After six seasons of relative uselessness, fans of Samwell Tarly may have thought things were looking up for the newest member of the Order of Maesters. After all, Sam went from cowardly deadweight in the Night’s Watch to at least getting the girl (Wildling Gilly, along with her baby son). Then, after convincing then-Lord Commander Jon Snow that he would be better suited in Old Town training to be Castle Black’s new Maester, Snow agreed, and Tarly rode triumphantly up to the Citadel with Gilly on his arm and his family’s ancestral sword in his hand, the very image of an unlikely hero.
But things didn’t quite turn out as planned, and Sam has been relegated to the most demeaning of duties. While others around him study freely and revel in the vast knowledge available to them, Sam must return the books in the labyrinthine library, feed watery slop to the scholars, healers, and scientists, and – worst of all – clean every bedpan and latrine in the place.
The Maesters are known by the massive chains they wear, each link of which is forged from a different metal to signify various points of study (silver for medicine, gold for accounting, Valyrian steel for “higher mysteries”, etc.). As of now, Sam has earned no chains (although he may be well on his way to receiving a brown one…).
In a montage which is stylistically unlike anything we’ve seen thus far in the show, director Jeremy Podeswa and film editor Crispin Green weave together an almost musical and cacophonous mosaic of filth. The montage shows Sam gagging as he picks up, empties, and scrubs the chamberpots. And as the days bleed together so too does the food going in…and the food that’s gone out the other side.
The character wasn’t the only one who suffered. Actor John Bradley, who plays the ill-fated Sam, actually missed the 2016 Emmy Awards in order to shoot the scene. That’s right – while the rest of the cast flew to Hollywood, and Game of Thrones broke the all-time record for awards cumulatively won by a television show, Bradley was stuck shooting disgusting take after disgusting take. The montage was shot over the course of five full days and approximately 50 to 60 hours.
“It was weird to be working so closely with the director and shooting that sequence in these five second bursts,” Bradley said in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter. “It was kind of strange, just making sure you got those tiny little microscopic five second moments in the can, and then hand it over to the editors to stitch it into the montage that it became. I had no vision of what it might look like, no expectations of what it might look like. When I saw it at the screening [in Los Angeles], that was the first time I had seen it. It was kind of extraordinary, the fact that they could take these tiny fragments and build it into a narrative.“
For all of his efforts, the result paid off. The roughly two-minute montage served not only to elicit crude laughs and visceral reactions, but lead to more important things for Samwell and possibly all of Westeros.
Renowned British character actor Jim Broadbent made his Game of Thrones debut as ArchmaesterEbrose. Little is known thus far about Ebrose, except that he is highly knowledgable regarding health and human anatomy.
Sam working under the Archmaester may pan out in some larger way (although Ian McShane’s one-episode appearance in season six shows that no character is safe from mortality, regardless of the actor’s prestige) – but Sam has refused to wait patiently. Choosing to disobey the rules, Sam broke into the library’s restricted section and, after much secretive research, discovered that Dragonstone is made of dragonglass – the material he knows firsthand can kill a White Walker.
Will this information mean that Sam will send Jon Snow to join forces with Daenerys Targaryen, who just landed with her armies at Dragonstone? And will Jorah – whom we find is degenerating quickly in a cell at the Citadel – tag along?
We’ll have to wait and see what the rest of season seven has in store for poor Sam. But whatever the case, finding this important insight has got to be a relief.