Warning: This article contains spoilers from the latest Game of Thrones episode, “Beyond the Wall.”
Jon Snow and his companions captured a wight in their ill-fated mission north of the Wall, but not without death and heartbreak. It was no easy task behind the scenes, either. For that battle to succeed visually, it had a grand mix of visual effects, stunts, and sets spanning from a frozen lake built in a quarry to the very real backdrop of Iceland.
Like the behind-the-scenes video released after the “Loot Train Attack,” it’s a super-sized look to showcase what went into putting it together. Game of Thrones blended several landscapes—aspects of the lake sequence included shots filmed in Iceland, a set built on a quarry in Northern Ireland that had to recreate aspects of the Iceland shoot, and on sound stages. This pushed the creative teams even further than before, but it was also a personal victory for the showrunners. After several years of attempting to put it in, they finally got their polar bear wight right in on the action. (Poor Thoros, though).
As much as the visual effects and the landscapes come together, the battle doesn’t work nearly as well without an emotional impact. We watched our heroes pushed together for a common goal despite their complicated relationships. It ended with a major loss for Daenerys Targaryen, who watched helplessly as her dragon Viserion fell to his death, only to be pulled back up again to be brought back by the Night King.
“We knew that the Night King would see and seize this opportunity and like to think that when the dragon dies that it’s kind of a nice one-two punch,” showrunner D.B. Weiss explained. “Because on the one hand, you’re just seeing the horror of one of these three, the three only unique, amazing beings like this in the world going under the water and not coming up again and you’re processing that. Then you’re processing something that’s even worse, which is when it comes back out from under the water again.”