Everything We Know About ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 8
Major spoilers for Game of Thrones Seasons 1-7 and unconfirmed possible spoilers for Season 8 follow.
With Season 8 on the horizon, winter’s almost over for Game of Thrones. Bummer, we know. But that means someone’s finally going to win — drumroll, please — the game of thrones, right? Like Jon? Or The Night King? Or some weird incest baby? Hopefully! Below, we’re compiling (and updating) everything we know about the HBO hit’s final season. Let’s do this.
The final season will premiere in April 2019
April 14, to be exact. Fans have waited patiently for nearly a year and a half after the Season 7 finale back at the end of August 2017 for news of Season 8’s arrival. A dramatic preview trailer, released in November 2018, revealed that HBO would return in April 2019, although no new footage was unveiled at this time. A frustratingly withholding promo teaser arrived in December (see below), and a brief scene of actual footage of Daenerys arriving at Winterfell and Sansa saying “Winterfell is yours, your grace” came along during the Golden Globes in early January. But it wasn’t until the lead up to the premiere of True Detective Season 3 on January 13 that we learned the big date: April 14, 2019.
Since Season 8 will have six episodes total, this would seem to indicate that the final episode will air May 19. Obviously, clear your calendar!
What else happens in the official tease?
HBO alerted us that it’d be revealing the premiere date a few days ahead of True Detective Season 3 by posting a dorky fake text exchange on Twitter. On Sunday, they dropped the “official tease,” a 1:46 promo directed by David Nutter titled “The Crypts of Winterfell.” Before it ultimately delivers on the date announcement, we see Jon Snow, Sansa Stark, and Arya Stark walking through the crypts under Winterfell, as voices from their past — Ned Stark, Lyanna Stark, and Catelyn Stark, to be exact — speak to them. And then they stop in front of three other statues resembling themselves before the crypt chills and the familiar frost of the White Walkers crackles ominously.
Here’s the official teaser trailer
HBO dropped the official teaser trailer in December, and it’s a pretty lame, but very foreboding, figurative look at what’s to come — which is a hell of a lot of fire and ice, apparently. The short clip comes in at just 39 seconds and features a direwolf, dragon, and lion (each emblematic of one of the houses), freezing or going up in flames, calling back the title of the original book series, A Song of Ice and Fire. From what it looks like, as the fire and ice dramatically meet and clash at the end of the teaser, a final battle (which we’ve long anticipated) is bound to erupt. Go figure!
Here’s the first promo poster
It underlines the whole 2019 thing. It shows the houses contending for the throne. It… is fine.
Season 8 will only have six episodes
As far back as April 2016, Benioff and Weiss teased plans for a shorter final season. In an effort to manage the added pressure of creating more original content (the show has far outpaced author George R. R. Martin’s source material), the showrunners divvied up GoT‘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 actor Liam Cunningham put 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. Entertainment Weekly pointed out that the episodes’ runtimes may have leaked at a recent January 2019 meeting of television networks in France. While HBO has yet to confirm or deny this finding, if true, it looks like the first two episodes may come in around 60 minutes, with the final four running at about 80 minutes each. It’s also been reported that each one will cost roughly $15 million, which means you’ll still get close to the same amount of material (potentially around 400 some minutes total), 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 (Lena Headey), 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, Emer McDaid in an unspecified role, and Alice Nokes as a character named Willa.
A familiar furry face is also set to return: Jon Snow’s beloved direwolf Ghost. Though the four-legged friend was absent from the entirety of Season 7, in speaking to HuffPost, series Visual Effects Supervisor Joe Bauer confirmed “he has a fair amount of screen time in Season 8.” He explained that despite the difficulty of filming with live wolves, which caused Ghost’s limited screen time in the past, “He’s very present and does some pretty cool things in Season 8.” As for Arya’s faithful Nymeria, who did appear last season for the first time since Season 1, there’s no clear word whether or not she’ll be back.
Maisie Williams seems intimidated by the scope of it all
Williams, who plays Arya, has read all the scripts. Which means she knows everything, and she’s living her life with the fear that at any given moment she could accidentally spoil everything. To her credit, she’s doing a great job keeping her cards close to her vest. The only thing Williams has revealed on press circuits so far is that closing out the series on a high note is already proving to be a mammoth undertaking. “My first real thought was, ‘Oh God, we have to shoot this now.’ And it is kind of an impossible challenge,” she told Metro in mid-February, admitting she’s happy she doesn’t have to deal with the pressures of writing the show. “The task is huge. But, there’s no better way to leave the show, to be honest.”
…And Kit Harington cried at the table read.
Yep. According to Entertainment Weekly, actor Kit Harington, who plays the show’s sword-wielding (and direwolf-loving) hero Jon Snow, “wept” not once, but twice when reading the script and learning the fate of his character. Were they happy or sad tears? It’s hard to say — the article keeps spoilers to a minimum — but it does note that Harington had not read the script when the cast assembled for the first table read at the production offices in Belfast. (Others, like Emilia Clarke, rushed home to read the password-protected scripts the second they appeared in their inboxes.) Instead, Harington discovered what awaited Jon Snow as the script was read aloud. “What’s the point of reading it to myself in my own head when I can listen to people do it and find out with my friends?” Harington explains in the article.
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.”
Or is that a bluff?
Multiple endings. Really? “I immediately thought, I don’t think we’ve got the budget to shoot lots of different endings,” Williams said on Jimmy Kimmel Live. “As we know, sometimes presidents don’t always tell the truth.” Williams went on to insist that she knows the real ending, and it’s “incredible.”
According to director David Nutter, though, they really did shoot a number of fake scenes! In an interview with the Huffington Post, Nutter explained he always knew when fake scenes were being shot, and that was just one part of the production team’s elaborate plan to keep things tightly under wraps. He said, “[Paparazzi] were all over, everywhere, trying to get in on what was happening. But it was definitely a situation where there was no paper on the set, [that] type of thing.”
Nutter went so far to say that the production team acted like the Nazi’s secret police force — all to make sure their coveted Season 8 secrets didn’t leak. He said, “They wanted to make sure nobody knew what was happening, and they went to the nth degree, like they do on the show in general. They basically take it to the point where it’s like the Gestapo.”
Are there any good Game of Thrones theories out there?
Spoiler-wise, it looks like Winterfell will go down in flames
OK, we know we just said to be skeptical of the spoilers you see, but we thought we’d tease some of the big ones and let you decide what you want to do with them. Video shot near set (above) shows the walls of what looks like Winterfell ablaze. Belfast Livereported that the mayhem was part of a massive battle scene, with 400 or 500 extras. Though the footage doesn’t offer hints as to what caused the fire — a certain queen’s doing? Viserion? — its sheer size means the finished product could rival the Battle of the Bastards and other famously epic set pieces.
Something will crush the walls of King’s Landing
Last year, Watchers on the Wall pointed out that the gate arch near the entryway to King’s Landing appeared to be “in ruins,” meaning someone or something might have broken into the city. Recent set pics give more credence to that theory, showing jagged stones from the walls jutting out around what looks like a breach. Watch out, Cersei.
And Cersei’s “shame” double is back
Remember Cersei’s walk of shame? The body double who played her in that scene, Rebecca Van Cleave, has returned to set, according to her agency. “Our artist Rebecca Van Cleave… has been in a very snowy Belfast this week shooting her repeat role for Game Of Thrones,” wrote Industry Casting, in a since-deleted tweet. “Repeat role“? Two words that seem ripe for speculation. Have fun!
What else has the cast said about the new season?
They’re all predictably cryptic — and on social media bans — but stoked as hell. Headey said it’s “bigger and better than ever.” 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, upped 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.
P.S. You’ll see at least one spin-off
HBO closed deals with five writers — Jane Goldman, Brian Helgeland, Max Borenstein, Carly Wray, and Cogman — to explore ideas for Game of Thrones spinoff and prequel shows and work alongside Martin with world-building. Just don’t expect to see them onscreen immediately. “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.”
That being said, the first of the forthcoming series, a prequel, is set to be led by Naomi Watts who plays a socialite with a dark secret in an era preceding GoT, seeing the fall of the Age of Heroes. As Game Spot pointed out, if the season will actually cover the demise of the Age of Heroes, it’s likely to give more context to the White Walkers origins. In fact, Martin accidentally let it slip that the season may or may not be called The Long Night, which Game Spot notes refers to a long, horrible winter that ravaged communities and saw the arrival of the White Walkers for the first time in Westeros. Meaning if that is the title of the show, that and a whole lot of White Walker drama is likely the plot.
One more caveat: “You should not expect to see all five shows” at once, Martin addedon his blog. “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.”
Though little information has been confirmed about the spinoffs’ plots, we do have a vague idea of what they won’t be about. Martin shot down speculation that the shows will wind back to Robert’s Rebellion, which has been alluded to throughout the series, and that it could focus on his Fire and Ice companion novellas, Dunk and Egg. He took to his blog to clarify, “When the day comes that I’ve finished telling all my tales of Dunk & Egg, then we’ll do a TV show about them, but that day is still a long ways off.”
P.P.S. The last book is almost done (maybe)?
In another blog post, Martin wrote that he was “buried in work, so much that it is starting to overwhelm me. Even with my army of loyal minions. So I am going to step back from blogging — okay, from NOT-a-blogging — for a while, till I get a few of these monkeys off my back.” We’re hoping one of those monkeys is the last installment of A Song of Ice and Fire. Obviously the final book won’t have any bearing on what happens in the final season of the show, but still. Would be nice. Godspeed, George.