Winter is almost over for Game of Thrones. With Season 8 on the horizon, we all knew this time would come.
Jon Snow’s positioned himself as a hero. Theon’s on the path to redemption. Bran is increasingly weird. The great war is here. Who will win the game of thrones? Jon? Some weird incest baby? The Night King? What the hell is going to happen?
With the TV adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire coming to a close, we’ve compiled everything we know for sure about the final season below. (Stay tuned, as we’ll update this compendium as more info becomes available.)
The final season will premiere in 2019
The scripts are done, but don’t expect new episodes till 2019. HBO’s Casey Bloys first hinted at the delay back in June, telling Entertainment Weekly that a 2019 release might be necessary to ensure Benioff and Weiss get what they need, production- and post-production-wise. Everyone’s greatest fears were looking more and more real when star Liam Cunningham told TV Guide that the show, which started production in October, is slated to keep shooting well into summer 2018. And then star Sophie Turner put the nail in the coffin. For a show that hinges heavily on effects wizardry, a quick-turnaround fall 2018 release is a pipe dream. Pray for early 2019.
Season 8 will only have six episodes
As far back as April 2016, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss teased plans for a short final season. In an effort to manage the added pressure of creating more original content (the show has way outpaced the books!), the showrunners divvied up the show’s final lap with seven episodes for Season 7 and six for 8. That way they could keep their standards high and deliver quality episodes for fans… and, let’s be real, build hype to LeBron-James-in-high-school levels.
That’s shorter than seasons past (way down from the usual 10), but you won’t be shortchanged. As Cunningham puts it, “When you think about it, up until last season, we’d have six months to do 10 episodes, so we’re [doing] way more than that for six episodes. So that obviously will translate into longer episodes.” How long are we talkin’? Last season’s finale long. Sound designer Paula Fairfield said at Con of Thrones that the creative team is considering making each episode feature length (i.e., between 80 and 120 minutes). It’s been reported that each one will cost roughly $15 million. All that means you’ll still get close to the same amount of material (potentially around 540 total minutes), just in more epic fashion.
Who’s going to be involved?
Behind the camera, Dave Hill and Bryan Cogman earned writing credits for the first two episodes, respectively; and Weiss and Benioff oversaw the last four. David Nutter, Miguel Sapochnik (the guy who did “Hardhome” and “The Battle of the Bastards”), Benioff, and Weiss are all set to direct. In front of the camera, expect your (alive) faves, including Cersei, to return, plus a few newcomers, as reported by fan site Watchers on the Wall: Marc Rissmann as Harry Strickland, Danielle Galligan as Sarra Frey, and Emer McDaid in an unspecified role.
What’s going to happen?
Basically, this is the end. How will it end? We don’t know for sure. And we won’t for some time. As they have in the past, the Game of Thrones powers that be are going to great lengths to ensure nothing’s spoiled. “They’re going to shoot multiple versions [of the ending] so that nobody really knows what happens,” Bloys said, according to a Morning Call report. “You have to do that on a long show. Because when you’re shooting something, people know.” And this, HBO hopes, is a surefire way to throw spoiler-hungry paparazzi off the show’s trail. Translation: Don’t believe everything you read and see when you click on those set-photo “spoilers.”
OK, but… are there any good Game of Thrones theories out there?
Yes! Quite a few. We have ideas, and people we’ve talked to have ideas.
You’ll see at least one spin-off
HBO has closed deals with five writers to explore ideas for Game of Thrones spinoff and prequel shows — or “successor shows,” as Martin calls them. Just don’t expect to see them in the immediate future. “You’re not going to see a situation where the next show in the Thrones universe launches off the back of this one,” Bloys told EW. “The show that Dan and David have created will get its proper send off first. We wouldn’t want to take away from that in any way.”
And don’t expect any of them to be continuations of, say, Ae(Jon)’s exploits. “Every episode of The Naked City — one of the television shows I watched as a kid — ended with a voiceover: ‘There are 8 million stories in the naked city,'” Martin said. “There are 8 million stories in Westeros as well… and even more in Essos and the lands beyond.”
The writers shepherding the ideas along the development path are Jane Goldman, Brian Helgeland, Max Borenstein, Carly Wray, and Cogman. “You should not expect to see all five shows,” Martin added on his blog. At least not immediately: “Much as I might love the idea, HBO is not about to become the Game of Thrones network,” he wrote, “but we could possibly see two or even three make it to the pilot stage, with one series emerging on air in 2019 or 2020… and the others maybe later, if they come out as well as we all hope.”
What has the cast said about the new season?
They’re all predictably cryptic, but stoked as hell. Said Turner: “This season is more a passionate fight for [Sansa] than a political, manipulative kind of fight…. When we all had the read-through for the final season, it was very, very emotional.” Cunningham added, “[The scripts are] just, ‘Oohs,’ and, ‘Ahhs.’ It is as it was in the past, it is just beautiful storytelling. Huge surprises. Wonderful stuff. I can safely say it will be a fantastic, fantastic finish to this incredible story.”
And former star Jason Momoa, after (accidentally) learning some secrets as part of a recent set visit, ups the ante even higher: “It’s going to be the greatest thing that’s ever aired on TV. It’s going to be unbelievable. It’s going to fuck up a lot of people.” Sounds good.