ENTERTAINMENT
05/02/2019 11:32 EDT

The Religious Symbolism Behind Beric Dondarrion's Heroic End On 'Game Of Thrones'

Actor Richard Dormer breaks down the moment Beric shields Arya from an onslaught of wights at the Battle of Winterfell.

HBO/Helen Sloan

With his gravelly voice, makeshift eye patch and flaming sword, Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) is a force to be reckoned with on “Game of Thrones.” After all, he lived many lives: Thoros of Myr (Paul Kaye) resurrected him six times, thanks to some help from the Lord of Light, R’hllor.

But the leader of the Brotherhood Without Banners finally fulfilled his reanimated destiny in Episode 3 of Season 8, when he saved Arya (Maisie Williams) from an onslaught of wights at the Battle of Winterfell. As she sprints down a corridor trailed by the dead, the Hound (Rory McCann) and Beric protect her, with the latter chucking his fiery sword at a wight and pinning himself in a doorway to hold off the oncoming threat.

“When I watched it I was struck by how almost religious it was,” Richard Dormer told HuffPost of his character’s final moment.

He said it was visually influenced by Christ’s death on the cross. Beric is stabbed multiple times before making his way to safety, only to die, for the seventh time, in Arya’s arms ― “a spiritual number,” Dormer noted. 

“The Lord brought him back for a purpose,” Melisandre (Carice van Houten) tells Arya after they watch Beric take his last breath. “Now that purpose has been served.”

By the end of the episode, viewers learn what that purpose is as they watch Arya, reminded of her previous conversation with Melisandre, head off to shut some blue eyes ― the Night King’s, to be exact. With one stab of her Valyrian steel dagger, Arya becomes the one to destroy the Night King and his army for good ― and it’s all because Beric sacrificed his final life to give her a fighting chance.

Below, Dormer celebrates Beric Dondarrion’s end, expands on the religious symbolism behind his heroic surrender and reveals why he didn’t become a wight like the others.

HBO
Beric dies in Arya's arms. 

So nice to speak to you, especially since “Game of Thrones” fans say you have the best voice on TV. It’s very soothing.

[Laughs] Well that’s very nice!

What a way to die. Very heroic. Talk about Beric’s final moments.

Yes, it was very heroic, and quite moving watching it back, actually ― after carrying on for seven years, finally seeing Beric stop moving.

It was reminiscent of Hodor’s death, in that Beric is shielding the door for Arya the way Hodor (Kristian Nairn) did for Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright).

Yes. I was also [shielding] the Hound, as it turns out. He’s saving two very important people in that corridor. But I don’t think anything could get close to Hodor because that was just such a moment in “Game of Thrones” history. For me, I wasn’t thinking of Hodor, but I was thinking of that religious aspect in that he almost looks like Christ. That’s what struck me.

Yes, some people did notice the Christ-like pose, as you are stabbed in the side. Was that intentional?

I think it’s something that Miguel [Sapochnik], the director, and I found on the day. We just realized that I did something when I started falling and I clutched the wall and he said, “Let’s do that. Just stay there and see how many wounds you can take.” So it was something, I think, that was discovered on the day, as far as I remember. Miguel is a brilliant director and brilliant visionary, and I think he just saw that silhouette and really liked it.

Did you, as an actor, have an inkling as to where your character was headed in the scripts or was it an out-of-the-blue thing?

Oh, it was out of the blue. I only realized when I read the scripts, which was a couple of days before the read-through. So yeah. But I think Beric had an inkling of what might be coming.

Like you said, he also saves the Hound, who was paralyzed in fear before Beric pointed to Arya and basically said, “She’s fighting, why aren’t you?” Were you satisfied with Beric’s final moments?

Oh, totally satisfied. Look, if it wasn’t for Beric, Arya would’ve died and humanity would’ve been destroyed, so I think it was a huge gift for him to give up his life.

It’s funny because Arya did tell you and the Hound that she didn’t want to spend her final hours with you “two miserable old shits,” but then you’re the ones who save her.

[Laughs] Yes, it’s very, very good. And that’s because it’s one of the greatest, if not the best, written shows out there. The thought that goes into the planning, and the irony of “Game of Thrones” ... it’s just full of irony, and I’m not talking about an Iron Throne, I’m talking about how it’s full of Easter eggs, if you like, and that’s all thought out and planned, which I think is genius on the writers’ part.

Yes, it’s the show where fans look into every little detail and see how it connects to the greater storyline. Even with the Night King’s symbols — we were looking into those for years, yet here we are at the end of his run. We never find out what those symbols meant.

No, and maybe we don’t. But also I think that’s the clever [ways] of George R.R. Martin — the spirals and such just getting people’s minds thinking and they start to wonder, like we all do, what do they mean? I think that’s very clever. I’m not saying it’s a red herring, but it certainly gets you thinking.

Even Arya being the one to kill the Night King calls back to moments from her past. It was definitely a surprise, though. How did you feel when you read that moment in the script?

It made perfect sense. All the way through we’ve watched her become this assassin and silent, lethal killer, so I think if there’s anybody on the planet who could’ve done it it would be Arya.

Look, if it wasn’t for Beric, Arya would’ve died and humanity would’ve been destroyed...

Jorah Mormont and yourself, as well as a few others [Theon Greyjoy, Lyanna Mormont, Dolorous Edd, Melisandre], have death scenes in this episode. How did you all feel saying goodbye?

We were all separate. I had my last scene, obviously, with Maisie and Rory, but all the scenes were filmed in the space of a year and most of it we weren’t allowed [pause] ... our deaths were pretty private, if you like. [Laughs]

Just that episode, “The Long Night,” reportedly took 55 nights to shoot. How many of those nights were you a part of?

Oh, maybe 30? I don’t think any one of us was there the entire time. But like they say, there were 20 cast members or something, so we were pretty spread out for those grueling night shoots. 

The flaming sword throw was cool! How did that work, stunt-wise?

I had to watch where I swung it because it literally was a metal sword filled with petrol. And it would only burn for two minutes, so we would only fight with it for two minutes and then get a new barrel on it and light that up. It was very, very technical and also very difficult to use when you only got one eye open! So I became pretty adept at swinging that sword.

We didn’t see Beric turn into a wight when the Night King raised the dead. But did he offscreen?

I talked to [showrunners] Dan [Weiss] and David [Benioff] and [executive producer] Bryan Cogman, and I said, “I think I know the answer to this, but why don’t we see Beric’s one blue eye open?” And they all agreed that Beric was already dead. He was a fire wight, if you like, so you can’t kill what is already dead. You cannot lift something that was already dead, if you know what I mean? In the same way that the Night King can’t lift the dead who have already died, he can only lift fresh dead. Whereas I’ve been dead for like seven years on the show. That’s very complicated, but it’s the whole magic of Beric being already dead and the Lord of Light.

So if Jon Snow would’ve died, he probably wouldn’t have come back as a wight either since he was resurrected by Melisandre?

Yes, I think so, but not to the same extent because you actually look at Beric — he’s only supposed to be about 26 years old. Death has ravaged him, you know? He looks at least 20 years older. So, yeah, he’s thoroughly dead.

So you never filmed a scene with wight Beric in a room with the Hound and Melisandre?

No, no, there was just no way that Beric was going to come back after that final death ... there was just no way he could’ve turned into a wight because he already was one, if you know what I mean? He was a fire wight.

Very interesting. Beric on the show sort of follows the storyline of Lady Stoneheart in the books — aka zombie Catelyn Stark. What did you want to do with that arc to make it more specific to Beric and appease the fans?

I don’t really know much as to why Lady Stoneheart isn’t in it — I have no idea. But yeah, I’m kind of glad she isn’t because obviously I got to live on in the show.

And I really haven’t been concerned or worried about those aspects — of fans and the real followers of the show — because all I was doing was just trying to do the best I could and tell Beric’s story that was written for me. I wouldn’t allow myself to get wrapped up in all that [fandom], I just had to do my job, as Beric does.

Is it hard moving on from a successful show like this?

No, not really, it’s just a job like every other job. I mean, OK, it’s a huge job on the biggest show in the world, but I was just a small part of that. I wasn’t a lead character, I was a supporting part, so for me, it’s probably easier than it is for people like Kit [Harington] and Maisie, who were in it from Day 1. I’ve been able to do other stuff, like “Fortitude,” and keep myself busy. But I’m going to miss him. I’m really going to miss that lovely mellow, very deep-voiced warrior. I loved playing him.

So, the Night King, the biggest threat to Westeros, is dead. What happens now?

I think, as in life, you look at the two world wars that happened in the real world and once the shared enemy is gone, people start looking toward one another with suspicion. So, there’s all that to explore, too. Maybe it’s only the beginning of another war. I think people are going to start asking who they can trust, really.

Back to those social politics.

Personal politics, yeah. Politicking among human beings, social interaction, and lies, deceit, loyalty, honor — all that makes the show brilliant. 

As a member of the cast, are you satisfied with the ending?

Yes. I am, actually. I’m happy we finished it when we did because sometimes I think these things drag on for too many seasons and they start to lose their power. But I think they just finished it at the correct year. It’s the perfect time.