Alan Taylor directed several huge moments from Game of Thrones’ first two seasons, including poor Ned’s beheading in “Baelor” and the moment when Dany’s dragons were born in “Fire and Blood.” When Taylor returned to the series to kill one of the dragons in “Beyond the Wall,” he found a franchise transformed in size and ambition, as he told the New York Times.
Taylor explained some of the events that precipitated the battle on the frozen lake, including how those ravens made it to Dragonstone so damn quickly. “I’ve only looked at one review online, and it was very much concerned with the speed of the ravens. I thought, that’s funny — you don’t seem troubled by the lizard as big as a 747, but you’re really concerned about the speed of a raven.”
"It is true there are time issues, and I’m not exactly sure how many kilometers there are between Eastwatch and Dragonstone. But it was a bit dreary to hear somebody who said, “I cannot enjoy this episode because, you know, that speed of that raven … ” There’s was a lot of wonderful stuff going on here and if it really gets that much in your way, that’s not good to hear. But that said, Gendry’s a really great runner. [Laughs.] Ravens go super fast. And who’s to say how much time passes on that island, since it’s always sort of an eternal twilight north of the Wall? With those three ideas in mind, I think we can lay the timing concerns to rest."
We’re not sure we agree, but Gendry did handle those up and down hills like a pro.
Taylor spoke on this topic again with Variety, where he said that the producers kept the timeline intentionally “hazy” and admitted that it was “straining plausibility a little bit, but I hope the story’s momentum carries over some of that stuff.”
"It’s cool that the show is so important to so many people that it’s being scrutinized so thoroughly,” he continued. “If the show was struggling, I’d be worried about those concerns, but the show seems to be doing pretty well so it’s OK to have people with those concerns."
Pivoting back The New York Times, Taylor discussed the battle on the frozen lake, which looked like anything but when he first saw the location. “There was no water, there was no lake, there was no anything. And so my mind was sort of reeling on how we were going to do it.”
"Then what you see in the making-of is a lot of thought going into where the island was going to be, what shape it was going to be. Then once we carved and leveled the surface of the lake, and could do these treatments to make it look like ice — of course, anytime someone falls through that ice, it’s not there. It’s separate shots and separate locations all to create those moments, so it’s a quick lesson in scale on what the show has evolved to."
As for killing Viserion, Taylor told The Hollywood Reporter that he leaned on the actors to sell the enormity of the moment. “There are some shots that were deliberately elegiac and emotional, like when he slides into the water,” Taylor said. “So much of it is cross-cutting the faces as they watch this action unfold, so we have reaction shots all along the way from the moment of impact, barreling toward the water, and finally sinking into the ice.”
"Of course, that emotional cross-cutting ends on Emilia, because it’s her baby that’s gone down. I think she did wonderful work, given that she was working off of a tennis ball in that moment. And then we cut to Jon, who is filled with fury. It’s a great pairing of those two emotional reactions."
The battle also led to a giant leap forward in the relationship between Jon and Daenerys, a subject Taylor has teased before. Taylor sees “more to come, politically, between them, and also romantically.” Even if he is too little for her.
While the majority of the episode focused on Jon’s mission north of the Wall, we also spent time in Winterfell. There, we saw Arya and Sansa’s mutual distrust blossom into something bigger and more dangerous. “I love the fact that these two come back, they’re both lethal, and I just wanted to give the impression, as much as possible, that one of them is going to die,” Taylor told the Huffington Post. “But you’re not sure which one.”
And if that’s not unsettling enough, Taylor added that “something is coming very soon between them, and it will be violent but surprising.” But offscreen, stars and best friends Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner were elated to be working together again.
"Their scenes are beautiful. When I first read those scenes, I was thinking, “Oh, my god, these are so long. We’re standing here talking for eight pages ― is that going to work?” But there’s so much electricity between them, there’s so much tension and sisterly power dynamics between them, those two scenes between them are some of my favorites in the episode now."
We hope Taylor is pointing us in the wrong direction. Arya or Sansa killing the other might break the internet.
One more thing: when talking to Insider, Taylor gave us a little preview of what’s next for dear, departed, undead Viserion:
"I do know how he behaves later on, and I know some things about what happens with him. Some pretty big things are approaching. They now have this weapon and the game changes very fast, as you’ll see."
We’ll find out how when “The Dragon and the Wolf,” the season 7 finale, airs this Sunday at 9:00 p.m. EST.