Warning - Game of Thrones Spoilers ahead
Game of Thrones is a big hit, so it's no surprise to say that there's a lot to like about this show. Like the Marvel Superhero movies, it seems to be a part of the geek entertainment revolution. Like with those superhero movies the mainstream appeal is understandable - it's very well written and directed, the actors are talented and beautiful, the show is full of action, and, well, it's HBO, so there's also nudity and sex.
For those of us who came up reading the comic books and fantasy novels upon which this revolution is based, the fear inherent in that mainstream appeal is that the stuff that we loved about these genres will be lost.
Fortunately, GoT delivers on the geek cred as well.
This past week's episode - S6E06 Blood of My Blood - reminded me just how much I enjoy the attention to detail with respect to weapons and fight choreography.
So much of medieval fantasy material focuses on swords - from King Arthur's Excalibur up through Lord of the Rings with Sting and Glamdring and Anduril, not to mention countless others in the vast cornucopia of fantasy novels - and GoT delivers on this, as I suppose it must. Ned Stark had Ice, John Snow has Longclaw, and Brienne of Tarth has Oathkeeper, among others. There is clear attention to detail - the swords are beautiful and appropriate to the characters. And this is good.
But what I truly love is how it delivers on weapons and components of medieval martial arts that traditionally get short shrift. One of the most outstanding examples (Spoiler Alert) was the battle between Oberyn Martell and The Mountain in Season 4:
This is one of the most beautiful examples of spear fighting I've ever seen in any visual entertainment. You can find a bit of it in in eastern martial arts movies, of course (and apparently the actor that plays Oberyn trained in Wushu to prepare for this fight), but seeing a spear used in western medieval-style fantasy as a weapon of focus is very rare. This is odd, given that it was likely a very common weapon. And it is very cool to see it used here, to great effect.
The show delivered again last week (again, spoiler alert) with the arrival of Benjen Stark to rescue Bran. Here we see two separate weapons on display, in what must surely have been well researched action. The first weapon is the more obvious, if unusual: a (flaming) flail and sickle connected, I believe, by a very long chain.
The second weapon is Benjen's horse.
Thought has gone into how both of these weapons will work in the type of battle that Benjen engages in during this scene. The flail is flung, and wrapped around the walkers; the sickle is used both to hack into and to drag opponents. It's an amazing visual display.
And the horse? It dispatches two separate walkers, one with it's front hooves, and another by crushing it against a tree.
Both are things rarely seen in visual entertainment. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever seen a sickle and flail like the one employed here, and the best example I can think of with respect to use of a war horse is from Ladyhawke, which is going quite a ways back (but introduced the 14-year old me to Rutger Hauer and, let's be real here: Michelle Pfeiffer).
A little internet research suggests that there are a couple of people who likely deserve thanks for this. The fight choreographer for GoT is William Hobbs, and Tommy Dunne designs the weapons and teaches the actors how to use them. I am thankful for both of them.
In so many ways, GoT is the gift that keeps on giving.