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Game of Numbers: 5 Most Expensive ‘Game of Thrones’ Episodes

With dragons, epic battles, intricate costumes, and massive sets, there is no doubt that Game of Thrones is the most expensive television show of all time. The amount spent on each episode pays off, though, as it has been both critically and commercially successful throughout its six-season run.

One of the most staggering budgets allotted by the show is the salary paid to five actors who play key characters in the series, namely Emilia Clarke, Kit Harrington, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, and Peter Dinklage—all of them are awarded with a handsome $5 million annual paycheck. To add to this is the $12 million contract tied in with author of the books himself, Mr. George R.R. Martin. To top it all, there are other characters whose paychecks are on the rise along with the number of extras and production crews in tow. Needless to say, HBO has spent a pretty penny keeping the show on air, and considering its massive following, it seems like their investment has paid off.

The show recently wrapped up its sixth season, and fans are left waiting for another 10 months until the next one rolls in. To help you cope with your GoT addiction, ExploreTalent is counting down the most expensive Game of Thrones episodes aired so far.

5. “Mother’s Mercy,” Season 5 Episode 10

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Fans of the show would remember the haunting chant “shame, shame” while Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) walked down the streets of King’s Landing naked. The whole scene was shot in the beautiful city of Dubrovnik, Croatia, and while Headey used a body double, it still was an expensive one to shoot.

Filming was moved to the other side of the city with 200 security guards on post. On top of paying for security, production set aside a staggering $200,000 for city permits for the entire four-day shoot.

4. “Hardhome,” Season 5 Episode 8

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“Mother’s Mercy” may have eased it out on the special effects, but in stark contrast, “Hardhome” was undoubtedly full of it. In this episode, Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) travels to form alliances with the wildlings in their town of Hardhome. Just when the elders are nearly decided on Jon’s proposal, an army of Whitewalkers launch an attack.
According to Harrington, the massacre at Hardhome took the production four weeks to shoot against a budget of $7 to $10 million. The major set battle sequence lasted for 20 minutes and involved about 400 extras and 50 stuntmen.

3. “Blackwater,” Season 2 Episode 9

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“Blackwater” is the nineteenth episode of the entire series, and it was at that time the most expensive one yet. The episode reportedly costs over $10 million to make, that’s way over the $2 million budget per episode allotted for that season. The show enlisted the help of English film director Neil Marshall (known for his work in the outstanding horror film The Descent), and this was the first of two episodes he directed for the series.
The plot centers around King’s Landing under siege when Stannis Baratheon goes after the Iron Throne. It then results in an epic battle that involved setting a fleet of ships on fire. Writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss told the EW that they needed to beg HBO for the budget, and the episode almost did not air because of that. In the end, everything worked to their favor, and “Blackwater” garnered praise from audiences.

2. “The Watchers on the Wall,” Season 4 Episode 9

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Neil Marshall’s second episode for Game of Thrones was yet another epic battle, this time taking place in Castle Black. An army of wildlings launch an attack on The Wall, while the brothers of the Night’s Watch, led by both Jon Snow and Ser Allison Thorne (Owen Teale), swear by their oaths to protect it.
Production took about nine weeks to complete, with four weeks spent planning, conceptualizing the CGI that included giants and mammoths, and choreographing the whole fight scene. As a result, Marshall was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series for this episode.

1. “Battle of the Bastards,” Season 6 Episode 9

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“Battle of the Bastards” is perhaps the most critically acclaimed episode of the entire series. It became the highest-rated show in cable television as well, a feat so incredible considering it was pitted against Game 7 of the 2016 NBA finals.

The plot follows Jon Snow engaging in a vicious battle against Ramsey Bolton (Iwan Rheon) as the former attempts to reclaim his former home in Winterfell. On top of that, the episode also featured Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke)who reunites with her dragons and forms new alliances.

The entire war sequence for “Battle of the Bastards” was inspired by historical accounts including the Battle of Canae, in which hundreds of Roman soldiers were slaughtered when they were trapped in an encirclement. Filming of the battle required 25 days, 500 extras, 600 crew members, and 70 horses. The specific budget is not yet released, but experts have calculated that it could have totaled up to $10 million.