Ramin Djawadi breaks down the music for Daenerys’ death scene

(7) Courtesy of HBO

It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that Ramin Djawadi composed a truly masterful score for Game of Thrones. He deepened the emotional impact of pivotal character beats and jaw-dropping plot twists with his music for 8 seasons and it’s fascinating to gain some insight into his creative process.

In a recent interview, Djawadi walked us through his score for Daenerys’ death and Drogon’s subsequent destruction of the Iron Throne, explaining which themes he incorporated into the scene and why.

After Jon stabs Daenerys, Djawadi wanted the music to reflect both the sadness and the shock of what’s occurred.

“We see Dany and Jon and what he has just done, and that’s why the piece starts out with the solo violin and their love theme,” Djawadi told Time. “It’s very fractured to show that [Jon] really can’t believe what he’s just done. The theme plays and then it stops and it starts again, so he’s slowly settling into what he has done while he’s holding her in his arms.”

The scene shifts in tone when Drogon arrives and finds his mother dead next to her murderer.

“From there, the music grows and the dragon theme comes in,” he says. “And it’s the dragon, [Daenerys’] baby basically, her child realizing that mommy is dead and then the mixed emotions of sadness and anger at the same time.”

There was a good deal of debate amongst fans as to the symbolic meaning of Drogon’s decision to burn the Iron Throne. According to Djawadi, Drogon recognized that the Iron Throne was the ultimate cause of his mother’s downfall and thus decided to destroy it.

“That’s how that music grows, and Dany’s theme is in there as well. It’s all these themes together and then it even turns into the main title theme when he melts the throne, which is symbolic for [the throne being] what everybody has been fighting for and [how] he has to resolve that she’s dead now.”

To make the tragic scene that much sadder, Djawadi decided to conclude it with a callback to one of season 4’s most emotional moments.

“[The song] ends very somber with a section of ‘Breaker of Chains,’ which was from season 4 when she puts the chains on her dragons and that big emotional moment of how hard it was for her to lock them up,” he said. “So it ends with that emotional beat again and with [Drogon] flying away to the solo violins like the piece started to give bookends to it.”

20 responses

Jump to (and Always Support) the Bottom

    1. Master of War, Be With Me, The Iron Throne and Stay a Thousand Years, back to back is just beautiful, haunting and sad and captures Daenery’s downfall so beautifully.

      I wish he’d explain why he put Dany’s and Drogo’s When the Sun Rises in the West/House of the Undying theme, during Bran’s “coronation”.

        Quote  Reply

    2. He made that scene even better.

      But which version is the real version that we need to follow. The scripts states the Iron Throne was just in the way, and it was just an accident that it got destroyed. Or do we go with Djawadi explanation because he added a layer after it was shot, like directors change sometimes things? I would like to go with Djawadi version because that was my take when I watched it, and it’s more interesting for the story then just being an accident.

      Hope he works again sometimes on other shows. He is amazing.

      mau,

      Or the leftovers without Max Richter. (one of my favorite scores in tv).

        Quote  Reply

    3. I have a question for the mods, I don’t know how it comes but people tend to have problems with their comments being marked as spam and not being added to the comment list. I don’t know if it’s happening in all the articles but it’s happening in the “creative arts Emmy wins 2019”.

        Quote  Reply

    4. kevin1989,

      I think D&D’s opinions on Drogon’s motivation changed while they were working on S8. Ramin wouldn’t say this if they didn’t tell him. He doesn’t have that sort of autonomy while making soundtrack. He can’t make music that will contradict D&D’s intentions.

        Quote  Reply

    5. Dany’s death at Jon’s hands is of the most hauntingly beautiful and devastatingly sad scenes in the entire series, and the track underscoring it, “The Iron Throne”, is one of Ramin’s very best. There’s a reason why I still can’t shake it four months later and why it still makes me tear up after well over a dozen viewings.

      kevin1989,
      mau,

      I agree. Ever since the script for the finale was released, some people have latched on to the idea that Drogon destroyed the Iron Throne by accident in a blind rage, particularly those who are still looking for ammunition to sling against David and Dan because they believe such a choice makes the scene somehow lesser. But I don’t agree with that interpretation, or that it diminishes the scene. I still believe that Drogon destroyed the Throne intentionally because he recognized his mother’s obsession with it had contributed to her death, and that if she couldn’t have it, no one could. As you say, regardless of what the stage directions may say, David and Dan were involved in every aspect of the creation of the show – particularly the finale, which they also directed – and they were always talking with Ramin about the music. If this is how Ramin saw the scene, then David and Dan were aware – and they signed off on it. It’s very possible that their original intentions changed between the writing of the script, the filming of the scene, and post-production. It’s a collaborative process, even if they have final say.

      But even if that’s not the case … I would argue that it doesn’t strictly matter, or render the conversation cut and dry. While I’m not always an advocate for “Death of the Author” type analysis of art, this is clearly the type of situation where it’s meant to be applied, and works well. As far as I’m concerned, if a character’s motivation – and yes, Drogon is unquestionably a character, one who has been textually established as extremely intelligent – is not made explicitly clear within the context of the show itself, then it’s open for interpretation. If it weren’t, well … we wouldn’t have such a thriving and lively discussion around the show, would we?

      To use a more lighthearted example, when Drogon is staring at Jon and Dany while they kiss in front of the waterfall in “Winterfell”. Is he pleased that his mother is happy? Is he trying to intimidate Jon? Does he know Jon’s a Targaryen even then? I’d argue all of those interpretations are valid and supportable based on how the scene is visually and audibly presented. So the audience is free to choose whichever one feels most true to them, and they won’t be wrong.

      That’s one of the beautiful things about TV – the expressions of the actors, the camerawork, the set design, and the music are all as much a part of the storytelling as the dialogue and words on the page. And in this case, I think all of those elements support the idea that Drogon intentionally destroys the Iron Throne. The scene is beautiful and powerful regardless, but I’ll stick with my original impression of his actions, because I think it’s eminently consistent with how it was presented to us on screen.

        Quote  Reply

    6. I really liked this piece, especially when walks out and sees the throne. It was darkly cosmic. Thank god Sapochnik wasn’t on this episode or else we might have gotten some bongos in there and cowbell and all other forms of idiotic instruments.

      Really really hope that Ramin comes back to score all the spinoffs. How couldn’t he? Hard for me imagine Jane Goldman or any other showrunner being like, “we need to go in a different direction”. So I’m going to bet Ramin will be back for Blood Moon unless he’s not interested.

        Quote  Reply

    7. I’m shocked Ramin didn’t mention his use of the Lord of Light theme after the Iron Throne melts and before Drogon flies away with Dany. It raised an eyebrow on my initial viewing and in retrospect, it clarified a lot about the larger meaning of that scene and the role of prophecy in the show. A subtle detail, but an important one that got lost in the hysteria after the finale.

        Quote  Reply

    8. I’m a bit sad that Tyrion never had his own theme. The Rains of Castamere doesn’t count in this case. Arya, Jon, Daenerys, Jaime, Brienne, Melisandre, Cersei have their own. Tyrion has actually very good bits of emotional music that were never properly released on their own. A pity for such a character.

        Quote  Reply

    9. That Drogon does not burn Jon shows the dragon’s understanding of the situation. The dragon was nearby but did not intervene to save Dany either. He must also have known the significance of destroying the iron throne. The logical completion of his dead mother’s work.

      I only recently realised the significance of the Iron Throne itself – it was magically charged and talismanic, analogous somewhat to the ring of power in Middle Earth. That indeed adds immensely to the finality of the end scene. There is no doubt that the IT was cursed and exerted a malign influence on those who sat on it and who craved after it. (Did you ever see the movie “Oculus”? In no other film I have seen has an inanimate object exerted such pure malevolence.) One recalls the malign effect of the slain Smaug’s treasure on Thorin Oakenshield in Tolkein’s “The Hobbit”. Drogon’s status thus climbs to that of major protagonist-hero, even though he had done evil at Dany’s behest. That’s another remarkable aspect of the whole GOT story – there were very few pure good and bad characters. Many who did evil found redemption. Others who set out to do good went on to commit appalling crimes. This is a much needed challenge to the shallow moral tract-waving self-righteousness and binary simplicity of so much contemporary film.

      If dragons are capable of forging thrones as Balerion did, then that adds to evidence of high intelligence – after the type of the Tolkenian Smaug. That makes me still suspect that Drogon’s final acts were based on knowledge and reason, rather than just instinctive loyalty – although that was there too. It seemed like he wanted to kill Jon but restrained himself from so doing. Maybe Drogon possessed the depth of insight to realise that the true killer of Daenerys was not Jon, but the Iron Throne itself?

      I’m intrigued by the idea of Drogon’s destruction and melting of the Iron Throne a direct “deus ex machina” from the author; however if we follow the above reasoning about Drogon and the IT, perhaps this final stroke of destroying the IT and thus the wheel, does not have to be external to the plot and the character and capability of players such as Drogon? A blast from the real Drogon rather than a bolt from the Gods or GRRM.

        Quote  Reply

    10. kevin1989: But which version is the real version that we need to follow. The scripts states the Iron Throne was just in the way, and it was just an accident that it got destroyed. Or do we go with Djawadi explanation because he added a layer after it was shot, like directors change sometimes things? I would like to go with Djawadi version because that was my take when I watched it, and it’s more interesting for the story then just being an accident.

      The destruction of the Iron Throne was clearly deliberate. I think the script reads a little ambiguously, but it is really only notes for stage directions, not an essay.

      “But the blast is not for him. Drogon wants to burn the world but he will not kill Jon. He breathes fire on the back wall, blasting down what remains of the great red blocks of stone.

      We look over Jon’s shoulder as the fire sweeps toward the throne– not the target of Drogon’s wrath, just a dumb bystander caught up in the conflagration.

      We look through the blades of the throne as the flames engulf it, and blast the wall behind it.”

      Jon is the “dumb bystander” – not the throne.
      Look at what actually happens on screen.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBb-ioN6u1U

      Drogon screams in grief, then roars in anger. An unfocused blast of fire which torches the remaining walls of the throne room. And then he roars a second time, and this time he aims the fiery blast at the throne. No question about that.

        Quote  Reply

    11. Both the scene and the accompanying music are sublime, sad and beautiful! Much respect and appreciation for Ramin Djawadi and his monumental work on the eight amazing seasons of “Game Of Thrones”!

      👏👍👍✌️

        Quote  Reply

    12. Jucor:
      I’m a bit sad that Tyrion never had his own theme. The Rains of Castamere doesn’t count in this case. Arya, Jon, Daenerys, Jaime, Brienne, Melisandre, Cersei have their own. Tyrion has actually very good bits of emotional music that were never properly released on their own. A pity for such a character.

      I’d never noticed it until you pointed it out but actually very surprising given he’s most likely the third biggest character in the entire series.

        Quote  Reply

    13. Jucor:
      Grandmaester Flash,
      Grammatically speaking, the dumb bystander is obviously the throne. Jon was not caught up in the conflagration.

      Grammatically, you are correct. But few people write to a strict grammatical standard nowadays. That’s why I said that this is not an essay – it’s stage directions, brief descriptions for directing purposes. The finished scene will have been refined, and it’s absolutely clear what happens on screen. Drogon’s reactions are
      1. Grief (he screams without fire).
      2. Unfocused anger. He lashes out without any particular target for his fire.
      3. Focused anger. He aims his fire at the Iron Throne.

        Quote  Reply

    14. Jared,

      Jared

      I still believe that Drogon destroyed the Throne intentionally because he recognized his mother’s obsession with it had contributed to her death, and that if she couldn’t have it, no one could.

      I agree with your thoughts on this as well as your comment about “death of the author”.

      One’s own seeing and hearing and interpretation of a work of art such as film or TV, or any other, are a part of that work of art. They are yours alone – no-one can take them from you. Thus there is that relativistic or at least interactive element to works of art – they don’t self-exist in a vaccuum. I also feel that an intelligent and purposeful Drogon enriches and brings clarity and resolution to the ending. The early meetings of Drogon with Jon Snow seemed to indicate the dragon was perceiving something that others were not.

        Quote  Reply

    Jump to the Top

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *