(Warning - the following contains possible SPOILERS for Season 6 of Game of Thrones...and beyond. Proceed with whatever level of caution your natural SPOILER-aversion dictates...)
Now, with all the recent controversy surrounding the possibility that Game of Thrones' sixth season could actually overtake the sixth installment of the novels from which the show is adapted, comparatively little attention has been paid to just what such an eventuality would mean for the show in practical terms.
Y'see, while the movie would be inherently problematic for fans who love the books, the move could actually free up the show's creative team to do...more-or-less whatever they want.
And, from the sounds of recent comments from HBO's President of Programming, Michael Lombardo, that "whatever" is likely to mean that:
There're Going to Be at Least Eight Seasons of Game of Thrones
As Lombardo told Deadline, despite there only being (projected to be) seven books in George R.R. Martin's original series of novels (and the show having, up 'til now, more-or-less adapted them at a rate of one season, one book)...
"Seven seasons and out was never the case. The question is how much beyond [seven seasons] it will go...[Showrunners] David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] are feeling there are two more years after Season 6, that’s what we’re looking at right now."
The most intriguing part? It sounds as though HBO is (unsurprisingly, considering the show's high ratings) pushing for even more than eight:
"We hope that they would change their mind, but that’s how they are feeling now."
The big question, then?
What Does an Eighth (or Ninth, or Tenth) Season Mean for Game of Thrones?
Well, on the surface, it may simply suggest that Benioff and Weiss are aware of the inevitable challenges that concluding as sprawling and beloved a show as Game of Thrones will bring, and are buying themselves as much time to tie it up as possible.
There are other possible consequences, though. It's entirely possible, for instance, that Benioff and Weiss have secretly received word from George R.R. Martin that the author needs a certain amount of time to finish up the final book in the series - and that if they can hold off the TV show long enough, they won't be forced to jump ahead of it. That would certainly provide a substantial incentive to draw out the events of the sixth book into both a sixth and seventh season of the show.
Similarly - and possibly working alongside that - there's a distinct possibility that, as Lombardo revealed during the interview quoted above, we could even see a prequel season or two:
"We would be open to anything [Benioff and Weiss] want to do, there is enormous amount of storytelling in that world."
If so, it's entirely possible that - especially if Benioff and Weiss opted to buy Martin some time to get his final book published - we could see an entire season (seven, perhaps?) tell stories from Westeros' past. With a key scene from Ned Stark's past already rumored to be appearing in Season 6 - and Cersei's flashback from Season 5 already establishing temporal shifting as an option - it's certainly far from impossible.
A whole season of Robert's Rebellion, anyone?
What do you reckon, though?