Director Alan Taylor talks “Beyond the Wall” and the story’s endgame


Director Alan Taylor returned to Game of Thrones to direct last night’s “Beyond the Wall” after a four-season absence — before last night’s episode, the last one he directed was “Valar Morghulis,” the season 2 finale. The production has grown by leaps and bounds since then, and as he told Deadline in a lengthy, absorbing interview.

“I remember doing a scene where 20,000 men were supposed to ride out of the woods and we had 20 men,” Taylor recalls of the show’s early years. (He’s probably talking about season 1’s “Baelor.”) But through all the changes, the tone on set apparently hasn’t changed:

"Yet, and this speaks to the caliber of people who work on the show, even in the bigger version of Game of Thrones, there’s still a kind of guerrilla indie sensibility that’s driving the thing. I think it also feels like a smaller team creatively that’s driving it, and it doesn’t feel corporate at all. HBO is incredibly supportive and incredibly facilitating, but it doesn’t feel like there’s the long arm of some corporate entity that’s dictating how the show’s going to turn out. There’s no such thing as test screenings. So in terms of the making of it, it still feels more like an indie film, despite the fact that it’s gotten to such a massive level of scale."

Turning to his last night’s episode, Taylor says that the most difficult part of making it was the dragons, specifically the moments where we had to get up close and personal with them, although he was happy he got the privilege of killing one of them. “If you’d seen the rigs we had, the number of guys in green screen outfits,” he recalled. “These flame-throwing mechanical rigs that were going to be replaced later, the huge Styrofoam green blobs that they climb onto when they were getting onto the dragon on the island. It’s amazing the amount of work that goes into something that looks relatively simple afterwards.”

Taylor described the events of “Beyond the Wall” as “a big lurch forward in terms of the oncoming battle.” The most emotional moment, of course, was the death of Viserion, which was the first time one of Daenerys’ dragons perished…and came back as a fearsome zombie. “I think that’s also the major story point in terms of the developing power struggle,” Taylor said, “the fact that now the Night King has nuclear capability, as well as we do.”

Beyond that, Taylor described his job as “braiding stories together that’ve been separate for a long time, braiding characters that’ve been separate for a long time.” Excitingly, he also said that this coming together of storylines “will only continue into Season 8. Now everything’s converging, and that’s going to get only more so in Season 8 when really, all the storylines come together.”

"What I enjoyed when I read all the scripts for this season and when I started to see what my fellow directors were doing, was that there was a thrill in realizing that 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. So, from my episode to the finale next week, the plot points of my episode are topped by the plot points in the episode coming, and Season 8 progresses in the same way."

Clearly, Taylor can tease with the best of them.

And he wasn’t done.

"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. It’s going to keep building the way it’s been building, and I hope people stick around for it."

It sounds like Taylor has read the scripts for season 8. Does that mean he’ll be directing episodes for that season?

Beyond the action scenes in “Beyond the Wall,” Taylor also directed the moment where Daenerys was waiting by Jon Snow’s bedside. Viewers could be forgiven for thinking that the two may be falling for each other. “There’s been an inevitability to the two of them coming together,” Taylor said.

How does he know? Because during the filming of season 1, George R.R. Martin visited the set and “alluded to the fact that Jon and Dany were the point, kind of. That, at the time, there was a huge, vast array of characters, and Jon was a lowly, you know, bastard son. So it wasn’t clear to us at the time, but he 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.”

"So, 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. He recognizes what she’s capable of, and is ready to bend the knee as soon as his knees bend. 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."

There’s a lot of information there. What last step do the pair need to take? What politics and power struggles stand in their way? With one episode left in season 7, we may have to wait until season 8 for clarification, but that’s one hell of a setup.

Next: We break down the trailer for the season 7 finale, shot by shot

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