Alan Taylor and Jeremy Podeswa chat about the dragon deaths, tumbling walls and incest love scenes of season 7

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Veteran Game of Thrones directors Jeremy Podeswa and Alan Taylor spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about their experience bringing certain key moments of season seven to life.

The first major upset of season seven brought up in the interview was Viserion’s heartbreaking death scene, which Taylor directed. He acknowledged his track record for killing off beloved characters (Ned Stark, of course, but also Julius Caesar on Rome and Bill Hickok on Deadwood) but pointed out that there’s something especially upsetting about killing off an animal.

“I knew that killing a dragon was going to be like killing a puppy,” he said, then laughed. “It’s an emotional moment when you kill a character that’s flesh and blood and human, but killing a creature that’s beloved the way dragons are? I knew it would have impact.”

Podeswa, for his part, had the not-so-tiny job of overseeing the destruction of the Wall.

“When you’re reading the script, you’re thinking, ‘Oh my God. They’re really going there,'” he recalled. “Then it was like, ‘Wow. This is an enormous, spectacular sequence. How are we going to pull it off?’ There’s a big question of mine about how much is real, how much is not real, how much is visual effects. You’re so well-supported on a show like this with such great people that I knew I wouldn’t be doing it alone.”

Podeswa also addressed the “epic” twist that Jon and Daenerys are, in fact, nephew and aunt … which is revealed to the audience while the two are having sex.

“For us, it was very important that there be a question about what could possibly happen after this moment,” he said. “In the script, it described the fact that they were lovemaking, but it didn’t go into great detail in terms of what was going on between them in that moment.

“We built in a moment between 
Kit and Emilia where they stopped and looked into each other’s eyes. The intention from my point of view, and their point of view, too, is 
that they’re driven by passion into this. They don’t even fully understand what it’s all about and what the consequences of it are.”

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    1. For me, Viserion’s death could have hit a lot harder than it did if Dany’s reaction to it wasn’t so subdued. It still packs a punch, but could have been even more gut-wrenching. I don’t recall if they every explained why her reaction was so.. understated. We do certainly see tears from her later on in the episode, but given that it’s one of her children, I would have expected a stronger show of grief and horror when it happened.

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    2. “In the script, it described the fact that they were lovemaking, but it didn’t go into great detail in terms of what was going on between them in that moment.

      “We built in a moment between 
Kit and Emilia where they stopped and looked into each other’s eyes. The intention from my point of view, and their point of view, too, is 
that they’re driven by passion into this. They don’t even fully understand what it’s all about and what the consequences of it are.”

      ————

      Huh. It was clear to me what it was all about. Dany saw Jon risk his neck for his people, and then saw his six-pack abs. Jon saw Dany swoop in to save the Snow Patrol from certain death – or worse.

      To me, it illustrated reciprocal application of one of the principles for attracting women in the movie, “The Tao of Steve”:

      “Do something excellent in her presence,”

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    3. I was watching that episode the other night and the same thing struck me as well. Interesting that I wasn’t the only one. She was definitely upset, but it did seem somewhat subdued to me for some reason too. I assume it’s due to the fast-paced nature of season 7 more than anything. There just wasn’t time for anything that wasn’t straight to the point. Or perhaps I’m just being nitpicky.

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    4. there’s something especially upsetting about killing off an animal.

      Especially one that we’ve never seen kill individual people. We’ve seen Drogon kill masters and the Tarlys, and he killed the shepherd’s little girl, but I don’t think we’ve seen Viserion or Rhaegel kill people whose faces we’d seen or who we would otherwise sympathize with – have we?

      I agree that Daenerys’s reaction to the loss of Viserion was weirdly tepid. I was also surprised that it hasn’t – yet – initiated any discussion of how she should deploy the dragons, or take any steps to protect them.

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    5. Jorah looked more heartbroken than Dany, but then that’s a familiar emotion for him. I just chalked it up to disbelief and shock. Oddly enough, I think Viserion’s death made me sad because I’ve rehabbed so many birds, and to me they are very dragon-like. 🙂

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    6. Gwidhiel: I don’t think we’ve seen Viserion or Rhaegel kill people whose faces we’d seen or who we would otherwise sympathize with – have we?

      Whoops, I can answer my own question: we did see V&R incinerate and devour a master that Daenerys offered to them when they were chained up in the catacombs.

      It was still very sad to see Viserion die.

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    7. I would also assume that Dany’s reaction would’ve been much stronger had Drogon been killed rather than Viserion. I know all three are her children but she has a special bond with Drogon.

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    8. I just assumed her reaction was more shock in the moment.

      She certainly seemed like she was crying when Jon woke up.

      But seeing Viserion die was tough. Cared more about the dragon than any of the humans that were actually on the ground fighting other than Jon.

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    9. Pigeon,

      “Oddly enough, I think Viserion’s death made me sad because I’ve rehabbed so many birds, and to me they are very dragon-like.”

      ——-
      As you know, fellow bird lover here. (I was going to say fellow bird owner… as you’re probably aware, that’s a misnomer: birds own us. 😉)

      The show has done a marvelous job adapting avian physiology and behavior. Right after a bath, my wet lovebird looks just like a miniaturized dragon.

      If only I could teach her the “Dracarys!” command…. 🔥

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    10. I find that Dany’s reaction to the loss of one of her dragons is on point with the portrayal of her character on screen…
      plus speaking of personal experience with loss (as you all did at some point) something so sudden is more of a shock and stab to the heart reaction where you are motionless because you cannot believe what just transpired, don’t forget, it had seemed like the dragons were invincible and when all it took was one long dart to the heart to kill one the shock overwhelms grief at that moment. So the grieving and freaking out is portrayed off screen obviously and I’m fine with it because we still got the point and the emotion.
      Let alone everyone is different when it comes to grief and the sudden shock of loss.

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    11. Ninjabear,

      +2 I agree also. In my experience, the initial reaction is being stunned or in disbelief. It’s only later that the grief and sadness set in.

      Having been in a similar situation (not involving a dragon, but a pet who we considered our “child”), I remember receiving the news with some composure – it wasn’t until days later that the loss became real. Jeez, this happened twenty years ago and it still makes me sad to think about it.

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    12. Actually, the expression on Dany’s face as it happened affected me more than I think any other reaction could have. Just the shock and disbelief, which can be overwhelming or paralyzing. Some things can be deeper than tears, at least immediately.
      It reminds me of how Katniss went numb after her sister’s death, only sobbing and screaming later on whilst chucking cups at Prim’s cat, finally releasing her feelings.

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    13. Enharmony1625,

      Daenerys’ reaction was on point for her character. She hasn’t shown emotion in public (except for anger) since episode 3 of season 1. Only times she does show her emotions is when she’s alone with her friends. She was also in shock, her heavy breathing and disbelieve spoke volumes. She couldn’t have broke down in that situation even if she wanted to. If she had a tantrum like how Drogon was screaming and crying (his response was so powerful and heartbreaking) they wouldn’t have survived, she wouldn’t have heard Jon’s shouting and would have probably gotten Drogon, herself and the others killed.

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    14. Shock! She was in shock! And she still had the strength to concentrate on riding Drogon. She couldn’t even afford to be overcome with grief and have Drogon or Rhaegal loose themselves in grief too. I completely agree with Shelle, Tenbears, DaphNenya, and Ninjabear. And we saw her cry while she was sitting by the bed Jon laid in.

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    15. Drogon666,

      I don’t mean that her reaction should have been melodramatic at all, and I agree that it was pretty much consistent with the character. But I do think it was a good opportunity to see that veneer crack a bit. Perhaps they could have shown her struggling a bit more to keep her composure.

      And I do get that it’s a shock to her, and that in real life, shocked reactions can be rather subdued. I just think it could have been dialled up a notch is all.

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    16. Dany’s reaction to Viserion dying was in line with the way Emilia Clarke has portrayed the character. So in my opinion it fit because that’s how Daenerys has been since almost the beginning of this adaptation.

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    17. I tend to see Dany’s reaction as in keeping with the queenly mask she wears in public. In A Game of Thrones, Bran thinks more than once of Ned wearing his Lord’s face and then later of his brother being at times Robb-the-Lord. With Dany, she has to be strong in public. She has to keep up the persona. What we see in the 706 boat scene with Jon is both of them allowing their public kingly/queenly masks to fall and being simply Jon and Dany with each other, exposing their feelings and vulnerabilities to another person.

      As for #Boatsex, I think that l think that look between them goes back to the season one scenes between Dany and Doreah, and the idea that love comes in at the eyes. I also think it is about the two of them acknowledging that they are driven by intense feelings – feelings that scare them, partly because of what is to come and partly because both know what it is to love someone and then lose them.

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    18. I agree with those who have noted that Daenerys was not in a position where she could break down and chew the scenery, as some appear to want. All of the living, human and dragon alike, were in imminent mortal danger. She and her remaining dragons were the only means of escape and survival. Dany has enough discipline and intellligence to realize that this is not the time to grieve. There’s always time to grieve. Later.

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    19. Enharmony1625,

      It’s as if they don’t want her to show any emotion because ‘strong people’ don’t feel emotions or something…
      First time I noticed that is at her scene with Tyrion where she discuss leaving Daario behind, and mention she doesn’t care about it at all. Why even have that scene, if not to show her as an emotionless person? It felt off.
      Especially compared to the books where not only she deeply cares about and love Daario, but she’s also an emotional mess who’s either angry or sad 99% of the time.

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    20. aiad:
      Enharmony1625,

      It’s as if they don’t want her to show any emotion because ‘strong people’ don’t feel emotions or something…
      First time I noticed that is at her scene with Tyrion where she discuss leaving Daario behind, and mention she doesn’t care about it at all. Why even have that scene, if not to show her as an emotionless person? It felt off.
      Especially compared to the books where not only she deeply cares about and love Daario, but she’s also an emotional mess who’s either angry or sad 99% of the time.

      Yes, one of the many things I’ve wondered about is why the show has so consistently required Emilia Clarke to show such a narrow range of emotion. I agree with everyone in this thread who has pointed out that Daenerys rarely shows any strong emotion, except anger, in public. And it’s a pity. That’s not at all how she’s depicted in the books, and the actress they’ve cast to play her is very vivacious and warmly expressive when she’s not playing Daenerys. So why must she depict her character so woodenly (I assume it’s not Clarke’s choice, but what the script and the directors have required).

      I’ve attributed it to their wish to convey unequivocally that Daenerys is regal, commanding, confident, and masterful. We’re not supposed to see her as a fallible human.

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    21. Gwidhiel,

      You know when (I thought) Emilia was really good and conveyed emotion? In possibly my favorite Daenerys scene, in S6e5 [link below] when Jorah reveals his greyscale to her, says “Goodbye, Khaleesi” (1:43) and turns to leave; Daenerys commands: “Do not walk away from your queen, Jorah the Andal!” (1:53), and orders him to find a cure and return to her.

      Her voice was quaking and she was on the verge of tears. Even her “command” was loaded with affection.

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    22. Ten Bears,

      yes sorry to hear about your loss, no matter how long ago… I lost 2 Boxer dogs within a little over a year back to back and no matter, we treated them like kids, so I know what you mean, still get choked up from time to time.

      I love the reference you made of Dany’s emotional goodbye to Jorah, she’s a phenomenal actress:) must give Kit his due as well from over the years, vast improvement!!! I still get goosebumps of Jon and Night King stare down in Hardhome *CHILLS*

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    23. Well, I didn’t expect my remark about Dany’s reaction to Viserion’s death to kick off such a discussion. 🙂

      Maybe I shouldn’t have used the words “horror” and “grief” in my original post because it perhaps suggested I wanted a very dramatic reaction, which I agree wouldn’t have been consistent with her character or appropriate for the moment. I still think that you can show grief and shock while still struggling to maintain your composure. A great example that comes to mind is Catelyn’s reaction to Ned’s death as she’s walking towards the woods. When she reaches the woods she breaks down, but it’s the walk up to that point where you can feel the raw emotions trying to get out, but she needs to maintain her composure in front of their men. That hit me in the feels right away when I first saw that! Powerful stuff!

      I just didn’t get quite the same feeling with Dany’s reaction, and I think it’s good for the character to see her stoicism crack now and then; to show signs of more raw emotion. The scene referenced above with Dany ordering Jorah to find a cure is a good example. I also liked the scene in 5×08 when Dany banishes Jorah a second time. You can hear the pain in her voice when she exiles him again, trying to keep it together.

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    24. Vivacious is certainly the word for Emilia out of character. XD Them eyebrows, man.
      But yeah, strength isn’t about not feeling or expressing emotions…more about having some level of self-control and discipline despite them…

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    25. Enharmony1625,

      Well, I didn’t expect my remark about Dany’s reaction to Viserion’s death to kick off such a discussion. 🙂”
      ________
      That’s a good thing!

      What it really comes down to is that the show has done such a spectacular job making CGI fictional creatures look so realistic, that people who have pets can empathize with Dany’s bond with her dragons, and how she’d react to losing one.

      I for one am convinced that whoever designed the movements and behavior of the dragons must be a pet bird owner. I’ve noticed so many little details that remind me of my bird(s), e.g., the way the dragon tilted his head to “ask” Tyrion to remove his collar is exactly the way a pet bird wil “ask” for a head feather massage.

      I had never realized until I got one that a pet bird has a personality and a soul, and is capable of emotions. I think the show’s CGI department has to be commended for creating mythical creatures that express loyalty, jealousy, love, inquisitivness, sadness and joy – just like a real bird.

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    26. Enharmony1625:
      For me, Viserion’s death could have hit a lot harder than it did if Dany’s reaction to it wasn’t so subdued. It still packs a punch, but could have been even more gut-wrenching. I don’t recall if they every explained why her reaction was so.. understated. We do certainly see tears from her later on in the episode, but given that it’s one of her children, I would have expected a stronger show of grief and horror when it happened.

      I took Dany’s muted response to be her holding her emotions in check, like a proper queen. She always looks as if she’s attending to her posture and trying to be strong. She lets her guard down a bit, at Jon’s bedside, then reigns it right back in. I suppose when she finds out she’s preggers, she’ll recall Mirri’s words that *Only death can pay for life*

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    27. I enjoyed Daario’s character and hope he pops back up in season 8. He was there for Dany back in the day and was part of her original dream team. If his actions were sincere – and I think they were – he might show up to rescue her at her darkest hour in Westeros. Daario is the kind of character that would disobey her order to stay behind and manage Mereen. Dany was pretty cold to him but I think he really is devoted to her and loves her. I could see him finding his way back to Westeros via the Golden Company and double crossing Cersei to rescue Dany..once again.

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    28. Ten Bears,

      So true! The special effects wizards have done a fantastic job on all the CG creatures! It’s remarkable how lifelike the dragons are — like they’re just part of the show; there with the characters. I’d wager that you’re right on the money about how they take inspiration from birds when animating them.

      I personally don’t have any pets right now, but growing up we had 3 huskies over the span of about 25 years, so obviously I have a real soft spot for the dire wolves. Seeing Lady, Grey Wind, Shaggydog, and Summer all get killed was.. not easy. Same with Viserion. That was brutal. Every time I see an animal die on screen my knees buckle.

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    29. Ten Bears:
      Pigeon,

      “Oddly enough, I think Viserion’s death made me sad because I’ve rehabbed so many birds, and to me they are very dragon-like.”

      ——-As you know, fellow bird lover here. (I was going to say fellow bird owner… as you’re probably aware, that’s a misnomer: birds own us. 😉)

      The show has done a marvelous job adapting avian physiology and behavior. Right after a bath, my wet lovebird looks just like a miniaturized dragon.

      If only I could teach her the “Dracarys!” command…. 🔥

      My birds have always more closely resembled soggy Fraggles after a bath, and don’t appreciate when I snicker at them. I had a fledgling Chipping sparrow once who would complain bitterly while drying himself on the tip of my pinky finger. I don’t know if there is anything more terrifying in life than being giving an evil eyeball by a bedraggled one and a half inch tall bird. 😂🐦

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    30. Interesting article but am I the only one who didn’t find Viserion’s death heartbreaking? The death of Lady was much harder emotionally for me at least. I don’t know if it’s because it’s a dragon vs a real animal or more that it was a creature that we had no real emotional bond with but it didn’t work that way for me. I found the death shocking of course but not emotional in anyway because I didn’t particularly care about the character of Viserion. It would be the same for Rhaegal as well.

      Anyway I hope they soon release a teaser with the month S8 will premiere so I can plan my 2019 holidays:)

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    31. I’m a huge animal lover. All my fishes had names (mostly unusual human names picked from a name-your-baby book xD) & personalities. (Well, except for the school of identical neon tetras. They were all Fred.) I’ve had all kinds of other little critters, including a parakeet for a short time, but primarily I’m a dog person. Both the dragons and direwolves ring very true in their mannerisms and behavior, being fully believable creatures and not detracting at all from one’s immersion in the show…and I definitely have an emotional connection to both. Kudos to everyone involved in their creation. Clearly they’ve paid attention to animals in our world. My most beloved dog I particularly regarded as more of a friend and partner and companion than a pet, much like a dragon or wolf. She was a Saluki, a rather catlike breed that’s not wrong to assume a sense of natural superiority. …Her watch ended in January & I was nowhere near ready. But I believe she runs proud and free across the Night Lands…:’)

      I also hope that we haven’t seen the last of Daario…or Jaqen for that matter…

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    32. There is this whole debate on whether Viserion is a wight or White Walker.

      Even though it was he was touched by The NK, Viserion is a wight, because his wings were rotting. I suspect he will lose the ability to fly and breathe fire if he continues to decompose. Even though he’s an imaginary, magically revived creature, there has to be some laws of biology and physiology here. Eventually the NK will have limited use for him other than a really big skeleton with big teeth and claws.

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    33. Shelle:
      Actually, the expression on Dany’s face as it happened affected me more than I think any other reaction could have. Just the shock and disbelief, which can be overwhelming or paralyzing. Some things can be deeper than tears, at least immediately.
      It reminds me of how Katniss went numb after her sister’s death, only sobbing and screaming later on whilst chucking cups at Prim’s cat, finally releasing her feelings.

      Love the hunger games reference 🙂 also Dany knew that she couldn’t afford to lose her sh*t while white walkers were surrounding them. There was no time, it simply was not the right time and place to grieve which brings me back to that Walking Dead episode, where Rick’s gf Jessie shocked that her son was being devoured by walkers, screamed like hell so she was eaten alive as well. Sometimes on shows like these, keeping your sanity is how you get to live another day.

      I expect Dany to react more strongly once she sees Viserion with the NK. Seeing your child die is one thing but for her to kill/re-kill Viserion will be tough.

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