Matt Bretschneider launches our season with a visceral, visual cold open. He gets us right into the heart of the issue for Daenerys Targaryen as well as the realm. Matt was our maester. He has a deep knowledge of The World of Ice & Fire. He also thinks through problems in myriad ways. He was an invaluable resource for our entire season.
Aleeza Klarman takes us into the anticipated reunions as well as the big Jon-learns-his-true-parentage moment. Her description and character work are sublime. Her dialogue and subtext touch on universal truths, which makes her writing resonate with readers and viewers. There are so many wonderful opportunities for characters to come together in this season. With only six episodes, we wanted to get into these important character moments as quickly as possible.
While much of episode 801 takes place in the North, one significant storyline takes place in King’s Landing. Cersei Lannister deals with uprisings. In our season, Molly Greville gives a subtle performance as Cersei. It’s easy to write or play Cersei as arch, but in episode 801, she is more threatening the cooler she gets. In our production, Molly does a terrific job conveying Cersei’s intelligence and menace.
Throughout the series, our cast members delivered a bittersweet range of emotions and humor so nicely – and they did so with no rehearsals. This was purely a staged reading.
One of the anchor roles is our narrator. Our narrator has lines on nearly every page, and there are hundreds of script pages! We were fortunate to land Brian Savage, who is an accomplished actor and a delight to work with. He has a great voice and delivery. We needed someone who could carry us through tense battle sequences as well as subdued romantic scenes. Brian has the gravitas to help create tension and suspense, and the gentleness necessary to establish intimacy.
Brian is new to the GoT universe, though, and he found some of the pronunciations challenging – particularly on live television. We’re thankful he was game to learn a new language on stage!
Speaking of daunting tasks: director Marissa Dianas tackled two days of live television in three-hour blocks with no do-overs. She coordinated four cameras and called the shots with 14 actors. Marissa didn’t just deliver – she crushed it. And we knew she would.
Marissa was the director for all of the Boston University men’s and women’s basketball broadcasts. She was the camera operator and production assistant for broadcasts of BU men’s and women’s soccer, ice hockey, and softball games. So, Marissa mapped our Game of Thrones staged reading like an action-packed sporting event. She captured important moments among our actors. She put viewers in the middle of the action. She and her stellar BUTV10 production team helped bring our season to life.
Episodes 1-3 were performed on Saturday, April 28, 2018. The performances were live-streamed on BUTV10. All episodes are available in HD up to 1080p, starting with episode 801 – “The Last Hearth.” And be sure to check out Chris Christian’s enhanced edits of our Game of Thrones: The Virtual Final Season episodes for his great SmokeScreen channel. He added vivid images to help orient viewers during the narration. His enhanced episodes are all available here in HD, too.
Episode 802 focuses on King’s Landing. Ruth Johnson enjoys writing about Game of Thrones’ politics. She takes us into Cersei Lannister’s mindset after her brother, Jaime Lannister, has left her to rule the realm alone. Ruth’s sense of humor and her bent for drama comes out in her pages. In fact, you’ll also see Ruth onstage acting in every episode.
Ruth did a fantastic job playing multiple roles, including a young Catelyn Stark and Sandor “The Hound” Clegane. She crushes it as Lord Mazin. (Watch it, Craig Mazin! Ruth is coming to take over your House.)
Later in this episode, Emily Raymond delivers an actor’s Emmy reel sequence for Theon Greyjoy. Emily writes about Theon sneaking aboard the Silence in search of Yara Greyjoy. There he meets the specters of his past. This sequence was inspired by The Winds of Winter pre-release chapter, “The Forsaken.” The Theon/Silence sequence cements this character’s redemptive arc for our season. As Theon Greyjoy, Roman Gutierrez gives us the many sides of Theon, including Reek.
Throughout our season, Ben Bocko plays Euron Greyjoy with elan. Ben makes Euron a delight, even while Euron torments his niece, Yara Greyjoy, who is portrayed by Tamar Gelber. Tamar gives us the spunk that defines Yara, along with the fear she would no doubt feel while being held hostage by the madman Euron.
We were fortunate to have Ben play Tormund Giantsbane and Jaime Lannister, too. Ben has a great range. Euron, Tormond, and Jaime are very different from each other. Though all three have swagger and have been great warriors, they are in different places in their lives. In his performances, Ben found their confidence as well as their vulnerabilities.
All episodes are available in HD up to 1080p. Episode 802 is “All Men Must Know Fear.” Be sure to check out Chris Christian’s enhanced edits of our Game of Thrones: The Virtual Final Season episodes for his great SmokeScreen channel. He added vivid images to help orient viewers during the narration. His enhanced episodes are all available here in HD, too.
Episode 803 focuses on the Battle for Winterfell. Kaely Malik starts our episode eight thousand years in the past. She takes us back to Bran the Builder as he constructs Winterfell – which also gives us a preview of the recently announced HBO Game of Thrones prequel series. She did considerable research on this era using The World of Ice and Fire and other references. It’s important to note that Kaely wrote this episode well before HBO’s prequel announcement.
Kaely taps into details that make an event or a scene seem like it really happened. This grounds her writing, which is important for a fantasy show. She also delivers valuable character moments that grab the viewer. For example, the pre-battle moment for Greyworm and Missandei is so effective. Fans have cited it as one of the great scenes in this standout episode. Marcus McDermott as Greyworm and Lauren Sabbag as Missandei deliver emotional, moving performances that resonate with viewers. It feels real and true because of Kaely’s writing.
Madi Goldman handles ensemble casts with aplomb. She is especially good at rapid-fire launching of character-driven storylines. Madi connects character and action seamlessly, which she demonstrates especially well with her Tyrion/Arya/Jaime/Daenerys/Viserion sequence.
Josh Koopman is transcendent as Tyrion Lannister. Josh wanted to honor this character. He finds the humble longing within Tyrion, along with his intelligence and insight. He also taps into Tyrion’s tenderness. Josh plays many shades of Tyrion’s personality. We were incredibly fortunate to find him.
On and off the page, Madi Goldman has a wicked sense of humor. She injects dire circumstances with a hint of levity. Classic Madi: “The Night King is... not amused.”
Kaely and Madi did an outstanding job. We had two audiences for our Game of Thrones weekend – our studio audience and our live-feed viewing audience. While we asked our studio audience to be reserved while we streamed and recorded the production, our live-feed viewing audience members were shouting, gasping, and straight-up crying during this episode.
“Kings of Winter” is one of our most brutal, poignant episodes.
We're halfway through, but it’s far from over! Go to the “Day two” tab above for episodes 804, 805, and 806.
Kasey Collins delivers a gut-wrenching emotional rollercoaster in “The Pack Survives.” The Stark-Targaryen forces have been defeated at Winterfell and have fled to White Harbor. Our heroes regroup as they mourn their dead and lick their wounds. For those familiar with story structure, this was the end of the second act, our emotional squeeze, for the season.
Kasey is great with dialogue. She dug into the characters and took them to raw places they hadn’t been before. Jaime Lannister has a particularly notable arc in this episode. Kudos to Ben Bocko for taking Jaime on this journey.
There is a heart-rending scene with Gilly and Baby Sam. The incomparable Finley Smith portrayed Gilly. (She also portrayed Lyanna Mormont and Little Girl in episode 801.) Finley is so affecting as Gilly. She conveys all of our sorrow in one scene. Kasey’s deft writing and Finley’s spot-on acting demonstrate how monumental one short scene can be. Bravo!
Kasey also wrote one creepy wedding. It’s Game of Thrones – we couldn’t have a wedding without some massive drama.
Josh Gluck as Brandon Stark gives a stellar performance throughout our season. He delivers the eeriness of the wedding with subtly. We were so lucky to find Josh, because Bran is such a difficult character to fathom. Josh understood where we thought Bran was going in season eight for the show. He gave us an outstanding and, at times, chilling performance.
Josh is often partnered with Sam Nolte, who portrays Sansa Stark. Sam plays Sansa’s dignity, courage, and intelligence with sensitivity. She also conveys the resilience Sansa has developed over the years. In our season, Sansa faces something she hasn’t been exposed to in the past – the supernatural. While Arya, Bran, and Jon have come face to face with the supernatural, Sansa’s horrors have been very human. Sam was able to convey the newness of these supernatural aspects while maintaining Sansa’s strength.
John Hughes does a wonderful job portraying Sander “the Hound” Clegane in this episode. His voice is perfect for the Hound. John projects the Hound’s not giving two f–ks attitude, yet he still has some tenderness for Arya. This is an important quality in this episode, because the Hound is the one who spurs Arya on after her injury.
Episodes 4-6 were performed on Sunday, April 29, 2018. The performances were live-streamed on BUTV10. All episodes are available in HD up to 1080p. Here are the final three episodes, starting with 804 – “The Pack Survives.” And be sure to check out Chris Christian’s enhanced edits of our Game of Thrones: The Virtual Final Season episodes for his great SmokeScreen channel. He added vivid images to help orient viewers during the narration. His enhanced episodes are all available here in HD, too.
Jacob Levy ignites The War for the Dawn. Jacob builds moments deftly. He also delivers layered character moments. He can work with the spectacle as well as on a subtextal level. His writing has a lot of gears.
In episode 805, Jacob creates a powerful, emotional sequence as Jaime Lannister and Sandor Clegane return to King’s Landing. Varys helps get them into the Red Keep.
In our season, Emma Krishnaswami plays two enigmatic characters – Varys and Qyburn. She is absolutely amazing. It’s as if both characters were meant to be gender flipped. There’s no disconnect for characters the audience already knows. She makes the transition seamless. We’re simply taken into our story, which is how it’s supposed to be. Emma makes the experience immersive.
Jacob also delivers one of the most difficult scenes of the season for our writers room. When the room came up with the hard, cold decision in the scene, it was gut-wrenching, but one the writers decided was ultimately necessary.
Jacob writes this heartbreaking scene well, and he gives Jess Stark the chance to deliver a particularly emotional performance as Daenerys Targaryen. It’s very difficult to convey riding a dragon while seated in a chair, but Jess nails it. Throughout our season, Jess portrays Daenerys with strength and vulnerability. Daenerys faces her greatest tests, triumphs, and failures in our season. Jess delivers a compelling, facile performance.
Episodes 805 and 806 were conceived as two continuous episodes. Brittany Spurlin worked with Jacob Levy to make a seamless, sensational handoff after the big 805 cliffhanger.
In “Lightbringer,” Brittany delivers an emotionally satisfying conclusion that weaves together Bran’s, Jon’s, and Daenerys’ storylines. She handles character-driven action well. She did extensive research, and she layers the script with ASOIAF lore. She wanted the final episode to have echoes from the show’s pilot episode and other first season episodes.
Arya Stark is crucial to Jon Snow’s storyline. Sophie Gore, who plays Arya Stark in our production, and Liam Bowes, who plays Jon Snow, embrace these characters and this relationship. Brittany had the honor – and the challenge – of bringing everything home. From their reunion in episode 801 to their crucial scene in 806, Sophie and Liam sell us on the Jon and Arya relationship and their fundamental love for each other. It’s a relationship we’ve been longing to see resumed since Jon gave Arya Needle in the show’s first season.
Sophie channels Arya Stark’s pluck and fearlessness. Liam nails Jon’s humble command presence as well as his self-sacrificing nature. They also encourage each other’s lighter natures, which makes the dramatic scenes all the more heartbreaking.
Strong female characters run throughout Game of Thrones, but Brienne of Tarth stands out. She has such a clear vision of herself at the beginning of the series, and she is one of the few characters who never wavers. Alexandra Cooney portrays this strong woman in our season. Alexandra plays Brienne with that true center. In many ways, Brienne is the ideal role model for other characters – Jaime, Arya, Sandor Clegane.
Thank you for taking this journey with us. Here’s the final installment in our virtual final season, episode 806 – “Lightbringer.”