Warning! This post contains spoilers regarding the latest episode of Game of Thrones. Read at your own risk.
The zombie polar bear that appeared in this past Sunday's episode of Game of Thrones may be remembered as a small part of a game-changing episode for some fans, but for showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, as well as the crew, it was a moment years in the making. Weiss shared exactly why it took so long to make the moment happen, and how the creature finally made its debut in Season 7 below:
What we had to go through to get the zombie polar bear was writing the zombie polar bear into every season of the show for about four seasons. Only to have Bernie and the visual effects guys tell us in the nicest possible way, 'Fuck you, we cannot afford a zombie polar bear.' . . . This year, it made perfect sense that you could have one of these things out there, and we really put our four feet down and we said, 'God dammit, we want a zombie polar bear.'
Considering the massive amount of money Game of Thrones has surely dropped in Season 7 on dragon battles alone, a CGI-driven zombie polar bear was likely easier to sneak by on this year's budget breakdown than it was in past seasons. The money was just one of many hurdles, however, as the behind-the-scenes video detailing the process shows that entire sequence was much more difficult to film than one would imagine. It's actually impressive just how much the Game of Thrones staff was able to emulate a bear attack without using an actual bear, although they aren't the first to pull that off. That said, The Revenant didn't set its bear on fire, so who's really the winner here?
This particular request from the Game of Thrones showrunners probably seemed out of the blue (eye) and random for the television crowd unfamiliar with the novels, but readers likely know and appreciate D.B. Weiss and David Benioff's presumed small nod to the books. In A Storm Of Swords, a wight-ed snow bear (which is like a northern Direwolf version of a regular bear) attacks the Night's Watch at the Battle of the Fist of the First Men and beheads Thoren Smallwood in one clean swipe. The snow bear was notably absent from the TV version of the battle way back in Season 3, which appears to line up with how long the showrunners have been waiting to make this moment happen.
Game of Thrones fans will have to be on the lookout for more obscure book references as the series runs its Season 7 finale August 27th at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. For more discussion related to the series, be sure to read up on another smaller and potentially weirder moment from the last episode that has fans talking, or read what a recent director thinks regarding the rising tension between Arya and Sansa. For shows to watch following GoT's season finale, visit our fall premiere guide.