This article contains spoilers, do not proceed past this point if you hate spoilers
Game of Thrones is an absolute pop-culture phenomenon, so it’s hard – not to mention heart-breaking – trying to imagine the television landscape without it.
Nevertheless, we’ll soon be faced with that cold, hard reality – the last ever season of HBO’s fantasy epic is coming. Feel unprepared? Here’s everything you need to know about the end of the saga, from cast to plot spoilers to air dates.
Game of Thrones season 8 premiere date: When will it start?
It’s going to be another long wait, with official word coming from HBO that the eighth and final season will arrive in 2019. This was later narrowed down to “the first half of 2019” – which we suppose is slightly better.
And now, as of Tuesday, November 13, 2018, we can narrow it down even further, with HBO confirming that the final season will return in April 2019.
UK broadcaster Sky Atlantic has also confirmed that the final series will be simulcast on Sky Atlantic and NOW TValongside the US’s HBO airing.
It fits with the timeline that had previously been tipped by by Sansa actress Sophie Turner – with her on-screen sibling Maisie Williams later suggesting an April return date too. However, Williams later denied releasing that info, posting on Twitter that the quote was “completely false and taken from an interview I did years ago”.
HBO President Casey Bloys had previously promised a lengthy hiatus: “[David Benioff and Dan Weiss, showrunners] have to write the episodes and figure out the production schedule We’ll have a better sense of that once they get further into the writing.”
“We honestly don’t know yet [when the final episodes will air],” Benioff admitted. “There’s been a lot of back and forth about air dates. That’s a long way off from being settled.”
Bloys later acknowledged that Benioff and Weiss’s vision for their grand finale is far more “complicated” than prior years.
Here’s why you’ll have to wait till 2019 to see your favorite show one last time
“Our production people are trying to figure out a timeline for the shoot and how much time the special effects take,” he said.
“The shooting is complicated enough — on different continents, with all the technical aspects — and the special effects are a whole other production period that we’re trying to figure out. That is a big factor in all of this.”
“The final season is taking a long time because it’s the biggest thing we’ve ever done,” Benioff said backstage at the 2018 Emmys.
“Even though it’s six episodes, it was nearly a full year in Belfast either prepping it or shooting it,” he continued. “It’s quite extraordinary what the crew and the actors created, and I think when people see it they’ll understand why it took so long.
Ser Jorah actor Iain Glen has also suggested that bringing the show’s sizeable cast together for the final outing also complicates matters: “We’re all starting to be in the same storylines and so they can’t [have two filming units] anymore. I think this last season will take much longer to shoot because they can only use one unit.”
Once final GoT episodes land on HBO in the US next year, you can expect Sky Atlantic to simulcast the final season in the UK. (Though, if you can’t stomach the thought of staying up that late, there’s always the repeat viewing later in the day at the more manageable time of 9pm to look forward to. You can also watch it on demand any time after 2am.)
If you don’t want to stump up for the full Sky package, you can try a NowTVEntertainment Pass, which gives you access to the show (and loads of others) on all your devices.
In August 2018, HBO unveiled a new trailer to tease all of its upcoming shows, from True Detective season 3 to Big Little Lies season 2.
And yes, hidden away among several shots of Thrones season 7, at the 1:10 mark is one brand new clip featuring Jon Snow, Sansa Stark and a not-so warm embrace.
Who is in it?
Kit Harington (Jon Snow), Peter Dinklage (Tyrion), Lena Headey (Cersei), Emilia Clarke (Daenerys) and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime) are all optioned for an eighth run of episodes in June 2016 – for a reported $1.1million (£885,000) per episode!
Gendry actor Joe Dempsie revealed to Digital Spy that he’s been filming “a fair bit” for the final six episodes.
“I’ve done well out of it this year, for sure,” he said, before adding that fans shouldn’t assume his character survives till the end.
“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!”
Unsurprisingly, Pilou Asbæk has confirmed his return – hopefully to see horrid Euron Greyjoy get his comeuppance. “I got some great scenes next season,” he told Syfy Wire.
Asbæk later elaborated to Thrillist, describing his role in season eight as “small… but never… significant”. “Hopefully… I’ll do enough monkey business to make an impact.”
You’ll be happy to hear that Jon Snow’s loyal direwolf Ghost “has a fair amount of screen time in season eight” and has “some pretty cool things” to do.
The Night’s Watch will also resurface, according to actor Ben Crompton, who’ll reprise his role of Lord Commander Eddison ‘Edd’ Tollett one last time before his watch is ended for good.
Wilf Scolding played Rhaegar Targaryen – a.k.a. Jon Snow’s father – in the season seven finale and posted an image of himself outside the Europa Hotel in Belfast on Instagram. Could he be returning for more flashbacks / time-travel shenanigans?
Both Tom Wlaschiha and Vladimir Furdik have been spotted on location, meaning that fans could be seeing Jaqen H’ghar and the Night King in the final episodes. (One fan theory even suggests that the Night King will end up sitting on the Iron Throne, after the Red Keep set was turned an icy white.)
Even Mark Addy has been seen hanging with his former cast-mates in Ireland… is Robert Baratheon returning for flashbacks?
Beyond that, we’ve definitely seen the last of Indira Varma as Ellaria Sand, as well as Diana Rigg as Olenna Tyrell, with both characters meeting a grisly fate in season 7, episode 3, ‘The Queen’s Justice’. (Ellaria’s demise was implied more than shown, but Indira Varma has said she’s not returning.)
Mark Gatiss played Tycho Nestoris – an envoy from the Iron Bank of Braavos – in GoT’s fourth, fifth and seventh seasons, but has insisted he’s not back for the eighth.
Thoros (Paul Kaye) also met his end in episode 6, ‘Beyond the Wall’ – which probably means no more second chances for Beric Dondarrion in the GoT universe – while Benjen Stark (Joseph Mawle) is also very much dead.
Ellie Kendrick has also cast doubt on a return for Meera Reed – which probably discounts that fan theory about her being Jon Snow’s twin sister – and despite being pictured with GoT’s showrunners, Jason Momoa has ruled out any sort of resurrection for his popular character Khal Drogo.
“Yeah… he’s not coming back,” Momoa told Digital Spy. “Nine years now, let him go.”
Tobias Menzies has suggested that he’s unlikely to reappear as Edmure Tully, which means that character is doomed to rot away in prison, we guess.
And, in what counts as the show’s biggest casualty for a while, Petyr Baelish (Aiden Gillen) finally got what was coming to him in season 7’s finale – so no more Littlefinger in season 8 (unless Arya takes up his appearance, of course).
The fates of Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) and Beric (Richard Dormer) are also up in the air, after both were caught up in the devastation wrought by the Night King at the wall. (Hivju has since been spotted in Belfast, which some fans have taken to mean that Tormund survives.)
“The thing is, with so few characters left, [the viewers] should get used to and get ready for… Thrones returning to form and killing its main characters quickly,” Kit Harington has said.
“They’re going to go, and they’re going to go fast, and I think that the payoff of our characters not being in great peril this year will be that, next year, it’s going to be a bloodbath.”
Not quite a ‘cast member’ but Rebecca Van Cleave, who was Lena Headey’s body double in season five’s famous walk of shame scene, returned for at least three days of filming in Dublin. (Make of that what you will!)
By Digital Spy