HBO's Game Revealed series has lifted the lid on exactly how Game of Thrones' zombie polar bear scene was realized. The recently concluded seventh season of Game of Thrones featured a glut of shocking and awe-inspiring moments and one episode was especially memorable - "Beyond The Wall". Featuring a motley band of fighters bravely venturing into Night King territory, the episode gave fans hordes of Wights, epic battles, a resurrected dragon and a heartfelt philosophy lesson from Tormund Giantsbane.
However, perhaps the most impressive element of "Beyond The Wall" was the appearance of an undead polar bear that attacked the group, taking them by surprise and managing to kill a Redshirt in the process. As has come to be expected from Game of Thrones, the CGI bear was visually very convincing and provided a standout moment in an all-round stellar episode.
Delving into exactly how the scene was created is the latest offering in the Game Revealed series that explores the behind-the-scenes magic helping to bring the craziness of Westeros to life on the small screen. In this installment, the zombie polar bear is revealed to be merely a man named Toby with a green jumpsuit and a funny walk and the scene itself was shot in what Kit Harrington describes as a "CGI box." Interestingly, both Harrington and fellow actor Rory McCann (The Hound) comment on how strange the filming process can be during such scenes, even after seven seasons on the show.
Of course, this isn't the first time that a polar bear has been the subject of a huge visual effects stunt on TV, as a similar creature (albeit not zombified) was featured in the record-breaking premiere episode of Lost. At that time, many viewers found the CGI creature to be unconvincing and it's both fascinating and impressive to see how much progress has been made in terms of making these creations look visually impressive and realistic since then.
Game of Thrones' huge budget must have been also been a factor in the success of the scene and with effects such as this - and the various dragon shots - it's perhaps easy to see why each episode is so expensive to make. The cost of filming Game of Thrones has, however, contributed to a reduced episode count for seasons seven and eight and some viewers have claimed that the story is beginning to feel rushed as a result.
While snazzy visual effects are always a joy to behold, it might be considered somewhat concerning when the cost of such wizardry comes at the expense of the actual story. Unfortunately, Game of Thrones fans have a long wait before finding out whether the show's final season can achieve a satisfying balance between epic visuals and strong storytelling.
Game of Thrones season 8 is expected to premiere in either late 2018 or early 2019.