The Kingsroad is coming to an end and HBO's Game of Thrones is zeroing in on who (if anyone) will sit their bony backside on the Iron Throne. The epic ice and fire saga may be speeding up before winding down, but with only six episodes left, fans are settling in for a slightly shorter winter than we might've expected. Author George R.R. Martin may not even have finished his sixth of seven books, but showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have their sights set firmly on the end game for Westeros as we currently know it.
Like clockwork for the past six years, we have tuned in to watch Starks lose their heads, Emilia Clarke flash her assets, and more use of the C-word than you ever thought would be acceptable. #GameofThrones has grown year on year, with last year's Season 6 raking in an average of 25.1 million viewers per episode. Just as Jon Snow and co. break down the wall into mainstream television, we find ourselves staring down the barrel of the show's frosty demise. However, the Lord of Light is burning bright with the shining promise of as many as five spin-off shows to defrost our mourning hearts.
The End Is Nigh
Season 7 of the show may have just sailed off across the Narrow Sea, but that hasn't stopped us discussing the shadowy presence of Season 8 on the horizon. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, HBO's head of programming Casey Bloys revealed that Benioff and Weiss are firmly focused on the final season, but they will definitely not be involved in the spinoffs:
"Dan and David will have been at this for 12 years. ... They put everything — and are putting everything — into this show. They came into HBO with an idea for a show with a beginning, middle, and end, and they want to see it through. In conversations with them, they feel if their name is on the prequels — even in a passive way — it conveys some sort of expectation or responsibility. They want to enjoy the show as fans and don’t want to worry about the scripts or production issues. We were hoping to have their names on it out of respect for them, but we understand why they don’t want that."
Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that the hotly anticipated final season of Thrones is eyeing production for October 2017, but that it could run through to August 2018. If this is the case, it would 100% push Season 8 into 2019.
The good news is that the two showrunners will have all the time in the world to channel their efforts into a stellar final season of the main show. With that process taking up to a year and a half, Bloys confirmed that the wait between the final two seasons could be sadly and frustratingly up in the air:
"Our production people are trying to figure out a timeline for the shoot and how much time the special effects take. 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."
Thankfully, more than just, "Oh, let's end that show everyone watches," Bloys expects Season 8 to be the grandest affair that the show has ever seen and a faithful swansong:
"One of the hallmarks of the show has been how cinematic is it. The show has proven that TV is every bit as impressive and in many cases more so, than film. What they’re doing is monumental. When you see these battles in season 7, and what I imagine season 8 will be, it’s a big, big show. We’ve done a lot of great shows, but this one combines the complex characters we love with a huge cinematic scope. I think this is the first show to prove that can be done — and we’re the first people to pay for it."
It is a similar story across the board with #HBO, as fans of Westworld have already been warned they may have to patiently wait until 2018 before we take another romp around the robotic theme park. You can't blame Benioff and Weiss for wanting to get the story right, with Game of Thrones presumably containing one of the most anticipated TV finales of all time. Given the twists, turns, and miraculous resurrections from the show, HBO sure knows how to keep us on our toes.
The Night Is Long And Full Of Prequels
As for those eagerly awaited prequels, Bloys insisted that they will very much be their own entity and not just a cheap cash-in on a show people love *cough* Joey *cough*:
"Making Game of Thrones as good as possible is the No. 1 goal, and then we’ll see about these scripts. You’re not going to see a situation where the next show in the Thrones universe launches off the back of this one. 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."
While we would love to see Syrio Forel open up his own Braavos dance academy or the Hound review local chicken shops across #Westeros, it sounds like the spin-offs would contain entirely new characters — or could even head down the anthology route. As Bloys explains:
"If you only developed one, everything would rest on that one shot. It’s such a special show. I want to make sure that [any prequel] feels worthy. We have some amazing writers who want to take a shot at this. They’re also looking at different times in the universe and all will have different feels. This increases our odds of finding one that’s unique.
"At this point, everything is on the table. The idea is to find a series. It would be nice to find something that has the legs this one did. But if something works better as a limited series, sure."
We could end up with an American Horror Story-style scenario where some familiar faces pop up every now and then or there is a name drop of some ancient lineage, but we should probably start coming to terms with the fact that winter really is coming. Bear in mind that all of this is still a long way off, and if the writing pace is anything like Martin's, you might be older than Maester Aemon by the time the prequels or the final season actually arrive.
Check out the trailer for Game of Thrones Season 7 and tell in the comments section if you're bothered that we may have to wait until 2019 for Season 8.