As soon as 2019 began, HBO tweeted what we were all thinking: "It’s now officially the year that Game of Thrones comes back." The hit drama, based on George R. R. Martin's fantasy series, returns for its eighth and final season this spring—about a year and eight months after the Season 7 finale—and it'll be full of drama, action, and surprises.
Below, we've rounded up everything to expect from GoT Season 8.
It will premiere on April 14, 2019.
On November 13, HBO released a teaser trailer for GoT's final season, which unfortunately doesn't offer any new footage, but does confirm that the show returns in April 2019.
However, a more recent teaser confirmed that Season 8 will premiere on Sunday, April 14. It will air at the usual time, 9:00 p.m ET/PT, on HBO, the network confirmed. The sneak peek shows Jon Snow, Arya Stark, and Sansa Stark together (for the first time since Season 1), walking through the crypts at Winterfell. They pass by the graves of Ned, Catelyn, and Lyanna Stark, but strangely find their own graves at the end of the hall. Will Season 8 mark the end of the Starks?
This is the final season.
In June 2016, HBO programming president Casey Bloys announced Season 8 would be Game of Thrones's last. "[The showrunners] have a very specific plan about the number of seasons they want to do," he said during a press tour. "If I could get them to do more I would take 10 more seasons. But we take their lead on what they [need] to make the best version of their show."
There will only be six episodes.
At the end of Season 6, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss told Variety that they only had 13 episodes left, which meant seven for Season 7 and six for Season 8.
The writers for the new season are David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, Bryan Cogman and Dave Hill, HBO announced.
The episodes will be feature-length.
Though the episode count has decreased, the runtime will not. After speculation about the run times for this season, HBO confirmed the lengths and dates for all six episodes for the final season, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Season 8, Episode 1
Debut date: Sunday, April 14 at 9:00 p.m. (ET/PT)
Estimated running time: 0:54
Season 8, Episode 2
Debut date: Sunday, April 21 at 9:00 p.m. (ET/PT)
Estimated running time: 0:58
Season 8, Episode 3
Debut date: Sunday, April 28 at 9:00 p.m. (ET/PT)
Estimated running time: 1:22
Season 8, Episode 4
Debut date: Sunday, May 5 at 9:00 p.m. (ET/PT)
Estimated running time: 1:18
Season 8, Episode 5
Debut date: Sunday, May 12 at 9:00 p.m. (ET/PT)
Estimated running time: 1:20
Season 8, Episode 6
Debut date: Sunday, May 19 at 9:00 p.m. (ET/PT)
Estimated running time: 1:20
Here are the teasers and trailers:
Here's the first official photo from the season:
Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen snuggle up in the cold.
And here are the official character posters:
The official Season 8 poster shows a dragon as the Iron Throne:
Another version shows all the characters as corpses half-buried in the snow in the shape of the Iron Throne:
The Plot (AKA Potential Spoilers)
Season 8, Episode 1 starts with Daenerys Targaryen’s arrival in Winterfell.
Entertainment Weekly reports that the first episode begins with Daenerys arriving to Winterfell, with Jon Snow and her army in tow. (It’s basically a callback to King Robert Baratheon’s arrival to the Stark stronghold in the very first episode.)
EW adds, “What follows is a thrilling and tense intermingling of characters — some of whom have never previously met, many who have messy histories — as they all prepare to face the inevitable invasion of the Army of the Dead.”
Sansa also isn’t too happy about Jon’s new girlfriend and Queen. (Remember he pledged his allegiance to her on the boat last season, after the battle against the Night King.) Other things to keep in mind: Arya is also at Winterfell (get ready for her emotional reunion with Jon) and so are Sam and Bran (they just discovered that Jon is Rhaegar Targaryen’s son and heir to the throne).
Sansa and Daenerys finally meet.
In a new video promoting its various programs, HBO teased a clip of Game of Thrones, one of the first pieces of footage unveiled from the upcoming season. The sneak peek shows Jon and Daenerys’ return to Winterfell, and Sansa and Daenerys’ first meeting.
Sansa will face a “big challenge.”
Just because Littlefinger won’t be in Season 8, that doesn’t mean Sansa is completely safe. “This season, there’s a new threat, and all of a sudden she finds herself somewhat back in the deep end," Turner told Variety. "And without Littlefinger, it’s a test for her of whether she can get through it. It’s a big challenge for her, without this master manipulator having her back. This season is more a passionate fight for her than a political, manipulative kind of fight.”
Production & Secrets from the Set
Filming started in October 2017.
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister) appeared to hint that Season 8 starts filming last fall in an new interview. "I don’t know what’s going to happen next season, he told Collider in August 2017. "We go back in October, so maybe in the next few weeks, we’ll get the scripts and I’ll find out."
In a recent interview, Liam Cunningham (Ser Davos) revealed that filming is slated to start on October 16 or 19. The cast is expected to gather to read scripts and start rehearsing on October 8. "We're filming right up until the summer," he told TV Guide.
And it ended in July 2018.
In early July, Game of Thrones fan site Watchers on the Wall quoted sources saying the show was done filming—forever. At around the same time, star Maisie Williams also bid adieu to her character, Arya Stark, with a heartfelt (yet bloodied) post on Instagram.
"goodbye belfast. goodbye arya. goodbye game of thrones. what a joy i’ve had. here’s to the adventures to come #lastwomanstanding #barely#immasleepforthenextfouryears#justkiddingidontsleep," she wrote.
Nearly a month prior, Emilia Clarke also paid a final tribute to the show. "Hopped on a boat to an island to say goodbye to the land that has been my home away from home for almost a decade," she wrote. "It’s been a trip @gameofthrones thank you for the life I never dreamed I’d be able to live and the family I’ll never stop missing #💔#lastseasonitis."
The White Walker battle scenes took weeks to film.
The face-off between the White Walkers and humankind next season will include the series’ biggest battle to date. The crew spent 55 night shoots for the battle’s outdoor scenes at Winterfell alone, Entertainment Weekly reports. Afterwards, they moved to a studio and continued filming the same battle for weeks after.
There will also be multiple focal points in the combat sequence. The battle “intercuts between multiple characters involved in their own survival storylines that each feels like its own genre,” according to EW.
The Winterfell set was even expanded for to accommodate for the fighting; the Stark stronghold got a castle exterior, larger courtyard, and more interconnected rooms.
Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister) says the Season 8 battle “makes ‘Battle of the Bastards’ look like a theme park.”
HBO shared a peek of the cast's first day back on set.
Days ahead of the season premiere, HBO shared a short video of cast members arriving to the set in Northern Ireland to begin filming Season 8. The footage shows stars like Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark), Isaac Hempstead Wright (Bran Stark), Kit Harington (Jon Snow), Nathalie Emmanuel (Missandei), Iain Glen (Jorah Mormont), and Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth) reuniting, getting into costume, and heading to the set to shoot scenes in Winterfell.
Multiple endings were reportedly filmed.
HBO's president of programming Casey Bloys revealed that the GoT team will film multiple endings for the series finale to ensure no spoilers are leaked during production. The tactic is aimed to trick the paparazzi snapping and leaking scenes being filmed. It also means that actors won't even know the real ending chosen for the show until it airs.
Read more here:
The budget is $15 million—per episode.
Variety reports that this could be GoT's most expensive season yet, with a whopping budget of $15 million per episode. Compare that to the show's previous expenses: Season 2 reportedly cost $6 million per episode, and Season 6 apparently cost $10 million per episode.
George R. R. Martin doesn't think the show should end right now.
"I don't think it should be the final season," the author behind the A Song of Ice and Fire book series told The Hollywood Reporter at the Season 8 premiere. "But here we are. It seems to me we just started last week. Has it been longer than that? The time has passed by in a blur. But it's exciting. I know it's an end, but it's not much of an end for me."
Martin is still in the middle of writing the book series and there are five possible GoT spinoff series. "I think I'm going to be hanging around Westeros while everyone else has left," he told THR.
The actors were reportedly fed lines through an earpiece.
Security has been tighter than ever before for this season of GoT, following the big HBO hack that took place during Season 7. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister) revealed that the actors are receiving their lines through an earpiece, to avoid leaks.
"[After] the hack happened, we're not even going to get the script. Now we are going to do a scene, we will be told what's going to happen and then we roll,” he said in an interview on Skavlan. “We're all going to have earpieces for the scene and then someone's going to tell you the line and then you're going to do the line."
That secretive tactic might not apply to the whole show, however. Liam Cunningham (Ser Davos Seaworth) said the cast received their scripts, and both Sophie Turner and Kit Harington have talked about their final read-throughs with the rest of the cast in recent interviews. So maybe the earpieces will only be used during crucial scenes or plot twists.
They reportedly filmed fake scenes.
Director David Nutter confirmed to Huffington Post that he filmed some fake scenes to keep the plot secret. “Well, sometimes there were paparazzi in amazing places ― on construction cranes and all kinds of crazy places, to try to get a point of view of things,” he said. “They were all over, everywhere, trying to get in on what was happening.”
There was “no paper on set.”
Nutter added that “there was no paper on set” to keep the lines tightly under wraps, he told Huffington Post. The security on the scripts was so high that Liam Cunningham (Davos Seaworth) wasn’t able to read it until the table read, the actor revealed to Metro.
The same went for the schedules. Joe Dempsie (Gendry Baratheon) said he “never laid eyes on a shooting schedule” while filming seasons 7 and 8. “Your filming dates are on a need to know basis,” he told Metro in June 2018.” You don’t get hard copies of scripts anymore. They are all on this special app. Which are triple locked. The level of security has upped massively."
Mysterious huts have appeared on set.
Fans have noticed huts at Titanic Studios in Belfast, where the GoT cast and crew usually film. There were three structures spotted—two sized like the hut pictured below, and a larger one. There's no confirmation on what the set pieces are for yet, but it's possible they're Dotrhaki-related. Read more here.
Director Miguel Sapochnik returns.
The director behind epic GoT episodes like “Hardhome,” “Battle of the Bastards,” and “The Winds of Winter” might be signed on for Season 8. Watchers on the Wall noticed that one of the show’s cinematographers, Fabian Wagner, recently shared a photo on Instagram featuring some of the GoT crew, including Sapochnik.
“Back on Game of Thrones for prep of the final season and the team is back together. Good times even though winter is already here,” his caption reads. Does that mean the director is making his return?
Others photographed include assistant Caroline Alderson, VFX supervisor Joe Bauer, VFX producer Steve Kullback.
Director David Nutter also came back.
Actor Jon Bradley (Sam Tarly) confirmed that both Sapochnik and Nutter have returned for Season 8 in an interview with Huffington Post. Nutter has helmed episodes in Seasons 2, 3, and 5, but his most memorable was likely "The Rains of Castamere" (Season 3 Episode 9), which featured The Red Wedding.
With him and Sapochnik back on GoT, Bradley says every episode in the final season will be at the same caliber of the show's Episode 9s. (The ninth season in each season is usually the most gripping, suspenseful, or action-packed.)
"You can tell that because we’ve got directors who have been in charge of some of the most huge setpieces in the past doing episodes all throughout the season," Bradley said.
The final episode was directed by David Benioff and Dan Weiss.
Bradley added that GoT's final episode is "in the right hands" under the direction of its showrunners, Benioff and Weiss. "I think they’ve done an incredible job with this series. They deserve everything they get, and they deserve the right to finish this show off in the way they see fit," he told Huff Post.
Two new roles were cast.
Ahead of production, news broke that GoT was looking to cast two new child roles for the final season. The first is for a "Northern girl" around the age of eight, and the second is for a boy from a poor background of the same age, or a few years older. The actors who land these roles will start filming in November, according to the listing obtained by fan site Watchers on the Wall.
A “Northern sentry” was cast.
In September 2017, a number of new roles were announced, including a Northern sentry—a young man between the ages of 18 and 25. Last year, GoT fan site Watchers on the Wall reported that Irish actor Frank Blake landed the role. Blake’s page on his agency’s website confirms that he “recently shot on Game of Thrones.”
The leader of the Golden Company has reportedly been cast.
Marc Rissman (The Last Kingdom) was reportedly cast as Harry Strickland, who commands The Golden Company, the most powerful army in Essos, which Cersei Lannister has purchased to help conquer Westeros for good. Watchers on the Wall caught a hint of the German actor’s casting when they saw the role listed on his Spotlight acting resume online, but it has since been deleted. Another fan site Winter Is Coming said Rissman said he’d work under “various” directors, suggesting he’ll appear in multiple episodes. Does that mean we’ll have a lot of war scenes in Season 8?
A new role named Sarra was cast.
Eagle-eyed fans on Watchers on the Wall noticed that actress Danielle Galligan’s resume on her talent management profile had been updated to say she was cast as “Sarra” in “Game of Thrones (Series 8)” and will be working with director David Nutter (who helmed the Red Wedding episode). Like Rissman, Galligan has since removed her GoT role from her profile. (But Mashable got a screenshot before it disappeared.)
The role of Sarra hasn’t been confirmed, but fans believe it refers to Sarra Frey, who appears in the Song of Ice and Fire books. She’s one of Walder Frey’s granddaughters, and one of the young women Robb Stark could’ve married. According to the GoT Wiki, Sarra has appeared in the show before, portrayed by a different actress, in Nutter's Red Wedding episode.
There’s also new role for a young girl.
Watchers on the Wall obtained a posting for the character, which is to be played by a 9- to 11-year-old “sad-eyed young girl.” Her role reportedly revolves around “one excellent scene with a leading cast member.” But we don’t know which one yet. The memo also specified that the girl has a southern accent instead of a northern one, which leads fans to believe she may be from King’s Landing or the Riverlands.