Warning: Spoilers for Game of Thrones lie ahead.
On a set where dragons live and the dead walk again, even the most mundane of details can seem pretty magical. Luckily, Game of Thrones: The Last Watch didn’t settle for good enough — instead hunting down the best of the best behind-the-scenes nuggets to feed our mourning fandom.
On Sunday night, HBO aired the two-hour making-of special, chronicling the end of Thrones from the perspective of its creators and through the lens of documentarian Jeanie Finlay. From Kit Harington’s big finale reaction to those ridiculous makeup jobs, there’s plenty for Thrones fans to obsess over. So here are just eight of our favorite moments from The Last Watch.
1. Thrones used A-list cast members as press (and fan) decoys
Thrones fans are a resourceful and clever bunch. So much so, that the show began sending its actors to locations where they weren’t filming to throw theorists off their tail.
The most important smoke and mirrors act? The shooting of Tyrion’s nomination of Bran as King in King’s Landing’s dragon pit in Season 8, episode 6.
To ensure fans would not pick up on any important details, The Waif (Faye Marsay), Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha), The Night King (Vladimir Furdik), and Jon Snow (Kit Harington) all came to location in Spain where the scene was set to be filmed, in spite of not appearing anywhere near the final product. (Notably, neither Marsay nor Wlaschiha appear in Season 8 at any point.)
“It’s weird, I’ve come out basically as a decoy,” laments Harington as he tags along in a crew van. “It feels weird being here and not actually filming.”
2. Designers spent seven months building King’s Landing, just to blow it up
Thrones’ production designer and art director Deborah Riley worked tirelessly with her team over the course of seven months to build the final set for Dany’s infamous rampage — only to blow it up for the cameras after a few days of shooting.
“It’s very early to blow this up it feels,” notes episode director Miguel Sapochnik, as he and Riley wander the IRL King’s Landing.
“I know! It really bothers me,” says Riley. “It’s like, wait a minute, what did we approve? Should’ve at least had Cersei going down for lunch once or twice or something.”
Moments later, the pyrotechnics team goes through with the plan, lighting the magical set ablaze to mimic Drogon’s destruction. It’s a remarkable feat of craftsmanship and commitment, made even more spectacular by its sudden demolition.
3. Emilia Clarke shared a very special bond with the wig department
The Khaleesi doesn’t make the wig, but the wig sure can make the Khaleesi.
Throughout The Last Watch, fans are treated to a behind-the-scenes look at Emilia Clarke’s preparation process, with special emphasis put on her relationship to Daenerys’ iconic hair. As Clarke noted in her Instagram post saying goodbye to Thrones, the ever-evolving “wig of dreams” played a massive role in creating the legendary Queen.
Each day of filming, Clarke would meet Thrones‘ hair supervisor Candice Banks at the wig department’s stationing area — sometimes as early as 3 a.m. — to begin putting on her platinum locks.
“When you put that on, it’s just an instant whoa,” Clarke says, donning a bald cap in preparation. “My heart is in my throat when I think about this not happening much longer.”
4. “Dead” extras couldn’t breathe during the Battle of Winterfell
While filming the long-awaited Battle of Winterfell, Thrones’ main stars may have been the ones feeling the most pressure — but it was the scene’s supporting players who were left holding their breath.
Due to low temperatures while filming near Belfast, Battle of Winterfell extras and stuntmen who had been “killed” during the episode’s epic combat were instructed to not breathe during filming, lest their frosty exhales be seen on-screen, shattering the illusion of their recent peril.
“Background and stunts, until the moment we yell cut, you need to hold your breath, but also not breathe out,” a voice on the PA can be heard saying. “It’s gonna be amazing. If anybody dies, let me know.”
Notably, the same applied to Iain Glenn as he and Clarke acted out the heart-wrenching final moments between Jorah and Dany. Talk about an acting challenge.
5. That coffee cup probably came from a super nice lady named Leigh
In the wake of so-called Cupgate, Thrones fans continue to seek answers. Unfortunately, The Last Watch fails to definitively point the finger at any specific individual — but it does reveal where that cup of coffee likely came from.
Leigh McCrum, the delightful food truck owner behind Thrones’ sustenance, can be seen throughout The Last Watch selling sandwiches, ice pops, and plenty of coffee to crew and cast members. She’s a warm, friendly presence, reveling in the cinematic magic of catering the biggest show in television history.
As for the ongoing investigation, each cup McCrum sells dons that same logo seen in Episode 4, originally mistaken for a Starbucks logo. Was it a simple accident or the greatest branding stunt known to Westeros? It’s tough to say, but if anyone has the answer, it’s Leigh.
6. Episode 2’s iconic Dany and Jon scene wasn’t quite as magical IRL
Dany and Jon’s romantic dragon getaway may have been one of Season 8’s most romantic moments, but the dynamic was notably less idyllic on set.
As seen in the doc, not only did Harington and Clarke have to emote at a gigantic green square while toughing the harsh Icelandic weather, they also had to make out while pretending to hear nearby dragons.
“Move to your right a little bit, Emilia,” prompts Thrones director David Nutter over intercom, as Jon and Dany kiss in the snow. “And growl.”
Yup. That awesome ruh-roh shot of Jon reacting to Drogon and Rhaegal’s disapproval was inspired by a flatly delivered “growl” from David Nutter. Movie magic, people. It’s amazing.
7. The Night King (aka Vladimir Furdik) is just the sweetest guy ever
A shining but lesser known star in the Thrones-verse, Vladimir Furdik is the stuntman-turned-actor behind the late Night King. The Last Watch offers fans a chance to get to know the typically silent star — and good gracious, if he isn’t an absolute delight.
Walking us through the magic of makeup, the specifics of stunt work, and the overwhelming nature of fame, Furdik is the most relatable figure in the doc. Pleasant, awestruck, and happy to be there, he is the polar opposite to everything you thought The Night King would be.
In one scene, Furdik, serving as a press decoy in Spain, cautiously approaches a mob of fans.
“You know who I am, yes?” Furdik asks, his thick Slovakian accent barely masking his nervousness.
Instantly, the crowd erupts with cries of “The Night King!” and begins begging for autographs. Furdik’s face lights up, and he eagerly begins signing merchandise and posing for pictures. It’s a moment of pure magic, fit only for the one true King.
8. Game of Thrones’ real MVP? Iconic extra Andy McClay
Of all the big reveals in The Last Watch, none are quite as lovely as the overdue honoring of Andy McClay.
McClay, an Irish actor and diehard Game of Thrones fan, served as an extra on the show for multiple seasons, most recently appearing as a member of Jon Snow’s guard during the finale. Following Harington’s farewell speech to the crew, McClay offered his thoughts on the end of an era directly to camera.
“I’m choking up here, man,” McClay says. “Honestly. It’s what Kit was saying. Even though, I’m just an extra, in comparison to him being the main star, it really has changed my life. I didn’t think I was going to get this emotional. It has. It really has. The past five years have been the best five years of my life.”
Dedicated and passionate, McClay served as an essential backbone to the series, emphasizing just how much the creation of Thrones was a true team effort.
Now, as made clear in The Last Watch, he serves as a Game of Thrones tour guide in Belfast, showing fans still not ready to move on where the magic really happened.
Game of Thrones: The Last Watch is streaming on HBO Now.