Last night’s “Beyond the Wall” was the penultimate episode of the penultimate year for Game of Thrones, and it delivered the action, suspense, and heartbreak we’ve come to expect at this point in the season. While reviews have been mixed on just how well it delivered, there are certainly no lack of hot topics to discuss: the conflict brewing between Arya and Sansa, the suspenseful action beyond the Wall, the growing attraction between Jon and Daenerys, and – of course – the terrifying prospect of an undead dragon. We have quite a few interviews and videos to dissect today, so let’s take a look!
First up, showrunner D.B. Weiss, co-executive producer Bryan Cogman, Sophie Turner, and Aidan Gillen chat with Entertainment Weekly about the tense dynamic between the recently reunited Stark sisters. According to Weiss, “People move apart they grow apart. This is a fantasy exaggeration of that…How much of Arya is Arya Stark of Winterfell and how much is the Faceless Men? Sansa has undergone her training, for good or for ill, under Littlefinger’s supervision. So how much of that Machiavellian quality has rubbed off on her?” He continues, “You would think a family reunion among three siblings should be unalloyed joy, and to an extent it is. But there’s a lot of tension and anxiety under the surface…”
Turner agrees. “In the books, it says something about how Arya and Sansa are different sides of the same coin. They love each other but they’re so different. They never really got along,” she admits. “And now that they’re back together that’s heightened because they’ve gone down totally different paths and have had to adapt to totally different situations to the point where they don’t see on each other’s level.”
“Just because the Starks have reunited doesn’t mean it’s going to be sunshine and roses,” Cogman adds. “It’s a fun gothic storyline with Littlefinger pitting the Starks against each other.” Gillen appreciates his character being the instigator of chaos. “Watching my plan come to fruition is quite something. There’s all kinds of mixed things going on with Littlefinger and that relationship with Sansa. So watching her grow in stature is quite enjoyable,” he says. “With carefully laid plans there’s always a bit of risk involved. He puts himself in a situation that could backfire on him. I think he likes it. His plans are never fail safe. But he puts himself on the line like a good gambler.” I don’t know about you, but I’m betting his gamble fails and costs him his life.
Read more at EW.
Kristofer Hivju talks to Making Game of Thrones about his character and the intensity of filming the action sequence for “Beyond the Wall.” Hivju shares some insight into Tormund’s relationship with Jon Snow. “I think Tormund has always liked Jon…But the moment he really came to respect Jon was before they went to Hardhome,” he says. “Tormund saw the mercy arrow Jon gave Mance. It was an important moment when Jon took off Tormund’s chains and showed he trusted him and understood they had the same goal.”
What does Hivju think about the Brimund ship? “It’s very unexpected; nobody saw that coming. When Brienne came into Castle Black on that horse, the arrow of love just penetrated Tormund’s heart. I think it’s really funny. It’s like throwing a bit of sugar into all that dark salt when you bring some light and love into this dark universe,” he admits. “Watching somebody falling totally in love is always pleasant to watch; especially since Brienne doesn’t really enjoy it. Although…I think she does a bit. Tormund might have a plan. It could be fantastic.” Look out Braime fans!
Hivju also breaks down the difficulties of shooting such a complex action sequence. “It took at least a month to shoot. There were so many kills we didn’t have the time or capacity to choreograph every single move. So the fantastic thing we did was an alphabet of choreographed movements…So they could just throw wights at us, and because they [the stuntmen] knew the language too, we could just improvise with that alphabet. So after a couple of days it became very organic, and extremely real because people were coming from everywhere.” Hivju adds, “When they said ‘action’ and you have 20 guys coming at you; it’s just crazy. It was like chopping for your life, and it was pretty physically intense, actually.”
Check out the full interview at Making Game of Thrones.
Making Game of Thrones also spoke with Richard Dormer about Beric’s choices and what it’s like fighting with that incredible fiery sword. “I think [Beric] realizes there are sacrifices to be made for every great purpose, and every soldier has to go make those calls…When he hears about the armies that are gathering in the north, of the dead, he realizes that’s where he’s got to go. He knows what death is and he’s one of the men to hold it back, to try to defeat it.” Dormer adds, “I think his one regret is he’s only half the man he used to be; he’s lost so much of himself.”
Does Beric feel a special bond with Jon after what they have both been through? “The only power that can resurrect is the Lord of Light; he realizes Jon has a special purpose, because he also has been kept alive. Beric’s thinking, ‘I better look out for this guy, because he has a big role to play in this war’…Beric sees how brave and selfless Jon is. He sees in Jon a great king — and I think he believes the Lord of Light sees that as well.” Dormer admits Beric is also quite fond of the Hound . “He’s just like the grumpy, old dog in the corner; you can’t help but love him. The other thing is, Beric is a good judge of character, and I think he can see in the Hound the goodness that wants to come out. He can see a broken man who wants to redeem himself.”
Beric has become a fan favorite due in part to his flaming sword, which really is on fire. “It only burns for two minutes at a time, and you can’t swing it too quickly, so you have to slow down your moves, which is actually quite tiring. It weighs about three times as much as a normal sword,” Dormer confesses. “It’s a pretty impressive weapon.”
Head over to Making Game of Thrones for the rest.
Back at EW, Paul Kaye discusses Thoros of Myr’s unfortunate demise. “I got the news last summer sometime, I missed a couple calls from [showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss], and that’s the kiss of death,” he explains. Although his character is now gone, Kaye was glad for the chance to come back this season. “It looked like they weren’t following Lady Stoneheart’s storyline in the show, so I prepared myself not to re-emerge. So it was great to get back and have this adventure. Just staying alive for six seasons is an achievement in itself on this show.”
At least Thoros had one last moment of heroism before his death – saving the Hound from an undead polar bear. Kaye is pleased with how his character’s story ended. “It’s glorious, really,” he admits. “And I like the fact I get [cremated] with my own booze as well —there’s a message there somewhere.” I’m sure Thoros would approve.
Go to EW for more.
The other major death last night was Viserion, speared by the Night King before being reanimated as a wight. Emilia Clarke shares her feelings about it with EW. “It’s a heartbreak. Not only losing it but having that being given to the other side.” As gut-wrenching as the loss is for Daenerys, it does serve to strengthen her resolve to defeat the army of the dead. “My dragon could not have died for nothing, so this is now so important. For the first time, you’re starting to see her defenses broken.”
Many fans have questioned some of Dany’s choices lately, as she has revealed a more brutal side in her conquest of Westeros. “The biggest question this season for Dany is what side of the coin she’s on,” Clarke admits. “The unequivocal nature in choosing to be this aggressive is something you haven’t seen before. She’s practiced patience and has this savior-like quality, but now it’s game on.” Let’s hope she brings some of that brutality to the White Walkers before it’s too late.
Read more at EW.
Last but definitely not least, Deadline speaks with episode director Alan Taylor about Viserion’s death, the converging of plots, and Jon and Dany’s relationship. “I was really grateful to see that I got to kill one of the dragons, because I knew that was a major emotional point. Then I was really, you know, excited when I got to the end and realized how it was turning, because it’s obviously sort of a big lurch forward in terms of the oncoming battle.” Taylor adds, “The episode was recently leaked, and I’m hoping at least some people are still surprised by those plot points because the secret of the episode was that that happened.”
Now that Game of Thrones is entering the endgame, characters are interacting more than ever before. “Part of my episode was doing the job of braiding stories together that’ve been separate for a long time, braiding characters that’ve been separate for a long time, and that will only continue into Season 8…This ball, this machine is revving up bigger and rolling faster and with more inevitability. But it also has just as many surprises, and that just continues to happen,” Taylor says. “The plot points are going to continue to sort of be like gut punches, and each of these characters that’ve been so fully fleshed out and so well-rounded are going to be moving towards their resolution, is what I’d say. I think people will be really surprised, but also fulfilled by where it goes.”
Taylor also discusses the implications of Jon and Daenerys coming together, as well as their feelings for each other. “There’s been an inevitability to the two of them coming together. It’s been foreshadowed over and over again, and those who know the books know it’s inevitable, but that doesn’t tell you anything about how it’s going to play out or how it’s going to go,” he explains. Taylor recalls George R. R. Martin visiting the set during season one and sharing information about the future of the book series. “We didn’t really know what a phenomenon [the show] was going to be, and I think he was being less guarded than we’ve become since then. Anyways, he alluded to the fact that Jon and Dany were the point, kind of.”
“At the time, there was a huge, vast array of characters, and Jon was a lowly, you know, bastard son…[Martin] did sort of say things that made it clear that the meeting and the convergence of Jon and Dany were sort of the point of the series,” he confesses. Taylor appreciates being able to show their relationship deepening, as he says, “I was happy that a big step forward was taken in the episode I got to do this season is where he has fallen for her both, you know, emotionally and politically I think…There’s still a step further to go with them in terms of the romantic side of things and a lot more to play out in terms of how the politics and the power struggle will work, but it was at least a sort of solid step forward in that major arc.”
The entire interview is well worth a read, so head over to Deadline for more.
On this week’s Inside the Episode, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss give insight into the rising tension being Arya and Sansa (thanks Littlefinger), the dangerous mission beyond the Wall, the budding romance between Jon and Daenerys, and the impact of Viserion’s death and reanimation at the Night King’s hand.
Kit Harington, Iain Glen, Kristofer Hivju, Rory McCann, Joe Dempsie, and Paul Kaye discuss the unlikely camaraderie and friendships that develop among the “Magnificent Seven” as they journey north.
Finally, the cast and crew break down that icy battle north of the Wall.