7:15am PT by Josh Wigler
'Game of Thrones': How That "Religious" Death Scene Impacts the Final Season's Future
Long ago, back when Eddard Stark (Sean Bean) was still alive and acting as Hand of the King, the Lord of Winterfell entrusted one of House Baratheon's bannermen with a great purpose: track down Gregor Clegane, the Mountain That Rides, and bring him in for justice. The bannerman: Beric Dondarrion, the Lightning Lord. The actor? Not Richard Dormer — not yet, at least.
In Game of Thrones' first season, Beric was played by David Michael Scott; Dormer took over the role in season three. By the time he stepped in, Beric was a very different man. He had a few deaths already under his belt, including a spear through the eye, all of which he overcame thanks to mysterious fire magic. He had plenty more deaths in his future, including a fateful trial by combat against the Hound (Rory McCann), brother of the Mountain. Against the odds, Sandor Clegane killed Beric that day, in front of the attentive eyes of one Arya Stark (Maisie Williams). Beric rose from the dead a few moments later, and many years down the line, all three of these fighters would find their fates intertwined again — and there may be more destiny between the three of them yet.
In "The Long Night," after several seasons waiting for the Lord of Light to reveal the real reason behind bringing Beric back from death so many times, Lord Dondarrion finally got his answer. He spends the final fight with the dead trying to save the Hound from his own fears before they team up to find and save Arya deeper within Winterfell. The mission is accomplished, but only after Beric takes a cue from the late Hodor (Kristian Nairn) and uses his own body to hold off the wicked wights trying to kill Arya. Even after suffering countless stab wounds, Beric manages to keep pace with Arya and Clegane, joining them in a protected hall, safe from the dead. There, without a final word, Beric finally collapses in a bloody heap, his destiny fulfilled. Arya would go on to kill the Night King a few moments later — and the Hound's purpose? Yet to be fulfilled, but you know what's coming. You've always known.
As it turns out, Beric did have a final word, though it wasn't one uttered in the final cut. Ahead, Dormer joins The Hollywood Reporter to reveal secrets behind Beric's last stand, why he thinks the character was so interested in saving both Arya and the Hound (hint: Clegane Bowl hype levels are officially off the charts), and the beautiful behind-the-scenes moment he'll never forget as long as he lives.
Death was always such an important part of this character. Was there ever a version in your mind where Beric survived?
No. I always knew he was going to meet his maker. I always knew he had a purpose — and as we saw, he finally found it. It was with Arya all along.
Were you surprised by that?
I knew it would have something to do with the Starks. I knew it would be Jon Snow [Kit Harington], Arya or Sansa [Sophie Turner]. It was going to have something to do with the promise Beric made to Ned Stark all the way back in season one. I wasn't that surprised to read it.
How about when you read exactly what it would entail — that you would have your own "hold the door" moment? I saw someone online refer to it as the "Bericade."
Oh, that's very good! (Laughs) "The Bericade!" That is brilliant!
It's your own Hodor moment!
Wow. But it really was iconic! Watching it back, it was almost religious, wasn't it? It was almost Christ-like at the end. I suppose that's what he was, wasn't it? He gave himself over to the greater good.
Was it as painful to shoot the stabbings as it was for Beric to endure?
It was pretty painful. (Laughs) Did you see how hard I was hitting all that scenery? I was getting slammed all over those walls. It was brutal! I remember what it was like on the day. I don't normally watch my scenes back on the monitor, but there was one bit I wanted to see. I wanted to make sure that it looked realistic after he was stabbed. After the "Bericade," he runs. I saw this limping shadow. I felt a lump in my throat. I actually felt empathy. I felt sorry for Beric. I felt so sorry for this character. I'll never forget that. It was quite moving. He could still run after being stabbed 17 times.
After you die as many times as he has, perhaps 17 stab wounds don't have quite the same impact on his agility as they would for others in his position.
I think it's because he has to make sure Arya is safe. Once he looks into her eyes and knows she's survived the hallway, he's done his bit, and now he can die. What drives him on is almost a superhuman spiritual strength. That's what gets him through the door. It's so he can get into the room, look at Arya, and know that she's safe. He wants to say one last word to her. I said something on the day we shot it, but I'm kind of glad they didn't use it.
What did you say?
"Live." I just looked at her and said, "Live." And then, boom — he's gone. But he doesn't get to say it [in the episode], and he doesn't need to say it. Life has been his whole struggle through the series. He's been struggling to protect life, protect innocents. He's a real knight, I suppose. He was noble.
In playing the final scenes, did you allow yourself as Beric to imagine that moment of realization: "This is why I'm here. This is why the Lord of Light brought me back."
There are two moments, I think, where Beric realizes this is it. The first is where he throws his flaming sword and he protects Arya. He picks her up. You can't see it, because it's very dark, but there's a split-second look between them. He pushes her away and starts to run, and then he gets stabbed twice. I think he figures, "That's okay. I can survive this. It's just the stomach. I'm okay!" But it's when he gets slammed into the wall and the first blade almost goes into his heart. He looks down, and there's this moment of him realizing, "Finally. This is it." That's when he tries to stop them in the corridor. That's when he knows he's a goner. But he's not sad. I think he's almost relieved. At least he's dying saving somebody else.
Beyond saving Arya, Beric spends much of his final time on the show trying to save the Hound as well. So much of his energy is devoted to shoring up courage in Clegane. Why do you think he cared about the Hound so much?
He knows that his destiny, Arya's destiny and the Hound's destiny have been tied up together from day one. In some ways, he's also saving the Hound. He's saving both Arya and he's saving the Hound. He knows that the Hound can help fulfill another part of Beric's destiny: kill the Mountain. I think Beric figures, "If I save [the Hound], he's going to look after [Arya]. She's going to do something special, and he's going to do something special." There's always been a begrudging respect for the Hound. I think he likes him, too. I think Beric actually does just like the guy. They're chalk and cheese; there's no way they can be friends. And yet, here they are, protecting one another and fighting for the same goal. It's just really profound, actually.
What will you miss most about Game of Thrones? The people?
I'm going to miss my sword, my flaming sword. (Laughs) You know, when I'm wandering around my apartment looking for my cigarette lighter? I always think that if I were still Beric, I could just go, "Vroom!" Light up my cigarettes without a worry. (Big laugh) I really miss the costume, and I'm going to really miss that camaraderie. We laughed so much while we were making this show. It was a lot of hard work, but we had a lot of laughs doing it, and we sang a lot of good songs.
Is there a favorite moment we never got to see or experience the way you experienced it — something between you and the ensemble?
It was season seven, episode six, "Beyond the Wall." We're walking across a glacier. It was one of the most beautiful days with such wonderful people. It felt like we were in Valhalla. It was extraordinary, walking across this godlike landscape. It was so special. We would sit and drink tea and laugh, telling stories to each other. It felt like we were on top of the world. It was incredible.
Congratulations on the end of your run, and congratulations to Beric as well. He can finally rest.
Thank you. May the Lord of Light be with you.
And you as well.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Follow THR.com/GameOfThrones for more coverage, and read our Final Path series for more of our predictions for the final season:
1. Jon Snow
2. Daenerys Targaryen
3. Tyrion Lannister
4. Cersei Lannister
5. Jaime Lannister
6. Sansa Stark
7. Arya Stark
8. Bran Stark
9. Samwell Tarly
10. Theon Greyjoy
11. The Hound
12. Brienne of Tarth
15. Davos Seaworth
16. Jorah Mormont
18. Tormund Giantsbane
19. Beric Dondarrion
20. The Dragons
21. The Night King
22. Across the World of Ice and Fire
23. Final Predictions