took 18 days to shoot and pitted Jaime Lannister, Bronn, and their soldiers against Daenerys Targaryen, her dragon Drogon and the Dothraki army.
The bulk of the Lannister caravan approaches King’s Landing after the Tyrell gold – The Spoils of War – has been brought inside the city. Jaime and Bronn first hear, then see the Dothraki charging them. They move their army in position. Bronn insists Jaime ride to King’s Landing but Jaime refuses to leave his men, believing their army can hold off the Dothraki.
They are surprised to see Daenerys riding Drogon, leading the Dothraki attack. Daenerys has Drogon destroy the supply train Jaime was transporting from Highgarden. Abandoning the gold where he drops it, Bronn then manned a scorpion artillery weapon and launched a giant bolt into the dragon’s side, forcing it to land. Tending to her creature’s wound, the Targaryen queen didn’t notice Jaime charging at her on a horse.
Tyrion watches the chaos with remorse from a safe distance; as Daenerys dismounts to tend Drogon’s wound, Tyrion is shocked to see Jaime charge at her, ready to take her out. Drogon breathes fire at Jaime, but Bronn tackles him off his horse, out of the flame’s path, and into the Blackwater Rush, where Jaime begins to sink under the weight of his armor.
Director Shakman’s first step in directing the battle was choosing to focus on a specific perspective, with Shakman choosing Jaime as the main point of view, noting “To see it from a traditional fighter like Jaime to see what happens when you introduce something like napalm or the atom bomb into battle and all the sudden traditional fighting goes out the window.”, as he said in an interview with Hollywood reporter.
Shakman also noted that Tyrion was another important perspective for the battle, as he watches from afar, saying “We talked through every beat of what he was seeing, and then he imagined that in his mind and brought it to life. He’s the human intermediary there to see the battle through.” Shakman filmed Peter Dinklage as Tyrion about a mile from the battlefield, and most of his shots involved “staring at lots of different tennis balls” for eye line.
Robert McLachlan who served as cinematographer for the episode, and previously was the cinematographer for episodes including “The Rains of Castamere” and “The Dance of Dragons” in the show’s third and fifth seasons respectively. He was also interviewed about the process of creating the “Loot Train Attack.” In an interview conducted by The Verge. McLachlan revealed that the production team received the script for the episode more than a year in advance.
Going into filming, one of McLachlan’s most desired effects was the amount of smoke on the battlefield, saying “we wanted to block the sun out so the shots would have some consistency. And I knew the fire and smoke would be incredibly beautiful.” White smoke was used towards the beginning of filming, but as the battle went on, McLachlan decided to switch to black smoke, which was accomplished through burning diesel oil. This caused the crew to be required to wear masks and goggles and raised concern for HBO’s safety officer, who eventually prohibited further use of the black smoke due to health and safety concerns. Additional smoke was added later by the special effects team.
The number of extras that were utilized for filming the “Loot Train Attack” began with more than 600 extras, and gradually decreased as the weeks of filming went on, with 400 extras returning the following week, and ultimately concluded with approximately 100 extras, according to McLachlan. McLachlan also discussed the “oner” featuring Bronn, which he described as a single shot that “runs for as long as possible,” revealing that the sequence was actually three shots that were stitched together by the special effects team, led by VFX supervisor Joe Bauer.
The Loot Train Attack in Game of Thrones (2011-2019)
- Much like past episodes like "Hardhome" and "Blackwater," this episode enters the show's upper echelon on the strength with its finishing battle.
- Revealed to be the shortest episode of the show so far, at a mere 45-ish minutes, it still crammed in more action than the average season finale has managed.