Emilia Clarke Riding a Pre–Special Effects Dragon Doesn’t Make Her Any Less Badass

Who is Daenerys Targaryen without her dragons? Apparently, she’s just actress Emilia Clarke, hanging out with a giant piece of metal that will later be CGI’d into a dragon.

In a new featurette released in anticipation of the upcoming seventh season of HBO’s Game of Thrones, fans are given an exclusive glimpse into the works of the show’s talented special effects team, who are responsible for all the explosions and gore and—yes—dragons you know and love from the fantastical series. Although the video perfectly shows just how involved each unbelievable effect really is, it’s tough to think of a better example of CGI magic than Daenerys’ scaly companions.

“We handle gas, we handle water, we handle wind, we handle smoke, we handle pyrotechnics, we handle engineering, blood, snot, you know, everything,” visual effects coordinator Sam Conway says in the clip. “Everything you could possibly imagine is our trade.”

True Dany fans know that the dragons are a major plot point as this queen strives to take her throne—she is the Mother of Dragons, after all. But through the six-season-long emotional roller coaster of the dragons’ birth, their angsty and fiery adolescence, their eventual imprisonment, and subsequent freedom, it’s easy to forget that Clarke is interacting with an inanimate object, not a mythical creature. But doesn’t that kind of make Daenerys all the more badass? I mean, who else could look this convincing-although-fake flying through the air on a fake dragon.

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Game of Thrones returns to HBO for season seven on July 16, and with any luck, it will be jam-packed with a healthy helping of dragon drama.

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