HBO’s The Last Watch documentary chronicles the production of Game of Thrones season 8, and it reveals quite a bit about the final season. Directed by Jeanie Finlay, the documentary highlights the main production in Belfast, Ireland, which had a budget of approximately $15 million per hour (according to one of the featured subjects, production designer Deborah Riley). However, The Last Watch is less about the costs of making a grandiose show such as Game of Thrones and more about the people who worked tirelessly behind the scenes.
Game of Thrones is widely regarded as one of the best television series ever produced. However, Game of Thrones’ final season polarized viewers for a variety of reasons, whether it’s the narrative pacing, the character arcs, or the lighting of the Battle of Winterfell. However one feels about Game of Thrones season 8, it’s undeniable that it was one of the most hyped and highly anticipated events in television history.
The Last Watch offers insight into the production itself, and spotlights individuals who don’t have the same recognition as the main cast. Considering how much really happened in Game of Thrones season 8, The Last Watch documentary is a great supplement to all the twists and turns, including Bran being crowned King of the Six Kingdoms. To find out more, here are the biggest reveals from The Last Watch, regarding details of Game of Thrones season 8's production from beginning to end.
How David Nutter Makes A Game Of Thrones Episode
David Nutter directed nine Game of Thrones episodes throughout the series' run, including the pilot as well as three episodes in season 8: “Winterfell,” “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms," and “The Last of the Starks." In The Last Watch, Game of Thrones crew members discuss Nutter’s meticulous preparation, most notably his hand-drawn "road maps." In fact, Nutter identifies himself as “a conductor of fine musicians,” and describes his intent to explore “the consequences of what happens to people in their lives.”
His assistant, Patrick Strapazon, breaks down the complete preparation process, detailing how the Game of Thrones director creates and prints out floor plans to determine how characters will move within a scene, and from what angles they’ll be filmed. Interestingly, Nutter prefers US Letter-sized paper, which is technically 8.5 x 11 inches. Strapazon states that “8.4 doesn’t work.” When asked why by director Finlay, he says “Don’t question the system.”
Strapazon also notes that Game of Thrones season 8 scripts were mostly accessed digitally, via iPads, but that Nutter preferred printed scripts. Nutter explains that he’s used the same method for years and later notes that he wasn’t able to direct any season 6 or season 7 episodes due to back problems. In Game of Thrones season 3, Nutter helmed the iconic Red Wedding episode, “The Rains of Castamere," and his last production prior to Game of Thrones’ final season was the season 5 finale, “Mother’s Mercy,” otherwise known as The Walk of Shame episode.
Near the end The Last Watch, Nutter discusses his direction for “The Last of the Starks,” specifically the funeral pyre sequence. He states that he wants “the journey to be just as positive as the end product,” and also notes that “the show saved my life” after physical health problems. In addition, Nutter reveals that he “wanted to be the next Barry Manilow” as a child, but ultimately discovered that he could move people emotionally through filmmaking. As a whole, The Last Watch focuses on Nutter’s personable approach with the Game of Thrones cast, allowing for genuine and moving performances.
The Night King Choreographed Cleganebowl
In Game of Thrones season 8, Vladimir Furdik portrayed the Night King, and he also worked as a stunt man. The Last Watch heavily focuses on his experiences, specifically his choreography preparation with stunt man Ratsa Parvanov, stunt coordinator Rowley Irlam, and assistant stunt coordinator Paul Shapcott. During a sequence that documents the re-creation of King’s Landing in Belfast, Furdik is seen choreographing the highly-anticipated Cleganebowl between The Hound and The Mountain. “I love choreography," Furdik states, “I like the process.”
He also notes that while he can’t be a stunt man forever, he can be a choreographer forever. The Last Watch often returns to Furdik as he discusses his 33-year career as a stunt man, along with the attention to detail that makes his Game of Thrones fight sequences so unique and effective.
While The Last Watch highlights Furdik’s stunt expertise and big personality, it also shows a vulnerable side. As the Night King, the Slovakian performer is prominently featured in Game of Thrones season 8’s Battle of Winterfell. In the HBO doc, Furdik notes how the Night King brings him to the dark side, and also that he felt uncomfortable about his role - is he a stunt man or an actor? While discussing the Night King’s final scene with Bran in the Godswood of Winterfell, Furdik comes to the conclusion that “it’s better to be a stunt man” since acting is “not so easy.”
Jon & Daenerys' First Dragon Scene Was Shot In Iceland
The majority of The Last Watch takes place in Belfast; however, a key scene between Kit Harington’s Jon Snow and Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys Targaryen is filmed in Stjornargljufur, Iceland. A production sequence show both performers being transformed into their characters, with Harington noting that the location “feels like Thrones” and that he became “attached” after filming scenes there during season 1 and season 2.
Game of Thrones producer Bernie Caulfield talks about how she pitched the Icelandic location to HBO, and that “nobody questioned it” despite the atmospheric uncertainties. She discusses the “magical” Iceland sunrises, and that “it feels like unwrapping a present.” The Last Watch then shifts to a memorable Jon and Daenerys moment from Game of Thrones season 8, as the characters take their first dragon ride together. As Jon and Daenerys grow closer, the crew worries about the movements of the characters’ hair, along with the falling snow. The sequence ends with a kiss between Jon and Daenerys, which precedes Drogon’s now infamous smile. Caulfied caps off the Iceland sequence by saying “I think that in our hearts, it was important to come here. It wouldn’t have felt the same if we didn’t."
Game Of Thrones Season 8 Features A Super Fan Extra
The Last Watch spotlights super fan Andy McClay, who appears as an extra in six episodes of Game of Thrones season 8. Prior to the final season’s production, McClay had appeared in four episodes as both a Stark soldier and a Baratheon soldier. HBO’s documentary follows his journey as an extra, and how it affects his life outside the Belfast studio. In The Last Watch, McClay states his character’s name as Aberdall Strongbeard. The extra makes his first appearance in the documentary within the first 10 minutes, as he arrives on set and transforms into his armored character. McClay also proudly flaunts his Game of Thrones season 7 production jacket, one that aligns with him the Starks and identifies him as part of the Dragon Unit.
As The Last Watch progresses, McClay comes to the realization that his Game of Thrones experience has nearly ended, at least in terms of the production itself. By the end, "The King of Extras" takes part in late-season sequences and says goodbye to the Night’s Watch. “I’ve known them for years,” McClay says. He explains that he gave an Extras jacket to Harington, and the two later bond on set while filming a scene in the Belfast version of King’s Landing. During a make-up session, McCall recalls that his house had burned down prior to joining Game of Thrones, and that the HBO opportunity allowed for an “escape from reality.” The Last Watch ends with the long-time extra breaking down in tears, while a credits sequence shows that he runs his own Game of Thrones tour in Northern Ireland.
How The Game Of Thrones Cast Reacted To The Final Season
Prior to Game of Thrones season 8, cast members discussed their table reads on late night talk shows, specifically Harington’s teary reactions. The Last Watch offers more insight into these behind-the-scenes moments, with script secretary Kate McLaughlin setting the scene. Early on in HBO’s doc, she preps for a table read and explains that the cast have had their scripts for three days. She muses about how many passed on reading the final script, and notes specifically that Harington had not read it.
During the table read sequence in The Last Watch, executive producer Bryan Cogman narrates the events that lead up to Jorah Mormon’t death. At that point, Clarke grimaces while looking at her co-star Iain Glenn, as their characters share a special bond throughout the series. Later, Liam Cunningham (Davos Seaworth) and Kristofer Hivju (Tormund Giantsbane) read in character, with the cast chuckling at the comedic dialogue and performances. When the time comes for Daenerys to execute Varys, actress Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister) sighs and holds back tears.
When the Game of Thrones cast reaches the final moment between Jon and Daenerys, Harington’s eyes well up, and he presses his hands against his forehead. Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark) watches closely, and Clarke gives a nervous smile upon learning her character’s fate. Harington has the most emotional reaction of all, while Clarke sinks into her chair and gives another surprised look. The sequence ends with series co-creator D.B. Weiss stating, “End of Game of Thrones.”
The Table Read Reveals How Arya Killed The Night King
As Cogman narrates the Game of Thrones season 8 moment when Arya kills the Night King, he reveals a crucial bit of information in The Last Watch. First, he details how Arya approaches the Night King “through the darkness.” The cast cheers when they first hear Arya’s name. Cogman then says “She vaults off a pile of dead wights,” which explains how exactly Arya was able to get so close to the Night King, and so quickly. When Cogman reveals that “the Night King shatters," the entire cast cheers once again while Game of Thrones actress Maisie Williams (Arya) relishes the moment.