“Game of Thrones” finally delivers the beautiful, epic, and heartfelt farewell that fans want — not with the finale episode but through the behind-the-scenes documentary “The Last Watch.” Helmed by “Seahorse” director Jeanie Finlay, it’s a remarkable snapshot of the people who’ve given their lives to the sprawling production.
The biggest draw for fans of the series is of course seeing the cast in their civilian clothing assemble for the final season table read. Presided over by showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, with stage directions read by executive producers, the whole affair feels energetic and somber at the same time. This is the beginning of the end of their Long Night that is the making of Season 8.
Beyond the actor-centric scenes, however, the documentary also makes stars of the people behind the scenes. From Del Reid, the Head of Snow, to Andy McClay, the most recognizable extra on the show, the documentary spotlights their work and personalities, giving many of them arcs that are satisfying yet bittersweet by the end.
It’s an altogether impressive undertaking to summarize so much within two hours, but it’s well worth the journey. Below are some of the highlights and takeaways from “The Last Watch”:
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1. Jon Snow Truly Knows Nothing
Kit Harington is famously the only cast member who did not read the season’s scripts before that fateful table read, and therefore provides the most gratifying reactions to all of the action as it’s read aloud. The cheering when Arya kills the Night King is a joy, but his horror and how his face turns a mottled red after he realizes that Jon Snow kills his beloved Daenerys is priceless. It’s sweet when even Emilia Clarke must give him a consolation smile and nod.
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2. The One Exception to the Secrecy
The doc makes a point to show the scripts being shredded after the cast reads them to guard against leaks and spoilers. Later, the cast would receive the revised script pages digitally to once again maintain secrecy but also in a bid to go as paperless as possible.
The exception? Director David Nutter. He’s the one person allowed printed scripts, which he then locks up in a safe at the end of the day.
3. The Bald Khaleesi
Although the process of an actor getting outfitted for a wig has been shown before, Emilia Clarke requires that the skullcap holding down her actual hair also be painted her natural skin tone for the extra bit of camouflage. It’s fascinating to see the Khaleesi bare of any signature flowing tresses.
4. Sansa and Arya’s Upset Stomach
Miguel Sapochnik directed Episodes 3 and 5, the installments with big battles, and it’s fun to see him giving Sophie Turner and Williams a clue on how to play the scene where Sansa and Arya are standing on the Winterfell battlements and are waiting for the Army of the Dead to reach them.
“Do the whole scene as if you’ve got a stomachache,” he advises, since the Stark siblings can’t see the wights, yet are anxious to find out what they’re facing.
5. The Stunt Night King
Stunt coordinator/performer Vladimir Furdik is one of the featured behind-the-scenes people who is featured for laying out the fights, such as when Theon (Alfie Allen) saves his sister on the ship. But he is also the man underneath the prosthetics to play the Night King, and he reveals that he sometimes feels out of place — is he part of the cast or is he an invisible stunt man? — on set when he’s in makeup.
6. Leigh of House McCrum, Provider of Coffee
Although Finlay couldn’t have known that a stray coffee cup would become such a big deal on the show, it’s smart of her to include Leigh McCrum, the coffee van manager, in the documentary. Not only is the provider of caffeine an essential role on any set, but it does provide a bit of tension whenever a cup (or bottle of water) is seen onscreen.
And no, neither of those fateful scenes are featured in the documentary.
7. Pink Horses
On a show full of dragons and the occasional direwolf, one would think that pink horses would be no big deal. Unfortunately, these are not fantasy creatures that are canon in the series, but white horses who’ve been bathed several times but are still tinted pink from the fake blood used in the battle scenes.
It’s actually delightful to see the Dothraki mounted on pink steeds.
8. The Decoys
As another effort to guard against spoilers, when the show moves to shoot in Seville, Spain, several random cast members are asked to show up to throw fans off the scent of what’s actually going down, which is the council scene in which Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) is voted in as king.
Among those who arrive are Harington, Faye Marsay who played The Waif, Tom Wlaschiha who played Jaqen H’ghar, and Furdik, who has a blast greeting fans, taking selfies with them, and raising his arms dramatically as if to raise the dead. “I never saw this in my life,” he marvels as he finally gets a taste of the media circus that he’s missed as a stunt man.
9. What a Ride
Although production had to clear the space to build King’s Landing ages in advance, for some reason no one felt the need to also note that a gigantic Ferris Wheel would also be constructed nearby. This leads to another bizarre shot of Cersei’s subjects being murdered through the streets of King’s Landing while nearby carnival-goers are having a blast in what looks like the “fucking London Eye.”
”Game of Thrones: The Last Watch” is currently available on HBO Go.