Game of Thrones might well be the most iconic 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. The latest update offers the most specific target so far for the season’s premiere date, courtesy of one of the series’ fan-favorite characters.
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. Here’s a comprehensive collection of news and rumors for Game of Thrones‘ eighth and final season.
Mark your calendar
The premiere date for season 8 will likely fall sometime in April 2019, according to actress Maisie 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 season 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 HBO’s President of Programming Casey Bloys being noncommittal 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.
Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) and Jon Snow (Kit Harington)
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.
Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner)
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. Sophie 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
— In the bleak midwinter (@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.
Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) and Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie)
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
Jon Snow (Kit Harington)
HBO is hoping to keep fans guessing about the conclusion of Game of Thrones season 8 by filming multiple endings for the final story arc of the wildly successful show.
Bloys, HBO’s president of programming, revealed the news regarding the multiple endings to The Morning Call, and indicated that even the show’s cast members won’t know which ending will be 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,” said Bloys. “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 is far from the only 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’s 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.
Update: We added quotes from Maisie Williams indicating that season 8 will premiere in April 2019.