[SPOILERS for those not caught up on Game of Thrones ahead!]
A new featurette goes behind the scenes of the 'Frozen Lake Battle' in the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones season 7, 'Beyond the Wall'. In the episode, a group of popular characters - one that included Jon Snow, Jorah Mormont, Gendry, Tormund Giantsbane, The Hound and the rest of the Brotherhood Without Banners - found themselves North of the Wall, fighting a large army of White Walkers. The battle was soon joined by Daenarys Targyarean and all three of her dragons, who successfully rescued most of the human characters - but not before one of the dragons was killed and turned into a zombie by the Night King.
The episode works to set up the season finale as well as the final season of Thrones: The White Walkers are nearly at the Wall now, while Daenarys, Jon Snow and the others are on the other side of the Wall, preparing for a meeting/peace conference with the Lannisters. Clearly, a climactic battle between the dead and undead is coming. But how did Game of Thrones bring the "Frozen Lake Battle" to life?
HBO has released a behind-the-scenes video for "Beyond the Wall" (see the clip above), featuring cast members and behind-the-scenes figures talking about the how - and why - of the battle scene, which HBO is indeed officially calling “The Frozen Lake Battle”.
In the 13-minute video, punctuated with lots of icy and firy footage of the battle itself, creators Daid Benioff and D.B. Weiss talk about their decisions about who would be and wouldn’t be part of Jon's expedition. It was clearly planned that many of the characters on the mission had extensive histories with one another, which came up in dialogue. We also learn here that the battle was filmed in Iceland, at a location that required “monster Jeeps” to reach. We even see green screens and some descriptions of how the special effects worked, and episode director Alan Taylor talks about how he blocked the scenes and directed the actors. Weiss even says that watching the footage, he feared that Tormund had died, even though he co-wrote the episode himself and knew that he wouldn’t. Meanwhile, Benioff and Weiss reveal that they had wanted to feature a Zombie Polar Bear for several seasons and finally were able to include it in this episode.
Something of a consensus has emerged, among most Game of Thrones fans and recappers, about the "Beyond the Wal"l battle, and about the last few episodes in general: the show remains technically proficient, visually stunning, and filled with legitimately awe-inspired action sequences. A whole lot of major things are happening, and no one can accuse the show of taking things too slow, as has often been a Game of Thrones fan complaint in previous seasons. The show is still very entertaining, and never boring.
On the other hand, the big knock on the recent episodes is that things are moving too fast, characters are moving vast distances in almost no time at all, and some plot points - especially the sudden plot to kidnap a wight to convince Cersei Lannister to make peace - are contrived and nonsensical. And beyond that, huge, unprecedented things aren’t treated with quite the gravitas they should. Earlier in the season, it was a big deal for a character who had never seen a dragon before to see one. Not so much in "Beyond the Wall".
The Game of Thrones season 7 finale airs next Sunday, August 27th, on HBO.