Game of Thrones‘ final season might not have been the ending everyone wanted, but its sheer size and scope means it was still a marvel of television making. One week after the finale aired, HBO’s documentary The Last Watch gave us an inside look at the unimaginable work that went into bringing it to life. Season eight required a relentless shooting schedule, hundreds of extras and crew working nonstop for months, and a whole lot of late nights. And while the personal stories it explored might have been the heart of the doc (Andrew McClay should be in everything), it also had a lot of insights to offer fans. Here are the most interesting things we learned from this in-depth journey behind the scenes.
Direwolves Can Run 30 MPH
Executive producer Bernie Caulfield needed to know how fast a direwolf could run, as Ghost was going to be involved in a major tracking shot during the Battle of Winterfell. This is the type of info we’ve always craved, especially when ravens and dragons were flying at super sonic speeds in season seven.
It Took Seven Months to Build King’s Landing
A Mad Queen can’t burn down an entire city unless you build her one first, and the incredible King’s Landing set used in the final season took seven months to build. That appears to be more time and effort than was required to rebuild the city on the show once Bran become king.
The Show Had a “Snow Man”
You can’t have winter without snow, and Game of Thrones had its very own “Snow Man” from season one through the end. Del Reid wasn’t just responsible for outfitting sets with fake wintry mix (paper and water), he also needed to make sure there were never tire marks left in the snow-covered ground. Westeros does not have bicycles or semi-trucks. Also, we found out that occasional real snowfall also made his job very difficult. Winter is really the worst.
The Night King Still Had a Day Job
You’d think being the leader of the world’s largest army and an ice demon that is literally death incarnate would be a full-time job, but the show’s Night King Vladimir Furdik never gave up his original job on the show as a stunt supervisor. Even as he was leading the White Walker march on Winterfell, he was still choreographing fights and stunts on the show, including some of his own.
David Nutter Is a Nut About Paper
What’s the key to directing some of the best, most famous episodes in Game of Thrones history? The right sized paper, apparently David Nutter is very specific about which size he will work with. It also helped he was meticulous in his pre-planning so he could spend more time on set working with his actors on their performance rather than where they would all be standing.
Filming “The Long Night” Was Equivalent to Shooting Three Major Show Events
We knew the Battle of Winterfell, which required 55 grueling nights of filming, was going to set records, but in terms of what it meant for the show it was the equivalent of shooting Hardhome, the Battle of the Bastards, and the Loot Train Attack. Those are three of the biggest sequences in TV history, let alone Game of Thrones. There might never again be a TV show that tries something as big as “The Long Night.”
120,000 Wights Versus 18,000 Living
One thing that was frustratingly never clear during season eight was how many living fighters were at Winterfell. Now we know the numbers the show had in mind, and they are way, way, way more lopsided than we thought. We always had over 100,000 wights in mind, since that general number was mentioned a few times, but we thought the living had closer to 30,000 or 40,000 on its side. This 18,000 number makes less sense when you see how many Dothraki and Unsullied Daenerys still had in King’s Landing, after the majority seemed to die fighting the White Walkers.
Maisie Williams Didn’t Actually Catch Her Dagger Every Time
Don’t look behind that curtain! Sometimes you find something that will take away from the magic of a moment, like how Maisie Williams didn’t actually catch her Valyrian steel dagger before killing the Night King. For the sake of not delaying what looked like a difficult, exhausting, wet shoot, it was obviously easier for her to drop the dagger without trying to catch it, so we don’t blame anyone involved for doing the smart, faster thing. It obviously didn’t matter for the final shot anyway, but it was still strange to see.
The Show Brought Decoys to the Dragonpit
After season seven, reports said HBO was going to film false endings to fight leaks, and while it doesn’t appear that actually happened the show did have some decoys show up for the Dragonpit King Council to throw people off. The actors who played Jaqen Hagar and the Waif were on set in costume for some amazing deception, and they also brought in Valdmir Furdik and Kit Harington so the people of Spain could see them.