Through its eight season run on HBO, Game of Thrones featured increasingly epic battle sequences. Jon Snow’s engagements alone highlight the escalation in martial scale from season 3’s “The Watchers on the Wall” to season 5’s “Hardhome” to season 6’s “Battle of the Bastards.”
As the show’s popularity grew, so too did its budget, creating an opportunity for more Medieval-era military spectacle. That also means, however, that some of the show’s earlier attempts at big scale battles fell a little short in hindsight.
No episode is a better example of that than season 2’s penultimate installment “Blackwater.” Taking its name from Stannis Baratheon’s Blackwater-based siege of King’s Landing, this hour-long battle was Game of Thrones‘ first real attempt at a Lord of the Rings Helm’s Deep-level battle. And for what we were used to seeing on television at the time, it was entirely successful. “Blackwater” certainly felt properly huge thanks to all its CGI ships, soldiers in heavy armor, and Tyrion’s ingenious Wildfire maneuver. It’s only after seeing some of Thrones‘ even bigger battles later on that one becomes aware of just how much the second season of the show had to leave on the table.
In George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” book series, and in A Clash of Kings in particular, the Blackwater battle is much bigger than its TV counterpart. That’s to be expected when comparing the size of Martin’s imagination to the depths of HBO’s pocket book. Not only that, but naval battles present unique challenges that land battles quite simply don’t. That became clear in even some of Game of Thrones latter seasons when Euron Greyjoy’s supposed naval superiority was largely held in check by the show’s dragon budget.
With House of the Dragon season 2 on the horizon though, it sounds like the Game of Thrones decision-makers want to make up for Blackwater and Euron’s relative faults and finally stage an epic battle on the open seas. This news comes from The Hollywood Reporter‘s interview with House of the Dragon stunt coordinator Rowley Irlam.
Much of the interview focuses on Irlam and his team’s superb HotD season 1 stunt work. Then, near the end, Irlam stretches his NDA as far as it will go to hint at an upcoming major battle in season 2.
“It’s not a secret that in this story there’s a battle at sea [Dragon is based on George R.R. Martin’s book Fire & Blood, which describes the massive Battle of the Gullet]. I think that’s where we’re headed,” Irlam told THR.
The Battle of the Gullet that THR helpfully fills in the blanks on is indeed a massive one. According to the canonical sources in Martin’s Targaryen prequel Fire & Blood, it’s one of the largest known sea battles in Westerosi history (though the fictional Archmaester writing Martin’s book had not yet witnessed the events of Blackwater). Not only that but “The Gullet” refers to a geographical feature of Blackwater Bay. It’s basically the Blackwater Battle 1.0.
The Battle of the Gullet occurred in the year 130 AC and was one of the Dance of the Dragon civil war’s earliest confrontations. If House of the Dragon wants to include the Gullet, it will almost certainly have to occur in season 2. You can read the full details of the event over at the Wiki of Ice and Fire here but we’ll provide a relative spoiler-free set up below.
As witnessed in the events of House of the Dragon‘s season 1 finale, the Seven Kingdoms currently has two claimants to the Iron Throne – Aegon II in King’s Landing and Rhaenyra I on Dragonstone. Given that Dragonstone and King’s Landing are separated only by Blackwater Bay, it makes perfect sense that the civil war would eventually find itself the bay’s murky waters. And indeed it does. The battle involves King’s Landing’s ships, House Velaryon’s impressive navy, and even some galleys from the Free Cities. The battle also features several major characters from the story and at least one major death.
This should be a big one – potential penultimate episode or even finale stuff. And for what it’s worth, it seems that the House of the Dragon team is perfectly aware that this is a second chance for the franchise to have a proper Blackwater fight.
“The desire is to expand our repertoire to a large sea battle,” Irlam said. “You can do a sea battle in a car park, but it won’t necessarily feel the same. But there are water tanks, and there’s a tank here in Leavesden. If you’re going to do it, I think you need to do it in a tank. But let’s see what happens.”
The stunt coordinator is undoubtedly pressing against the constraints of his NDA once again but why would Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden in the U.K. have water tanks if not to be used to drown Targaryen soldiers in?