In a conversation ahead of the series release, I spoke with episode cinematographer Eben Bolter about the camera’s relationship to the deaths in the series, asking why we see some deaths — like this gut punch moment with Sam — but don’t see plenty of others. “All along there were conversations about violence,” Bolter explained, “and how sometimes the most violent way to show something is to not show it at all and let the audience fill in the gaps, if you like.”
While the Naughty Dog game on which the series is based required players to get their hands dirty (and gory), the show has more room for implied violence. Bolter says that in some cases, the team decided that to “see someone’s reaction [and let] their face tell you what’s happened, and then a trickle of blood — all of those things can be more powerful.” The filmmaker gives the bulk of the credit for scenes like Sam’s tragic end and the execution of Kathleen’s prisoners to series co-creator Craig Mazin and editor Timothy Good, who Bolter calls “outstanding.”
“If I’m honest, here I would give all the credit to Craig Mazin and to Tim, our editor,” Bolter says. “Because I think what you end up with, with both of the examples you mentioned, is real elegance of restraint in the edit.”
Bolter explained that while Sam’s death scene had additional coverage, one of the scenes in episode five with brutal implications was always meant to be off-screen. “We always knew that the men were going to go into that room and it was all going to happen offscreen,” Bolter said in reference to the collaborator execution scene.