Going into the penultimate episode of the seventh (and shortened season) of “Game of Thrones,” it could be reasonably assumed that named and even perhaps beloved characters would die. For Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) and the tattered remains of his Brotherhood Without Banners, headed north of the wall with Jon Snow (Kit Harington) in hopes of capturing a white walker, odds of survival were particularly grim.
(Since we’re getting into events from Sunday’s pivotal episode, here’s your warning: Spoilers ahead.)
And, indeed, as Sunday’s episode progressed and the group was surrounded by the army of the dead in the middle of a frozen lake, prospects grew even worse. But Beric, who has already been resurrected six times by the red priest Thoros (Paul Kaye), lived to die another day after a dramatic rescue that not everyone survived — Thoros froze to death after being attacked by a zombie bear, and one of Daenerys’ dragons was struck down and later turned by the white walkers.
As fans go into season finale countdown, Dormer offered his thoughts on Sunday’s episode, flaming swords and where Beric may go from here.
I feel like I should congratulate you; odds of your survival did not look good in Sunday’s episode.
Nope, still kicking.
It’s getting down to the wire in the series. Is there any anxiety on everyone’s part in wondering, Is this going to be the episode where it’s my turn to die?
I think we all know there’s going to be very few people who are going to get out of this alive. So ... [laughs] every extra day is a bonus.
Where did you guys film the ice lake battle?
That was actually on a mountain called Wolf Hill, which overlooks the docks in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I can actually see it from my window, which is weird. I’m reminded of that epic five weeks every time I look out my window. It was only about two and a half miles from my house, up in the mountains.
Was it as terribly cold as it looked?
It was colder in the mountains of Belfast than it was on the glacier in Iceland, where we filmed all the big exteriors, the wide shots. Figure that out – I think it’s because in Iceland it is so cold there’s no moisture in the air, whereas in Belfast it was raining, the wind was blowing, we were getting wet. It was pretty nasty.
We also got to see your character and Thoros light their swords on fire. Did you know that was coming?
Yeah, I’d been told way back before we started shooting that was going to happen. I was pretty excited about it.
I’m really honored to be part of that, and working with Paul Kaye, who’s an amazing actor. You know, I think we developed a kind of chemistry between us, and then of course Rory (McCann), the Hound. We all like each other, which is an amazing thing – to really enjoy working with the actors. We’re a pretty good team.
That shows onscreen, particularly with you and Paul. Your characters have a philosophical bent that isn’t often seen elsewhere on the show.
Thinking about it, it’s kind of an unlikely friendship because Beric is a lord who comes from money; he’s from a good family. Thoros is this drunken priest when they first meet, but he has the ability to bring his friend back from the dead, and that’s how they both discover their faiths in R’hllor, the red god. It’s an unlikely pairing but one that works very well. They’re like brothers, they love one another.
There was such an interesting exchange in the episode when the viewer can see Thoros has been mortally wounded, but when you tend to him you both smile at each other. How did you guys come to that moment?
It wasn’t on the page, that’s just how me and Paul work, you know? We just thought these guys are soldiers, they have lived close to death every day of their lives. They smile in the face of adversity.
There was a great bit of dialogue you had when Beric was talking with Jon Snow and told him “death was the only enemy.”
I think that Beric can say those words because he has experienced death, the emptiness and the coldness of it, six times. And the idea that there is an army of death coming upon the world of the living, to him, is an abomination and goes against everything he believes. In a way he’s a fire wight, as George R.R. Martin pointed out earlier. He knows that these things are a suffocating evil.
With Thoros now gone, you’re on your last life. Do you think that changes Beric’s approach going forward?
I don’t think so. I think in a way death will be a relief for Beric. He’s a haunted man; he’s almost a man who looks like he has post-traumatic stress disorder. To die once and come back after experiencing that void is bad enough, but to go six times and lose a bit of yourself every time it’s almost like he has Alzheimer’s; he’s losing a part of himself. I don’t think he sleeps; I think he’s kept awake at night by visions of death and just the emptiness of it.
He definitely seemed ready to take on the Night King when you guys were stranded. That’s where I thought it was going to be your moment.
So did I! [Laughs] But then there would be no Season 8.
Now that Beric no longer has his friend at his side, what do you think is next for him?
I think Beric knows he’s going to fall in battle. I would be the most surprised if he survives this [series]. I think he just prays it will be for a good cause, that his death will somehow save someone or protect someone. He probably wants to go out in literally a blaze of glory.
He seems to have found his purpose.
Yeah, he was a loyal captain who set out to do Ned Stark’s orders to find the Mountain, who was terrorizing the populace. So he went out, got killed a few times, and ever since he’s never let that go, Ned Stark’s demand to bring the Mountain to justice.
Some part of me thinks that Beric is going to keep going until he faces the Mountain or – I don’t know, I don’t have a clue. But I hope it’s cool.
‘Game of Thrones’
When: 9 p.m. Sunday
Rating: TV-MA (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 17)
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