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A week following the series finale, Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and Dan Weiss have yet to break their silence about the ending. The writing team who brought George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels to stunning life did not participate in an “Inside the Episode” feature following “The Iron Throne,” their typical venue for post-episode discussion. As such, many in the audience hoped they were saving their remarks for Game of Thrones: The Last Watch, the feature-length documentary directed by Jeanie Finlay, dedicated to the creation of the final season.
By now, of course, we should know what happens when Game of Thrones and “hope” mix together.
With the exception of some brief remarks to cast and crew and wordless direction littered throughout the documentary, Game of Thrones: The Last Watch barely features Benioff and Weiss. Instead, Finlay’s exploration of the Emmy-winning series centers mostly on the other creators of Game of Thrones, the ones who are rarely afforded much time in the spotlight: producer Bernie Caulfield, prolific extra and die-hard Stark loyalist Andrew McClay, and coffee van manager Leigh McCrum (no word on the cup that wound up in “The Last of the Starks”), among others — and even the man behind the Night King, stunt performer and coordinator Vladimir Furdik.
“I love choreography. I like the process,” Furdik says at one point in the documentary, speaking while the series’ makeup team transforms him into the Night King. “You cannot be stunt man forever, but choreographer you can be forever. Thirty-three years, I am stuntman, so I prepare the actor be famous. I prepare them to look good in front of the camera, and always, I was shadow behind them. Nobody saw me. Now I’m in the front line. So I’m like, ‘Wow, what I’m doing here? Why? Why me?'”
“I think he’s angry,” Furdik adds, weighing in on his villain’s motivations. “He doesn’t want to be Night King. The Children of the Forest changed him, and now he’s, ‘OK, you want me to be Night King? OK. Now I kill you.'”
Furdik’s thoughts on the Night King are among the deepest character insights found throughout The Last Watch. The documentary shies away from exploring the women and men found within the world of Westeros, and instead shines a spotlight on the women and men bringing Westeros to life through scouting, special effects, set design and the sheer act of fueling other human beings with caffeine and comfort food. Indeed, one memorable scene in the documentary sees several extras in full Army of the Dead regalia, shoveling piping hot curry into their undead faces.
As for the main cast, their appearances are few and far between, though Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow themselves, Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington, are afforded a couple of breakout moments: the first and final hair and makeup sessions of the season for Clarke, as well as the emotional table read and series wrap for Harington. At one point, the documentary explores Harington trying to return to his hotel in Seville, Spain, where he’s not even filming, and is only on hand to confuse fans hungry for spoilers; similarly, Thrones veterans Tom Wlaschiha (“Jaqen H’Ghar”) and Faye Marsay (“The Waif”) were also on location in Seville for the same spoiler-preventing purposes.
Truth be told, it’s the table read that should garner the most attention from fans looking for insight into how the cast reacted to learning the final season’s secrets for the first time. Harington famously held out on reading the scripts until the table read, making his reactions all the more pure — such as the utter shock on his face when he reads the scene in which Jon kills Daenerys. For her part, Clarke simply stares across the table at Harington as the scene is read aloud, nodding with a silent look that all but screams: “I told you!”
Three other key moments featured in the table read: the death of Iain Glen’s Jorah Mormont, in which the Bear Islander is said to withstand even more punishment than Kristian Nairn’s Hodor in the infamous “hold the door” sequence; the death of the Night King, in which everyone uproariously cheers Maisie Williams’ Arya, as much a shock to the cast as it was to the audience; and the dramatic reading of Conleth Hill’s final scene as Varys. Hill has made no secret about his displeasure over Varys’ death, and if there was any doubt about how hard he took it, the documentary’s table read scene clears it right up.
Rooted more in action than words, Game of Thrones: The Last Watch expresses the intense difficulty of shooting the final season, and the series at large. House Danvers’ words “higher, further, faster” are not quite uttered, but a version of them are essentially seared into the minds of the crew members who are featured working tirelessly through two months of night shoots and well beyond. Even without an intimate look into the minds of Benioff and Weiss as they wrapped the series, The Last Watch all the same focuses on the creators of Game of Thrones — just not the ones who get the “created by” credit.
Follow THR.com/GameOfThrones for more final season coverage.
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