It’s been over a week since Game of Thrones aired its last episode ever, and us fans are still trying to fill the void. It may not have developed exactly as some of the fans hoped for, but there is no denying that it was one of the greatest shows created – especially in terms of acting talent, set production, costume, and make-up.
And now, the behind-the-scenes documentary, Game of Thrones: The Last Watch, takes us through the process of how the last season of one of the most expensive and elaborate TV shows ever came to be.
Directed by Jeanie Finlay, the documentary unravels the efforts that the complete cast and crew put into bringing alive a fictional world.
Here are some of the finest moments that showcase how the complete team dealt with the unexpected challenges, the expected goodbyes, and the neverending expectations of fans:
1. The first table reading for S8, where the cast was surprised and emotional, all at the same time.
The crew revealed that though the main starcast is provided the script three days in advance, not everyone may read it before the first table read.
And that becomes glaringly obvious when, at the first table read, the cast erupts in cheers on reading about Arya’s ‘killer’ jump.
Clearly, Jon Snow actually knew nothing, because Kit Harrington could not control his emotional reaction on realizing he’s the one to kill Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clark).
When his last scene is read, Conleth Hill shuts the script and keeps it on the table, even as his co-actors and friends Lena Headley and Gwendoline Christie comfort him.
I love how Conleth Hill tossed his script after his last line so he didn’t even have to read along with Varys’ death scene. And totally teared up at Lena Headey and Gwendoline Christie comforting him. #TheLastWatch pic.twitter.com/JDCVMCP39U— Jillian Sederholm (@JillianSed) May 27, 2019
Emilia Clarke looked on emotionally, as Jorah Mormont’s (Iain Glen) last fight – where he dies protecting his queen – is read out loud.
2. The documentary reveals the extent to which the show’s creators go to avoid leaks.
The scripts were shredded after the table read, and actors received digital copies to practice. Decoys – actors who’re no longer a part of the series or the scenes being shot – were invited to locations to confuse the fans and paparazzi.
During one of the scenes (the last roundtable) in Spain, actors who play the Waif (Faye Marsay) and Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha) were invited, along with the Night King (Vladimír Furdík).
Even Kit Harrington roamed the streets, as a decoy, since he was not actually a part of the scene.
Even the guards on the location weren’t given complete details about the shoots, and drones were forbidden after a point.
3. The duality of the Night King’s off-screen life.
Vladimír Furdík has portrayed the Night King since season 6. However, he’s been a stuntman and stunt director – on and off the show – for far longer.
Throughout the documentary, he talks about how he became a part of the business and how acting may be tougher than performing stunts. There’s also a genuine moment of confusion where he wonders if belongs with the crew or the cast.
It also highlights his moment of glory as fans recognize him without the makeup and try to get his pictures and autograph.
4. Barrie and Sarah Gower – the husband-wife team behind the amazing prosthetics – meet their daughter after months of being on-site and away from her.
Emmy winners Sarah and Barrie Gower never imagined they’ll end up working on Game of Thrones. In fact, when they applied to work on the show, they didn’t have a team or a workshop in place.
But their designs got them selected, and today, they’ve nailed the prosthetics for every character.
However, the extended shoots kept them away from their daughter, which wasn’t easy on the family.
Which is what makes her arrival on the set a beautiful moment. She even gets the chance to star as an extra on the show (a wildling child who crosses with Jon Snow to beyond the wall).
Just FYI, The Night King, the wights, the battle wounds – that’s all prosthetic make-up, not visual effects.
5. Building a fictional King’s Landing, only to blow it up.
Traditionally the scenes revolving around King’s Landing have been shot in Croatia. However, for season 8, King’s Landing needed to burn to the ground – literally.
And art director and production designer Deborah Riley and her crew managed to build a whole city – only to see it blow up.
Over a period of seven months, faced with unpredictable weather, GoT’s production team managed to bring alive a whole city. And that deserves to not just be noted but also appreciated.
6. The journey of an ‘extra’ on the show.
The documentary also follows the journey of actor Andrew McClay, an extra on the show. He has been a part of all the major armies and battle sequences over the eight seasons.
From being a part of Stannis’ army to Jon Snow’s personal guard in the last season, McClay has seen it all.
And as his watch ends – right alongside Kit Harrington’s – the documentary draws a beautiful comparison on how it’s an emotional end for both.
7. When Emilia Clarke bids an emotional goodbye to her wigs – and the crew – on her last day on the set.
From the moment she gets ready for her last day on set, by putting on her wig (which is a separate process in itself), Emilia Clarke battles conflicting emotions about it all coming to an end – something hair supervisor on the show, Candice Banks, shares with her.
8. When Kit Harrington tries and fails at controlling his emotions after his last scene is shot.
Even Kit Harrington barely holds in the tears, as he thanks not the crew but rather the family, he’s built on Game of Thrones.
Director David Nutter (who has directed multiple episodes across the eight seasons) comments during the documentary that he’s like a conductor, managing the various, talented, musicians on the set. And the documentary brings alive exactly that.
Whether it’s highlighting the toll that 11 weeks of night shoots take on everyone (the cast and crew) or showcasing how even seemingly minute details – like building fake snow (that Del Reid aces at) – are actually mammoth tasks, the documentary shows why the final season was so special for all of the creators.
The documentary truly deserves credit for bringing to the forefront, not the main characters, but rather, the silent soldiers on and off camera, who’ve also lived, breathed, and survived Game of Thrones for over eight years. It’s as much their story as it is the tale of ‘fire and ice’.
All images are screenshots from the documentary on Hotstar, unless specified otherwise.