Seege Vega

Director - Screenwriter - Award Winning Noir Novelist

A View from Behind the Camera - GoT episode 6 x 4 - Where Will You Go scene

Good evening, everyone. Time for another analysis for season 6. Tonight I will be looking at the “Where Will You Go?” scene that comes immediately after the reunion. Once again, in case some stray person wanders into this blog by accident, let me say I will be focusing on the directorial and acting choices of the characters in the scene. In this case Jon and Sansa. 

Let’s start off with the choice of transition cut from the courtyard reunion scene into the by the fire. It’s a hard cut. What that means is we switch directly from the courtyard embrace to finding our characters seated by the fire. We can see that some passage of time has occurred ‘behind the scenes’ as Sansa is now cloaked in Jon’s pelt and is holding soup. Also Jon as a horn of ale/mead. What is telling is that there is no scene between this and the previous. GoT tends to bounce around between locals and storylines throughout an episode. I know that the editing of each scene is specific so that certain scenes follow others. For example in Season 7, which I will be talking about in depth in a later post, we see a scene of Jon and Dany speaking of her inability to have children. That scene is immediately followed by one of Sansa in Winterfell. If you think that is not a deliberate choice then you’d be incorrect in your assumption. However, more on that scene later

Back to this scene. The camera angle for the establishing shot is a close up of Sansa with Jon in foreground slightly out of a focus.

This is commonly referred to as favor on, in this case favoring Sansa. The audience can see that Jon starts with focus on the fire but in less than a beat he is focused on Sansa. (A beat is the terminology that we use in the entertainment industry to mean a passage of time. Usually it’s a few seconds or so. It’s actor’s discretion how long the beat is and a director can tell them longer or shorter depending on the take or the rehearsal) Jon maintains his focus on Sansa for a full 8 seconds without so much as a blink. Remember in a cinematic/theatrical world 8 seconds is an eternity. It equates to roughly 192 frames of film just for this held gaze. We don’t change camera angles either. Sansa is directed to notice that he is staring at her and her first line is something innocuous.  “This is good soup.” The screenwriters wanted us to understand that they are slightly out of sorts with each other. They are ‘learning each other’ That would be the note I would give them both if I was directing this scene.

Remember this is also the first time in the entire series thus far that they speak to each other and they are the only two characters in the scene. What follows is a short conversation about what life was like before all this horror and pain. It is also one of the few times in the last 6 seasons we see either character smile and laugh in a genuine fashion. 

The next shot we have is one from outside the doorway looking in. This is framing them in front of the fire as a couple. Yes it looks cool but it also has a purpose. That is to start establishing Sansa and Jon as a couple - romantic, power, or otherwise. It shows them as a unified front for the barest of seconds. 

Now we get alternating medium close-ups as each delivers lines in this conversation back and forth. A volley of shots and conversation. We see them happy with each other as Sansa apologizes for her past transgressions when she was a child and Jon smiles and laughs with her. We then get a medium close up of Sansa silently asking for the ale. This brings us to the first of two faces Jon makes in the scene that are actually very specific acting choices. He looks at her as if to ask “Are you sure?” We cut back to her with her expression being one of a confident ‘yes’. Then back to him where his expression is now one of pride. Yet there is not a single word spoken. While it is a small section of this scene and seemingly easy to miss, it is important. These are the looks that are starting to establish the foundations for the relationship they are building together. These are things the ‘old’ Jon and Sansa would not have done. 

The tone immediately shifts as we stay focused on Sansa. She is fearful in this next moment, clearly directed to be as such. “Where will we go” This is a telling comment by Jon. He’s found his home and he’s not about to let it go. 

Now we come to the other telling acting choice Kit makes in the scene. When Sansa says ‘We’ll take it back from them’ referring to ousting the Boltons from Winterfell he moves back on his seat and his face is shocked. Not overly dramatic shocked but enough to tell the audience that Jon is starting see the changes in Sansa. Kit’s an expressive actor. He uses his face and body to convey what Jon is thinking or how he is reacting. That’s what makes him so very good at this. Sophie is as well. It works for them in their scenes together because much of the time their dialogue is subtext or unspoken looks. 

After a few lines of dialogue, Sansa is directed to stand and walk behind Jon to a table. The obvious movement is placing the bowl on the table but there’s so much more to it. Jon is still seated with Sansa standing behind him. She is in the position of power at this point. She is the alpha in the room. We are also back to the same camera angle and lighting choice as the top of the scene. Sansa in full focus, Jon off to one side of the shot and out of focus. The difference is their positions have now shifted. The camera is at a low angle in front of Jon.

Jon now stands and the camera cuts to a POV shot in Sansa’s position. She isn’t in the frame. We are her as he speaks the next lines and mid-crosses to her. Only once in his speech does the camera do a split second POV switch to Sansa’s face. Also it is important to note the lighting in this scene. It is specifically lit to highlight only one side of each characters’ faces. Wall scones in the foreground behind each of their shoulders. Since only the opposing half of the actor’s face is lit that means when taken as a whole they make one full face, or symbolizing one Stark front. Unification again.

“I want you to help me but I’ll do it myself if I have to” is the line that ends the scene. The last shot we as the audience see is Sansa looking into Jon’s face. Her eyes searching all over his features. 

Well there you have it. Next up I’ll tackle the letter from Ramsey Bolton scene. This one will be a fun one as we have not only Jon and Sansa involved in this scene but four other characters. 

I hope you are all enjoying these posts because I’m having a blast writing them. Until next time! 

A View from behind the Camera - GoT analysis

When I watch a movie or a TV show the first time through I watch for pure enjoyment or entertainment. The second or any subsequent viewing I tend to focus on different technical aspects. "Why do I think certain camera angles were chosen, what was the motivation of the actor to make a specific choice, how lighting effects a shot?" are just some of the thoughts running around my head at that point. I was thinking I would start a blog here on my website to articulate those thoughts. Since I have been re-watching the last two seasons of Game of Thrones I will start there. In reality this is an exercise for me in scene analysis. 

Let’s start with the reunion scene between Jon and Sansa on Game of Thrones, season 6 episode 4. The first significant shot we get is the overhead camera angle as Sansa, Brienne, and Pod ride through the open gates of Castle Black. A high-angle or overhead shot is utilized mainly, but not always, to show vulnerability for the subjects in the frame. In this case Sansa. She is on the run from the tortures of Ramsay and the life she’s endured thus far and entering Castle Black is her hope that Jon will be there. To be reunited with something or someone who can connect her back to her life, her own identity. 

Next we have Sansa dismounting. She is specifically directed to have her back to the stairway and landing that Jon is now at the top of. Jon is ONLY seeing a tall, woman in a cloak with red hair. He does not have a clue who she is until the next establishing shot when Sansa turns. He may even be under the belief she is Ygritte come back to life. Jon takes a step back from the railing and we are afforded a closeup of this reaction. Pure shock and disbelief. If I was directing this moment that would be the note I would have given Kit .Remember at this time Jon doesn’t really know who of his family is dead or alive. It would be safe to assume he believes they are all gone. 

The next shot we get is a POV cam over Jon’s shoulder looking down into the courtyard of Castle Black. This puts the audience in Jon’s head as he looks at her. The director has framed Sansa between the shoulders of Edd and Jon. Brienne is focused on Sansa with her hand on her sword, as is Pod. This direction was given for the reason that neither of Sansa’s companions know Jon, by look or by personality, so they are watching what unfolds to make sure Sansa is safe with this stranger now gazing down at her. 

The POV now shifts to a wider shot of Jon as he descends the stairs. Every action is slow and deliberate. That would be a specific note from the director to all the actors involved. It would have been easy for the director to say “run to one another” but that would diminish the intensity of emotion being conveyed. Also Jon never looks away from Sansa’s face. He is focused solely on her and her alone. We switch POV briefly to focus on Sansa with a medium closeup. She has a touch of fear in her eyes. She honestly doesn’t know how Jon is going to react. Back to Jon in a long angle shot as he completes his cross from the stairs to stand in front of her. We also switch to his immediate POV as he crosses, putting us directly in his shoes and eyes. The distance between them is no accident and would be a marked place by the director and camera crew. They are simply meant to stand that far apart from each other at the moment in the scene.

There is a deliberate pause in the action once Jon stops in front of her. The director likely wanted to build the tension up as we the audience anticipate what might occur to these two characters who have not seen each other since season 1. Also it’s important to remember that Sophie and Kit have NEVER had scenes together until right now. There is a full five seconds before we get the below action. Five seconds may not seem like much but in the theatrical/cinematic world it translates to a lifetime. The amount of time would again be a clear and precise directorial choice. The note to K and S would have been something like ‘take a few beats before you embrace” 

The next shot we have is the embrace itself. The type of action is telling as well. It could have been directed as a hug with Jon wrapping her in his arms with her head on his chest or shoulder, despite her taller height it can be done blocking-wise. It could have been a quick perfunctory action. But it’s not. Sansa vaults herself into Jon’s arms knowing that he will catch her. Then the embrace becomes a full bodied meshing of the two of them. We get alternating close-ups of Sansa and Jon’s faces so we can see the emotion that overcomes both of them. 

It is also important to note that Brienne has been given the note to leave her hand on the hilt of her sword. The shot is wide enough and angled just enough so that the audience can see that, as well as her head drop when they embrace. She is giving them a moment of privacy in a crowded world. Once again this is a deliberate direction note. Brienne is protector and guardian of Sansa. Until she is sure that Jon is willing to acknowledge Sansa, Brienne is at the ready. Her character demands it.  

Finally we need to note the placement of Jon’s hand on Sansa’s back as well as both actor’s reactions to the hug. Neither open their eyes. This would have been purposeful as well. It would convey that the characters are lost in the comfort and familiarity of each other for a moment. The pain of their pasts can drift away for a bit and they can revel in their connection. Jon’s hand rests between the shoulder blades and he moves it up and down in a comforting manner, all the while hugging her as tight as possible. Again this would be a specific note from the director. “Hold each other as if you will never let go again” 

The entire scene leaves the audience with the feeling of She is his home and He is hers. It also only occupies one minute of total screen time from Sansa’s entrance through the gates to the crossfade to the next scene. Every camera angle would be precise to tell the story the director wanted in this brief but powerful scene.