Game of Thrones fans who are missing their favourite show need to watch The Last Watch, a feature-length documentary produced by HBO following the making of season eight and the GoT finale.
Game of Thrones fans, our watch has ended and we officially have our Mondays back. How does it feel? Are you overwhelmed with televisual choice and are you enjoying all this time that you now have on your hands?
Or do you hate it and miss Game of Thrones with the fire of a thousand Dracaryses? If yes, you need to stream The Last Watch.
The feature-length documentary, filmed over the course of the last year of production on season eight of Game of Thrones is an emotional, in-depth look at the making of the divisive final season. The filmmakers look at the season in a granular way, speaking to a wide range of characters. There’s Andy, a featured extra and local Belfast man who has been in every season of Game of Thrones thus far and is a devoted fan of the series. And then there’s the friendly woman who runs an extremely profitable cottage industry selling very strong cups of coffee and chocolate bars to the tired cast and crew during the grueling 11 weeks of night shoots to make the Battle of Winterfell.
Spliced throughout are shots of stars Kit Harington, Emilia Clarke and more engaging with what it means to say goodbye to this television show that has been an integral part of their life for the past decade.
The documentary takes twists and turns as the filmmakers race against the clock to get the series complete in time, building an entire King’s Landing cityscape from scratch in parking lot in Belfast, and battling with inclement weather while filming the final episodes. It has as much drama, action and emotion as Game of Thrones itself.
Hey, depending on how you felt about the final season, it might even be a better piece of filmmaking.
Here are our favourite moments from the documentary:
Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke’s powerful reactions at the table read
In order to protect the secrecy of the script, producers sent the season eight plotlines to their cast just three days before the final series table read in Belfast. Most of the actors sat down and read through their scripts before arriving on location, but not Harington, who said he wanted to preserve his emotions and ensure that his reaction would be genuine at the table.
Sure. We’re sure that Harington didn’t run out of time before the table read and wasn’t busy doing other stuff when everyone else was doing their homework. (“I cried,” Clarke told Entertainment Weekly, about reading the script for the first time. “And I went for a walk. I walked out of the house and took my keys and phone and walked back with blisters on my feet. I didn’t come back for five hours. I’m like, ‘How am I going to do this?’”)
Anyway, Harington didn’t read the script before the table read, which meant that his understanding of Daenerys’ descent into madness and his role in her death literally hit him as the words unfolded before his eyes. There’s a moment in The Last Watch when he clues into his position as Daenerys’ murderer and Harington’s face crumples into tears, looking at Clarke across the table before pushing his chair back in shock. So at least we all know that our reaction to Daenerys’ death is justified.
The documentary focuses on producers, prop-makers, costumers, directors and production designers as opposed to its big-name cast, but when it comes to the actors Clarke and Harington are the focus. Seeing them both reckon with the end of Game of Thrones is powerful. Harington, in a tearful speech to the assembled cast and crew on his last day, tells everyone that they are his “family”. In another scene filmed in Iceland Harington muses on how the seasons shot in that country – where he met and fell in love with his wife Rose Leslie – are some of his fondest memories.
And then there’s Clarke, who chokes up when she puts on Daenerys’ enormous wig for the last time. For a Game of Thrones fan who has cried thinking about this show more times than I’d like to count, it’s powerful stuff.
Del Reid, Head of Snow
The documentary’s hero is a cheerful man called Del Reid, whose job title is Head of Snow. His role? Exactly what it says on the tin: providing bits of shredded paper misted with water to be blown lovingly all over sets, props, horses and people.
Reid is a man with a can-do attitude, so even when he has to deal with frustrations like cars making paths through his carefully laid snow – “that does not look like a cart and buggy,” he muses, as he and an assistant go about covering up the tracks with more fake snow – or the onset of real snow, which prevents him from using fake snow – “I don’t know what to say,” he tells someone on the phone, “it’s snowing” – Reid is an unflappable presence. Winter can’t come without him.
Sophie Turner’s emotional response to Theon’s death
Late in the documentary, director David Nutter – the man who filmed episodes one, two and four of the series – speaks to Turner about a pivotal scene in episode four. She should remove the pin from her dress and place it on Theon’s corpse on the funeral pyre, telling him that he is a true member of the Stark family. Turner nods, telling Nutter to give her a few minutes to get into character.
What happens next is incredibly powerful as Turner is seen sobbing, long after Nutter has called cut, unable to shake the emotions of saying goodbye to the character of Theon Greyjoy.
For many fans, Sansa was season eight’s MVP and her relationship with Theon its beating heart. If you cried watching him return to Winterfell to fight in Sansa’s name, then you’re definitely going to cry watching the emotional reaction that Turner has to saying goodbye.
The extreme lengths producers went to in order to avoid spoilers
The reality is even more sneaky. Yes, there was a no-fly zone around the Belfast locations, ensuring that the fact that producers had built an entire King’s Landing set in a parking lot only to blow it up in the finale stayed a Game of Thrones-only secret.
But on top of that, producers talked in The Last Watch about bringing several characters on location in Seville, where the election of Bran the Broken took place, in order to throw fans off the scent. Not only did that mean bringing out Vladimír Furdík, the Slovakian stuntman and actor who played the Night King, to Seville, but also Harington and Faye Marsay and Tom Wlaschiha, the actors who played The Waif and Jaqen H’ghar to Seville. In the case of the latter, they even went so far as to completely outfit them in hair, makeup and costumes for strategic paparazzi shots.
Seeing Marsay and Wlaschiha on set is a reminder of just how far Game of Thrones went to preserve total secrecy for its ending. But it’s also a sad reminder of some missed opportunities, like the fact that we sat through season after season of Arya’s Faceless Man training, only for her to wear a grand total of zero (0) faces over the course of season eight.
To use some Donald Trump parlance, hopefully for the first and last time in my life: Sad!
Game of Thrones: The Last Watch documentary streams now on HBO Go in the US and NowTV in the UK.