The watch has ended for “Game of Thrones” fans, but Sunday’s behind-the-scenes documentary gave a closer look at the sheer magnitude of manpower and logistics that went into creating the show’s epic final season.
Over the course of two hours, “Game of Thrones: The Last Watch” chronicles season eight of the HBO fantasy hit, following the location teams, production designers, background artists and more, providing fans with a closer look at the hard work of the unsung heroes behind one of the biggest shows in television history.
“Every episode has as much in it as one feature film — but we have to do it quicker and with less money,” muses executive producer Bernie Caulfield of the epic undertaking.
And the scale only increased as the show went on. ““All we were doing in seasons four, five, six and seven was training for season eight,” production designer Deborah Riley tells the cameras early on. “This season we’ve certainly found the limit of what can be achieved. Game of Thrones has to be finished, because it cannot get any bigger.”
Here are a few more things we learned during “Game of Thrones: The Last Watch”.
1. Some of the episode titles changed from production to air.
Whether it was a creative change, or merely a ploy to prevent spoilers, a glimpse at a script during the cast’s final season table read revealed that episode four of the final season, “The Last of the Starks”, was originally titled “The Faith of Angels”.
2. And there were even more fake-outs during filming.
For one of the series’ final scenes — the council meeting between the most powerful lords and ladies of Westeros in the Dragonpit at King’s Landing — production flew out a few “ringers” to Seville, Spain, to keep fans guessing. Behind-the-scenes footage showed Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha), The Waif (Faye Marsay) and the Night King (Vladimír Furdík) all in costume, though their characters did not appear in the scene.
Even Kit Harington was there, “basically as a decoy,” the actor joked — though it seems he did lend a hand to the make-up team.
3. Daenerys’ death scene was just as shocking during the cast’s table read as on the show.
Harington, who famously admitted that he didn’t read the scripts prior to the table read, had a visceral reaction as the cast made their way through the scene in the series finale where Jon stabs Dany as they kiss in the scorched throne room — holding his head in his hands and pushing his chair back from the table as he experienced the betrayal for the first time.
Equally emotional was Varys’ death scene, during which co-stars Lena Headey and Gwendoline Christie comforted Conleth Hill as his character’s final moments played out.
4. Truthfully, everyone’s final scene caused a bit of an existential crisis.
The final season was clearly an emotional one for the entire “Game of Thrones” cast and crew. Emilia Clarke shared an emotional moment with her hair and makeup team when she put her wig on for the first time at the start of the season, and another when it came time to don Daenerys’ bleach-blonde locks for her final scene of the show.
“There’s so many people involved in this — it’s people’s everything,” the actress marvelled. “It’s kind of exciting to think, ‘Oh, who am I without this?'”
Following her final shots, Clarke shared a hug with D.B. Weiss and returned to the hair and makeup trailer to find “Goodbye Dany, Hello Emilia” written on the mirror.
After his own final shots, Harington grew visibly emotional as he gave a speech to the remaining cast and crew. “I feel like my heart is breaking,” he told the crowd, choking back tears. “I love this show more than anything. It has never been a job for me, it has been my life. This will always be the greatest thing I’ll ever do and be a part of.”
5. The production team had to build a fake Croatia in Ireland.
While the King’s Landing scenes were usually shot on location in Dubrovnik, Croatia, for the final season, the team had to construct fake buildings and streets for the scenes in which Daenerys’ dragonfire razes the city to ash.
“We built a city in seven months,” Riley marvelled before the cameras arrived. No small feat, considering the harsh winter weather in Ireland and risk of spoilers from a massive Ferris wheel that was set up right across the street.
6. For the crew, there were some familiar faces among the Free Folk.
Barrie and Sarah Gower, a husband and wife team of prosthetic makeup artists on the show, had plenty of work to be proud of in the final season, but by far their sweetest moment came when they got to watch their young daughter dress up in costume as wildling child for the final shot of the series, in which Jon Snow ventures beyond The Wall with the Free Folk.
7. The Game of Thrones production office had an amazing themed Christmas tree.
Complete with “Sansa Claus” ornaments, a Jon Snow angel and more!
8. Andrew McClay is truly the star of the show.
The devoted background actor was the highlight of “The Last Watch”, as cameras followed him through initial wardrobe fittings — where costumers knew him by name — through the gruelling weeks of night shoots, and finally, to his last scene after several years on the show, where he shared a sweet moment with Harington after giving the star his extras jacket from the final season.
The pair even wrapped their series runs on the same day, and both were equally choked up at saying goodbye to the show that meant so much to them. “It really has changed my life — it’s been the best five years of my life,” McClay told the cameras.
So where can he be seen next? Running “GoT”-themed tours of Belfast of course!
See more on the “Game of Thrones” finale in the video below.
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