Overall, I found this really interesting; I especially appreciated that we got to see a lot of what went into making episode 3 ("The Long Night") because that was easily my favourite of the season overall (plus all the Braime bits of episodes 2 and 4, obviously <3). It was fascinating to see what goes into making the show, from the director's weird little quirks to the Brummie snow mechanic. (All those decades of SFX teams trying different chemical compounds to make fake snow, and apparently the most realistic is shredded paper+water. The more you know...)
The guy who had been an extra for six seasons was entertaining, and I loved that he was so loyal to House Stark. If I ever go to Belfast I hope he's doing the tour because he was clearly in his element, and being on the show had obviously been very good for him on a personal level. Plus he did that mental switch recognised by fanboys and -girls everywhere, i.e. speaking in a very calm and sensible manner to Kit Harington about getting him a jacket and then FREAKING OUT when he was out of earshot (we've all been there, mate.)
The thing that I found the most fascinating was the table read section near the start where the cast got together to see the script for the first time. Honestly, some of their reactions said more than I think we'll ever get from post-season interviews. There's a GIFset on Tumblr here which sums up the majority of them.
- Everyone fucking screaming with joy at the Arya vs. Night King twist (particularly Maisie Williams, obviously!)
- Conleth Hill (Varys) throwing his script down onto the table after saying his final line pre-execution. (Also him gently hugging Gwendoline Christie, which was really cute - I can't quite remember the context of it now.)
- Kit Harington's reaction to Jon killing Dany, backing away from the table in speechless horror. Emilia Clarke seemed somewhat less surprised, which is good because it shows that she maybe anticipated where Dany's arc was going, or she'd just hit a point of giving up on giving a shit by then. (I guess from an actor’s perspective Dany’s descent into madness would be an interesting challenge…)
- Lena Heady being conspicuously silent throughout (not that Cersei had much to do in the season so I guess there was very little to go on).
- Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Peter Dinklage both being very consciously aware of the camera pointing at them and subsequently ensuring their faces/reactions could not be seen. That honestly tells me everything I need to know about how happy (or not) they were with where their characters were going, as does the fact that so little focus was on them for the rest of the documentary AND we didn't get to see them reading their lines at the table.
- The throwback shot to a season 1 table read and BABY ARYA. (It's so nice how we've watched all these young actors grow and mature and turn into brilliant performers.)
- Like 50% of the cast wearing reading glasses (specifically those over a Certain Age). I dunno, I just found it cute/interesting and heart-warmingly normal. :D
In what we got to see of the show being filmed, I found it particularly fascinating to see how Sophie Turner struggled to switch off again after the funeral scene with Theon - I can only begin to imagine how emotionally gruelling this entire season must have been to film.
In that vein, I'm actually very glad that we didn't get any kind of behind-the-scenes insight into Jaime and Brienne's last scene, as apparently the director asked Nik to ad lib "I don't love you any more" to make Gwen start crying, and I can't decide if that's a genuis move or unspeakably cruel and honestly I am done with moping over this ship. :(
(BUT, I would really have liked to see that take where Nik zoned out during the knighting scene - I hope that's the one they used in the final cut...)
Kit Harington's emotional reaction to filming his last scene was also really touching, though perhaps also a warning sign considering the recent news of him being admitted to rehab. Apparently he's always struggled with the fame the show has brought, and it's been a huge part of everyone's lives for ten years. However bereft the fans are feeling now it's finished, it must be a million times worse for those who were involved in creating it, and I imagine the backlash to season 8 has been a horrible additional burden to try and process. (Particularly as the cast and crew have done a stellar job of making bad writing at least vaguely passable; the backlash has been about the writing of the last two episodes in particular, but stuff like the "Rewrite Season 8" petition is a kick in the face for everyone.)
Actually, talking of the writing: it was also very interesting how so much of the documentary focused on episode 3 onwards and some very specific characters, namely Dany, Jon and the Night King. We got to see their final shots being filmed, but literally nobody else's. There were some smaller bits where we saw a little of Tyrion's speech at the Dragon Pit; the above-mentioned funeral scene with Sansa/Theon; some behind-the-scenes gubbins of how they shot Arya killing the Night King. Given that episodes 3-6 were written by D&D and they were also executive producers of the documentary, it basically feels like they're extending their god complex and ignoring all the stuff they don't want to deal with, namely problematic cast members.
Because yes, I would actually have liked to see everyone's reactions to filming their final ever shots (and to find out where they were in comparison to the season chronology, because obviously we need more heartbreak :P). Again, the absence of particular cast members in that sense is very, very telling, and indicates that on some level D&D do understand how unhappy certain people were with the season, but don't want to acknowledge it by giving them the chance to air it. (Particularly in such an informal setting, like Emilia Clarke going into hair&make-up and chatting, for example. It's much easier to do damage limitation in the aftermath. Give it a few years, I guarantee we will hear Some Things about this season from those who are conspicuous through their silence currently...)
I should say that D&D must be given some credit for "The Long Night", but it seems that the episode's success lies in the fact that in its entire 90 minutes, there were only three actual dialogue scenes (and clearly the direction/cinematography had a lot to do with it). Clearly, their strengths lie in envisioning these big, epic battle scenes, but after episodes 1 and 2 gave us so much excellent character stuff, perhaps it might have been a better idea to collaborate with Bryan Cogman for the entire season rather than having two separate writing "teams". The second half of the season literally felt like it was written by different people - because it was - and by this point I would hope for better cohesion, quite frankly. It honestly feels like they didn't even discuss a way forward which made sense in the context of each episode, let alone the previous seasons - and they should have taken up HBO's offer of more money/episodes so that there was more space to fully explore all the character arcs and answer some of those outstanding questions.
So yes, overall it was enjoyable, because it's always interesting to see how big shows like this are put together and to meet some of the creatives behind the process, but I would have liked to see more of the show actually being filmed - more out-takes, more bloopers, more of the table read and the cast's reactions to the script. There have been some really iconic moments in this season (Brienne's knighting, Dany's Mad Queen speech in the finale, Cleganebowl!) which I would have liked to see some acknowledgement of. Honestly, D&D have not done themselves any favours through only focusing on specific characters/cast members, and their approach is so hilariously transparent I don't even know what to do with it.
Anyway, fingers crossed when a full eight-season box set gets released it will be full of alternative endings and out-takes. :P
I think that was everything...
Brief real life news: our credit/reference checks have cleared so hopefully we will be moving in around a month to a house on the Oldbury/Quinton border (still under Sandwell but the posh bit of Oldbury – we’re going up in the world!), which is more than our current rent, and also smaller, but a lot closer to Bearwood. This time I am actually going to try and throw stuff out before we move rather than after. :P
Further updates as and when they occur, obviously.