Amid all the drama and intrigue -- and clashing swords, swooping dragons, casual incest and post-apocalyptic metaphors that ring eerily true for real life -- Game of Thrones often presents viewers with a singular question: How the hell did they do that?
And if you were at all fascinated by Sunday night's episode, "Beyond The Wall," you were likely thirsting for answers after a blood-thirsty, undead polar bear leapt into the fray, busting up Jon Snow's splinter crew beyond the Wall in exactly the kind of manner you'd expect from such a pissed off, mutant creature. Luckily, HBO released a behind-the-scenes look at the episode, which details how the crew created the monster (i.e., with a lot of green screens, camera trickery, sheer will, and determination.)
According to showrunner D.B. Weiss, the masterminds behind TV's most popular show had been lobbying to include a zombie polar bear in an episode for the last four seasons (go figure). "What we had to do to get the zombie polar bear, was writing the zombie polar bear into every season of the show for about four seasons," said Weiss. It's an outlandish concept to be sure, so Weiss further explained that the idea was initially met with resistance, as the special effects crew said year after year: "'Fuck you, we cannot afford a zombie polar bear.'"
Lo and behold, the funds were allocated, and what we got was absolute bastard of an animal. Director Alan Taylor told Entertainment Weekly that the bear was designed by the New Zealand-based design and effects company WETA. And as evidenced by the video, an actor wearing a green suit was lucky enough to play the animal's part, while its victims were flung into the air with the aid of wires and, yes, more green screens.
Also of note, the VFX and production crew had to literally construct an entire frozen lake where there wasn't one, just to make the episode work. Since the filming was split between Iceland and a giant quarry in Belfast, Ireland, the magicians behind the scene replicated the frozen lake for that epic battle sequence with the Army of the Dead. As Taylor told HBO, letting out a laugh: "We built nature."
If you're still frothing for more GOT action, rest assured that the fight for the Iron Throne will continue during the season finale (gasp) next week. While major spoilers are a dime-a-dozen, it's safe to say there probably won't be another zombie polar bear in the next episode, but then again, how can we really be sure?
[h/t Entertainment Weekly via Esquire]