Although there have been plenty of articles written about the various ways HBO’s Game Of Thrones managed to destroy itself in its final year on the air, few of those have featured any mention of actual pyrotechnics. (Beyond some sick Reddit-related burns on David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, at least.) Which is part of what makes this new IndieWire piece, focused on the show’s freshly Emmy-nominated production design team and their daunting task of destroying King’s Landing once and for all such a delight. Fans might have concerns about the show’s writing (and, occasionally, its lighting and cinematography), but it’s to Deborah Riley and her team’s credit that Thrones never stopped looking like a truly convincing simulacrum of a frequently crap-stained fantasy world. (Albeit, one with a Starbuck’s nestled somewhere conveniently close by.)
One of the big takeaways from the piece is that, to burn down King’s Landing—in the show’s penultimate episode, “The Bells”—the team first had to build the damn thing. Normally, the show used the medieval Croatian town of Dubrovnik to stand in for the Westerosi capital and its corruption-choked exteriors, but not even the world’s most indulgent film board is going to let a TV show immolate an actual city, and so the show’s production team was tasked with building a brand-new version of the beloved burg. Two versions, in fact, since they had to depict it both pre- and post-dragon attack. (Fun fact: They built the “clean” King’s Landing” on top of the already built “destroyed” version, so the seeds of the city’s destruction are always there in every scene of the episode. How’s that for the power of stories, Tyrion?)
Per Riley—who’s won four Emmys for her work on the show, and is likely to pick up a fifth—the massive production demands also saw the team up their technological game; in order to get a sense and scale of the various sets they were building, the team created a computer model of the sets and then walked around them in virtual reality. (Said model was then passed on to the show’s dedicated computer graphics team, which used it to help create CG backdrops of the city.) All told, the team managed to construct nine interiors and 33 different buildings for the shoot in a staggeringly short amount of time, ensuring that when Game Of Thrones finally burnt down its world once and for all, it did so while looking its very best.