Game of Thrones might well be one of the most popular television series of all time, and its impending conclusion has everyone wondering how the saga will end — and more importantly, which characters will be alive when the dust settles.
HBO isn’t revealing anything to that end, but one of the actors on the series has indicated that fans should prepare to be polarized by the series’ conclusion.
We know that some of you like to avoid spoilers and head in “blind,” so if that’s the case, you really should not be here. Turn back now! If you’re on the hunt for information and speculation, though, keep on reading.
With the final season of Game of Thrones premiering in 2019, here’s a comprehensive collection of news and rumors for the hit show’s much-anticipated (to put it mildly) eighth season.
A divisive finale?
In an interview promoting her role in X-Men: Dark Phoenix, Sophie Turner — aka Sansa Stark — indicated that the Game of Thrones finale is likely to polarize fans. This should come as no surprise, given the emotional investment fans have developed in the series, but it still offers an early indication that the show won’t unfold its final moments quietly.
“I think, you know, as an actor, it was really satisfying — I think for everyone, everyone’s storylines — to be able to act out the way that it all ends,” she told IGN. “It was really satisfying for us. Who knows if it will be satisfying for the fans. I think a lot of fans will be disappointed and a lot of fans will be over the moon, I think. I think it will be really interesting to see people’s reactions, but for me, reading the script, it was just like heartbreaking to read at the very final page of the script it just says, ‘End of Game of Thrones.’ That was really emotional.”
A reunion preview
HBO released the first footage from the final season of Game of Thrones in late August, but it was easy to miss. The brief scene from the series’ final season was shown during a highlight reel for HBO’s upcoming slate of projects.
Although most of the video pulls from prior seasons of Game of Thrones, a short clip that appears around the 1:10 mark shows Jon Snow (Kit Harington) embracing Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) against a backdrop of what appears to be Winterfell. HBO confirmed that the scene is from the upcoming eighth season, but declined to provide any context for it, of course.
The scene unfolds as — quite appropriately — the words “Final Season” appear on the screen.
Like the show’s fans, Game of Thrones stars are going through their own stages of grief as the reality of the series’ end sinks in. For months, cast members have acknowledged how strange it is to be working on the final season, and as they get further into production, the experience only seems to be getting more emotionally stirring. Emilia Clarke recently told Vanity Fair that she finished filming the final scene in Daenerys’ story, and it was very weird for her.
“It [messed] me up,” she told the publication. “Knowing that is going to be a lasting flavor in someone’s mouth of what Daenerys is…”
Grappling with her character’s stopping point and its impact may be a challenge, but the emotional roller coaster isn’t over for the actress yet. TV series often film out of order, and that is evidently Game of Thrones‘s plan of attack. Clarke recently clarified that her work on the show isn’t done, telling ET at a recent Solo: A Star Wars Story screening that she still has quite a bit more filming ahead of her.
“I’m about three-quarters of the way through filming it, if not maybe a little more,” she said.
Clarke added that she is “utterly heartbroken to be saying goodbye” to her character. She and Daenerys have had a good run, from her early days as an unwilling bride to her emergence as one of the most powerful people in the Seven Kingdoms. However the story ends for Daenerys, we hope we can savor the “lasting flavor.”
There has been a lot to awe us over seven seasons of Game of Thrones, but we suspect the best is yet to come. This isn’t just a hunch; a message from the show’s “producer types” recently made the rounds on social media, and it celebrated “something that’s never been done before.”
The message was posted by crew members on social media, including by assistant director Jonathan Quinlan, Watchers on the Wall reported. Although Quinlan’s Instagram post has since been deleted, the Game of Thrones site saved the photo for posterity. The image is of the thank you message directed to the crew, and it honors the extensive effort they put into shooting a supersized battle sequence. It reads:
This is for the Night Dragons.
For enduring 55 straight nights. For enduring the cold, the snow, the rain, the mud, the sheep shit of Toome and the winds of Magheramorne.
When tens of millions of people around the world watch this episode a year from now, they won’t know how hard you worked. They won’t care how tired you were or how tough it was to do your job in sub-freezing temperatures.
They’ll just understand that they’re watching something that’s never been done before.
And that’s because of you.
The Producer Types
Quinlan underscored the hard work on Instagram, writing (via Watchers on the Wall), “Says it all. 55 consecutive nights. 11 weeks. 3 locations. You’ll never again see anything like it.”
What this makes clear is the fact that the magnitude of the shoot was absolutely enormous; 55 nights is reportedly more than twice as long as Game of Thrones‘ next longest battle shoot. And perhaps the craziest part is that it sounds like these new battle scenes are all for one episode, considering the producers specifically mentioned fans watching “this episode.” It certainly explains why the final season of Game of Thrones won’t premiere until 2019. TV magic isn’t made overnight.
As for the show’s triumphant return, the “producer types” did also mention that the battle episode will be seen “a year from now,” so that’s a good sign that the show may return in April 2019, as Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) previously said. Until then, the cast and crew have more work to do.
The Baratheon factor
Even after seven seasons of Game of Thrones have wreaked havoc on the population of the Seven Kingdoms, there are still several characters with familial ties that could embolden them to at least try to claim to the Iron Throne, should they so desire. Among them is Gendry (Joe Dempsie), the bastard son of the late Robert Baratheon who returned in season 7 after multiple seasons of not being part of the story. The young blacksmith is sticking around and will be part of the show’s final season. Dempsie recently discussed his season 8 role with Digital Spy, and based on what he said, we could see a lot of him in the last six episodes.
Specifically, Dempsie said he has been filming “a fair bit” this season and that he’s “done well out of it this season.” Of course, he wasn’t willing to share whether or not that means Gendry survives until the end and did his best keep fans from reading too much into what he said.
“As with all these things, we never shoot in chronological order — so you might have people coming in at the beginning and at the end, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they make it all the way through!” he told Digital Spy.
Since returning, his character has come to ally himself with House Targaryen, in spite of the fact that he himself is the descendant of a former king (the usurper, at that). So far, he hasn’t shown any signs of envisioning himself in power, but we hate to rule anything out in this fictional world. As we all know, loyalty isn’t exactly a universal trait among the show’s characters. Whatever the case, though, the fact that Dempsie has done “a fair bit” of filming makes us think he will have an interesting arc in season 8.
A loose end
Perhaps not every Game of Thrones storyline will be wrapped up nicely by the end of the series. Actor Tobias Menzies made us wonder when he shared that he doesn’t expect to be included in season 8. His character, Edmure Tully, was last seen as a prisoner of Walder Frey (David Bradley) in season 6, but even after Edmure’s niece Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) took her revenge on House Frey, we never saw what became of the man or his wife and son. Even Menzies himself admits he has “no idea” what became of his character afterward.
“He’s obviously somewhere in a prison,” he speculated, according to Digital Spy. “He’s still around alive somewhere.”
The actor doesn’t know for sure, though. He described the show’s creators as “pretty stingy with their information.
“I’ve not heard anything from them,” he said, adding, “I feel like they have so many stories to tie up, whether that’s a story they’ll want to go back to, I don’t know.”
Making over a knight
It took Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) longer than anyone to see what a truly terrible person his twin sister-slash-lover is, but with his eyes finally opened in season 7, he left her and went to join the battle against the Night King. That marks a big shift as Jaime has long been loyal to House Lannister and Cersei (Lena Headey) herself. And in case that much wasn’t already clear, the turning point will be reflected in his appearance in season 8, according to Coster-Waldau.
“There was a big change in the character, so a haircut is a way to signal that,” he told Short List.
Be ready for a new version of Jaime in season 8, in more ways than one.
During the INTV conference in Israel in March 2018, HBO revealed that a table read of the final few episodes of the series occurred with the Game of Thrones cast. The reaction to the reading was, as fans might expect, quite dramatic.
“[It] was a really powerful moment in our lives and our careers,” recalled Francesca Orsi, HBO’s senior vice-president of drama, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “None of the cast had received the scripts prior, and one by one they started to fall down to their deaths. By the end, the last few words on the final script, the tears just started falling down. Then there was applause that lasted 15 minutes.”
Only time will tell if those episodes prompt a similar reaction from fans.
Ending, not endings?
In September 2017, Casey Bloys, HBO’s president of programming, claimed Game of Thrones would shoot multiple endings to try to prevent spoilers. Supposedly, even the show’s stars wouldn’t know which was the real conclusion until the series finale aired. It seemed like a drastic plan, but perhaps not an unwarranted one, given the show’s history.
Now, however, star Maisie Williams is causing fans to question Bloys’ information. When asked about it during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, she seemed to discredit it.
“Well, I heard this, and I immediately thought, ‘I don’t think we’ve got the budget to shoot lots of different endings,’” she told Kimmel.
When the late-night host countered that Bloys’ role at the network puts him in a position to know if they can budget for it or not, Williams responded that “as we know, sometimes presidents don’t always tell the truth.”
Of course, we can’t necessarily trust the actors, either. Remember how Kit Harington insisted that his character Jon Snow was really dead? The people connected to Game of Thrones will do whatever it takes to maintain secrecy, including lie to fans.
That said, we wouldn’t be surprised if Williams was telling the truth. She also told Kimmel that they still have “endless amounts” of filming left to do, so it might not be realistic for the network to have the cast and crew take on even more scenes on top of that.
Mark your calendar
The premiere date for season 8 will likely fall sometime in April 2019, according to Williams, who plays Arya Stark.
In an interview with Metro about her character’s return for the eighth and final season, Williams said, “We wrap in December and we air our first episode in April .”
“That’s a four-month turnaround for these huge episodes,” she explained. “There’s a lot that goes into the final edit. You would not want to rush this season at all. We owe it to our audience and our fans to really do this final season to the best of our abilities.”
The gap between now and season 8 is dark and full of terrors
HBO kicked off 2018 by officially confirming that season 8 will air in 2019, skipping 2018 ostensibly due to its lengthy production schedule. The confirmation was made by HBO’s public relations Twitter account.
It's official: @GameOfThrones will return for its six-episode, eighth and final season in 2019.
— HBO PR (@HBOPR) January 4, 2018
However, this timing was expected. Despite Bloys, HBO’s president of programming, being noncommittal as to whether season 8 would premiere in 2018 or 2019, Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa Stark, was adamant in an interview with Variety that the final season wouldn’t be airing until 2019.
Turner made it clear that production still has a long way to go, initially joking that they’re only 10 percent of the way through shooting the six-episode final season. In actuality, they’ve made more progress than that. Production began in October 2017 and they have “six or seven months left,” according to the actress.
Season 8 will be filming into the summer, based on the information from Turner, and that is not the end of the important work that remains. Game of Thrones is famous for its special effects, meaning it will need a lengthy post-production period (those dragons have to be added somehow). Even though it will take a long time, we expect to be grateful for the wait when we see it all come together.
Based on how Game of Thrones has gone to this point, we’re not expecting to get through season 8 without losing some fan-favorite characters. Yet no matter how the series ends, it’ll be emotional, both for its longtime viewers and the people who have brought it to us for so many years. Turner (Sansa Stark) told EW that the cast got together “a while ago” for a read-through of the final season, and they all ended up in tears.
“At the end of it, we were all on our feet, applauding and crying,” she said. “We had everyone there, everyone who’s had any part in this. It was amazing.”
The read-through sounds like it was an intense experience. They were all secluded in a room together for six hours, Turner said, and they laughed and cried their way through season 8. No wonder they were so keyed up by the finish. Once they got their tears in check, though, they realized they had a lot more work to do.
“We had our emotional bit and then we thought, ‘Well now we’ve got eight months. We’ve still got a while to get through!’” Turner said.
And unfortunately, that means eight-plus months we’ll be waiting …
A covert casting
Weeks after sharing a batch of casting notices for season 8, fan blog Watchers on the Wall is reporting that the role of Harry Strickland — leader of the Golden Company mercenaries — has been cast, with German actor Marc Rissmann tapped.
Fans will remember that Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbaek) departed King’s Landing on Cersei’s orders in the final episode of season 7, intending to meet with the Golden Company and escort them back to Westeros, thanks to a large donation from the Iron Bank. Those who read the books know Strickland as a portly coward who lucked into his command; we don’t have any clue how he’ll be portrayed on screen, but Rissmann is … um, neither portly nor cowardly looking.
Watchers’ source was Rissmann’s Spotlight CV and his agency, Hatch Talent. Interestingly, neither page now includes any information about Game of Thrones, which is unsurprising, given the massive effort put into preventing spoilers for HBO’s current crown jewel. Rissmann recently finished shooting for J.J. Abrams’ upcoming World War II horror story Overlord for Paramount.
A survivor from the Wall?
In the finale of season 7, the Night King made excellent use of his newly resurrected dragon, blasting down the easternmost segment of the Wall and allowing his undead army to march southward. Two prominent characters — Tormund Giantsbane and Beric Dondarrion — happened to be on top of the Wall as the dragon attacked, leaving us in the dark as to their whereabouts (or whether they even survived).
We still have no idea about Beric, whose get-out-of-jail-free card disappeared when Thoros of Myr took an icy, permanent nap in the Beyond the Wall episode, but it does look like Tormund may have survived — if some sneakily-captured photographs are any indication. Fans noticed Kristofer Hivju, the actor who portrays Tormund, arriving in Belfast, Ireland, earlier this week (along with several other cast members, whose characters are definitely not dead yet) for a table read.
Kristofer Hivju, Ben Crompton, Iain Glen, Isaac Hempstead, Kit Harrington, Emilia Clarke, John Bradley arrive in Belfast for the table read. pic.twitter.com/GJrZnhWN4X
— Saitama (@iDexterDisciple) October 9, 2017
Some of the photos were quickly deleted from Instagram, but you can view the others in a tweet (see above). We don’t know what this means for Tormund — maybe all his “lines” are just White Walker grunts now — but at least it provides some hope for those anticipating a Tormund-Brienne… uh… union.
HBO is putting the final season of its most popular series into the hands of four prominent directors with close ties to the hit show.
The episodes that will make up Game of Thrones Season 8 will be directed by David Nutter, Miguel Sapochnik, and showrunners David Benioff and D.B Weiss, according to Mashable. Benioff and Weiss are expected to co-direct the series finale, but it’s unknown how many episodes — or which episodes — each director will handle.
All four directors have helmed earlier episodes of the series. Nutter has directed six episodes, including the infamous “The Rains of Castamere” episode (also known as the “Red Wedding” episode) and the season 3 and season 5 finales, while Sapochnik has directed four episodes, including “Hardhome,” “The Battle of the Bastards,” and the season 6 finale. In addition to serving as the showrunners on the series, Benioff and Weiss have each directed one episode of the show, with Benioff responsible for season 3’s “Walk of Punishment,” and Weiss directing season 4’s premiere, “Two Swords.”
A mysterious ending
HBO is hoping to keep fans guessing about the conclusion of Game of Thrones season 8, and one way to do that, as mentioned above, would be by filming multiple endings.
Bloys, HBO’s president of programming, claimed that was the plan while speaking to The Morning Call in September 2017. He indicated that even the show’s cast members wouldn’t know which ending is the real one until the episode airs.
“I know in Game of Thrones, the ending, they’re going to shoot multiple versions so that nobody really know what happens,”Bloys said. “You have to do that on a long show. Because when you’re shooting something, people know. So they’re going to shoot multiple versions so that there’s no real definitive answer until the end.”
Game of Thrones not be the first show to make use of such a strategy. The popular prime-time soap opera Dallas famously filmed multiple versions of the conclusion to its “Who shot J.R.?” story arc in the 1980s, while more recent shows such as Breaking Bad and The Sopranos also filmed several different endings for their respective series-ending episodes.
Given that episodes from the last few seasons of Game of Thrones and other popular television series have also been leaked early by hackers, there’s reason for HBO to be concerned about the details of the show’s conclusion being revealed earlier than intended. Whether the multiple-ending strategy will actually be able to prevent story details from leaking in such a scenario remains to be seen.
Spinoff city, baby
Fortunately, the end of Game of Thrones isn’t expected to mean the end of shows set in the world of novelist George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series. Multiple spinoff series are in various early stages of development for HBO, although it’s uncertain how many — if any — will go into production for the network.
There is no exact premiere date for season 8 of Game of Thrones at this point and the final season is rumored to consist of just six episodes. Each of those episodes could be a feature-length chapter in the show’s concluding story arc, though, if one particularly well-circulated rumor is to believed.
Updated on September 28, 2018: Added comments from Sophie Turner about the series finale.