Beware the spoilers flying around below for those who haven't yet watched the Season 7 finale of Game of Thrones.
With "The Dragon and the Wolf," Game of Thrones broke its world open quite literally, unleashing the Night King's new pet dragon on the previously unbreakable Wall. It was quite the sight to behold, and wasn't the kind of scene most people were probably picturing when the show's "Winter is Coming" mantra first got uttered. But as interesting as the visuals were, there's an equally intriguing story behind the sounds that went into the sequences with the ice dragon Viserion, in that his shrieks and screams were created from the screams of actual Game of Thrones fans.
If you've paid attention to all things Game of Thrones on social media over the past few years, then you've probably come across at least one of the reaction videos that are filmed at the Burlington Bar in Chicago, for which a large group of fans offer up every hoot, holler, whimper and gasp that a Game of Thrones episode can provoke. Some of those videos have gone quite viral -- playing a role in the cease and desist letters that HBO sent to certain establishments for such viewing parties -- and after the show's sound designer Paula Fairfield, who'd previously teased sexual underpinnings to Dany and Drogon's relationship, decided that the Ice Dragon's cry should contain the harrowing screams of the Night King's army, she decided to enlist some of the people within that crowd.
So, earlier this year for a Con of Thrones convention, Paula Fairfield got in touch with a handful of those hyper-fans, including the Burlington Bar bartender that started making the reaction videos, Sean Loftus. According to Vanity Fair, Fairfield worked it so that the five fans got a little tipsy and then screamed their non-dragon hearts out into some microphones for a few hours. Amusingly enough, Fairfield didn't even offer a reason for why she needed their wails, although she clearly didn't have to. Who wouldn't want to drink booze and have some scream therapy?
When the season finale aired last Sunday, to an insanely big TV audience, Paula Fairfield actually took a trip to Chicago to watch the episode at the Burlington with those she'd worked with, still not fessing up to where the screams would show up. It was only after the episode that the sound designer clued them in on what their true purpose was. And to say the response was positive would be underselling it. Here's how Morgan Drase, GoT fan and lead singer of the band Radio Shaq, laid it out.
I had assumed we would be melting small folk or tortured small folk or small folk on fire...you get the idea. When the episode was over, I was confused because there were no small folk in the final scene. Paula told me we were the dragon, and I lost it and just started texting my band mates: 'IM A MOTHA FUCKIN ICE DRAGON.'
Now that's enthusiasm! And it turns out Paula Fairfield had great ideas for everything else involving Viserion's sound qualities, too. We can probably expect to see a more skeletal version of the dragon next season, and though he's not there yet, Fairfield created a morbid set of wind chimes out of bones she bought online, as well as glass bottles and more, in order to create the sound of Viserion's still-meaty wings snapping up and down. And if you were wondering what made the sound of the dragon's blue flame crashing into The Wall, Fairfield said this was made by taking the noise from a jackhammer and pitching it down.
Because none of us are able to peek into the future to see exactly when Game of Thrones Season 8 will premiere, we'll just have to hope that we're not waiting until 2019 to see this series' swan-dragon song wrap up all those weird family ties. For now, though, you can rewatch Season 7's madness on HBO Go and HBO Now, and to see all the new and exciting shows hitting the small screen in the coming months, head to our fall premiere schedule.