The Bittersweet Goodbyes
It’s always hard to say goodbye, especially to something as profound and life-changing a project as Game Of Thrones. The stars of the show will undoubtedly have star-studded careers and go on to become household names in the industry but the faces behind the scenes are largely the unsung heroes on a project like this. Step forward The Last Watch, which takes us behind the scenes of Season 8’s exhausting production schedule and the effort hundreds of people put into making this such a visual masterpiece. Say what you will about the story, the production of the show has been top notch from start to finish.
I’m a big sucker for Behind The Scenes material, with Star Wars’ Empire Of Dreams remaining one of my favourite documentaries of all time. Compared to that in-depth look at Star Wars or even Lord Of The Rings’ equally appealing documentary, The Last Watch pales in comparison. Beginning with the pre-production schedule of the season before the first script reading, we’re introduced to 3 or 4 extras we follow for the 2 hours, including a Snow Director, The Night King actor, a food vendor and a Stark warrior extra. Before we follow their journeys however, we begin with Bryan Cogman reading the Direction for the characters in the first script reading, complete with the actor reactions, before sporadically jumping around the 6 episodes to see set designs, choreography, visual effects and scene composition.
While the material here is enjoyable, it all feels a little light on content. There’s no face to face interviews with the main cast, no George R.R. Martin, no David Benioff or D.B. Weiss and a profound lack of emotion around how anyone felt about the season as a whole. Of course, I’m not expecting the cast to come out and criticize the season here but beyond a few tantalizing glimpses of character reactions during costume and make-up, there’s nothing to really show the emotional impact of the season or what impact Game Of Thrones has had on their life.
How does Lena Headey feel about wrapping up the season and Cersei’s end? What was the mood like for the cast on the final day of shooting? Was it difficult doing all those night scenes in the cold? What was the hardest scene to shoot? None of these questions are adequately explored and the profound lack of struggle or any sort of in-depth analysis on the production woes really hurts this documentary. There’s a few scenes showing Maisie Williams clutching her hands after vaulting onto The Night King but we never see the reaction from her to this scene. Another time we see Conleth Hill (the actor playing Varys) raising his eyebrows during the script reading and looking around but the camera cuts away before we see any proper reaction from him. It’s these moments that add charm and character to a documentary like this and here it’s missing which is a real shame.
Say what you will about Game Of Thrones Season 8, The Last Watch is an interesting documentary but also something that feels like an added feature on a DVD rather than the caliber of an award winning HBO documentary. I have no illusions that the production schedule of Season 8 was a massive undertaking for all involved and an incredible visual masterpiece but it would have been nice to see more of the cast here and some face to face interviews to show how they felt about the production schedule. Or even Ramin Djawadi’s score, which is disappointingly missing throughout the documentary.
I love ‘Making Of’ documentaries and despite my disdain for Season 8, I was really looking forward to this one. All the pitfalls, little victories and emotional impact this season had on many of the cast are really what helps add character to a documentary like this but here there’s just not enough here to make this memorable. Ironic I guess when you look at Season 8’s lack of emotional weight but at a little under 2 hours, The Last Stand fails to look at the actors, writers, creators or anyone’s emotional reaction to arguably the biggest season of television history. It’s not bad and there are some interesting parts to this, but I can’t help but feel it could have been so much more.