'Game of Thrones': A Behind the Scenes Gallery of the Galvanizing Season 7

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Game of Thrones - Lena Headey, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
Helen Sloan/HBO

Cersei (Lena Headey) and Jaime Lannister’s (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) scenes may be intense, but the actors still crack each other up. “Season 7 is mad,” Headey says. “Cersei wants to rule the world.” And she commissioned the floor map to prove it. “The map was not, however, painted by people on their knees, as in the premiere,” says graphic designer Jim Stanes. The design took six weeks and was constructed from fiberboard tiles that were assembled, painted and laid out.

Game of Thrones - Iain Glen, John Bradley
Helen Sloan/HBO

Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) got a new lease on life thanks to aspiring maester Samwell Tarly (John Bradley), who cut away the greyscale that was turning Jorah to stone. But shooting the gory scene wasn’t easy. “The prosthetics are cast in a silicone rubber gel and glued on with medical adhesive,” says prosthetics designer Barrie Gower. The entire process? Four hours.

Game of THones - Emilia Clark
Macall B. Polay/HBO

“Daenerys Targaryen has sharpened her teeth and is ready to go,” says Emilia Clarke, sheltering from the sun on Spain’s northern coast, which stands in for Dany’s ancestral home of Dragonstone. Clarke credits costume designer Michele Clapton with giving her the extra ammo to attack her warrior-queen role. “The costume makes you feel like you mean business,” Clarke explains. “This year the shoulder pads give Dany some Unsullied soldierlike strength.”

Game of Thrones - Daniel Portman and Gwendoline Christie
Helen Sloan/HBO

Brienne (Gwendoline Christie, above) is sworn to protect Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner)—but even a great swordswoman sometimes needs a coffee break! Even if it’s outside in chilly Northern Ireland. “We spend a lot of time in a studio,” Turner says. “We’re stuck in these heavy costumes, cooped up in the dark, so it’s good when we finally get out into the light to laugh and chat.”

Game of Thrones - Pilou Asbæk as Euron Greyjoy
Helen Sloan/HBO

Destroying the fleets allied with House Targaryen got pretty messy for Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk). “The sea battle was shot over several days, so it’s a challenge to get the blood splatter the same every time,” says makeup designer Jane Walker. Her team uses continuity shots to keep track.

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Too soon, Game of Thrones! The hit HBO series’ shortened Season 7 is racing to its explosive, supersized 81-minute conclusion. Who will live? Who will die? And can the new alliances stop the powerful Night King? “This finale is bigger and more complex logistically and in terms of storytelling than any other episode,” teases Jeremy Podeswa, who directed this season’s first and final installments. “It has an enormous number of locales and epic events. The story comes to a head and hurtles toward a dramatic finish.” But first, we look back at key behind-the-scenes moments from Season 7. Spoiler alert: Shoulder pads are back—and they are fierce.

Game of Thrones, Season Finale, Sunday, Aug. 27, 9/8c, HBO