This post contains potential spoilers for Game of Thrones season eight. Turn back now if you have said "not today" to the force of rumors and speculation.
The seventh season of Game of Thrones feels like it wrapped up a lifetime ago, and it'll be another lifetime till season eight starts airing. In the meantime, enjoy this examination of every last minuscule detail that's currently available.
1. It won't premiere till the first half of 2019. HBO confirmed in January 2018 that the final season of the show will not air until next year. Six months later, HBO president Casey Bloys revealed that the final six episodes will air in "the first half" of 2019. Per THR, he said nothing more about the show, except that "it's pretty great."
2. It will consist of six episodes. In 2016, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss said the final two seasons would include 13 episodes; seven in season seven and six in season eight. However, these final six might be longer than the standard hour-long ones we've enjoyed thus far. Sound designer Paula Fairfield told a crowd at Con of Thrones that season eight's episodes may end up being feature-length (the season-seven finale clocked in at 82 minutes).
3. Production began in the fall of 2017. Casey Bloys, HBO's president of programming, confirmed in July 2017 that the scripts were finished, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister) told Collider that the actors were due back on set in October 2017. Filming wrapped in July 2018.
4. The scale will continue to be huge. Season seven's battles were bigger and crazier than any the show's ever done before — the loot train, of course, but also the ice dragon — and it seems that season eight will continue in that vein. “They spent an increasing amount of money on less episodes, so it’s gonna be much bigger in scale," Kit Harington told The Huffington Post of season seven. "We’re trying new things, experimenting with new camera techniques. I think we’re trying to break boundaries and push past boundaries in these final two seasons."
5. Only four writers will be responsible for all six episodes. According to David Benioff, Dave Hill will write episode one, Bryan Cogman will do episode two, and Benioff and D.B. Weiss will handle the last four.
6. In the same vein, four directors will call the shots this season: David Nutter, Miguel Sapochnik, and showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have the honor of directing the final six episodes. Nutter last directed GoT in season five; Sapochnik's most recent work on the show was in season six (he also directed season five's "Hardhome").
7. They may be filming multiple endings to avoid spoilers. Casey Bloys said in September 2017 that the crew would do this to avoid leaks, but consider that Game of Thrones episodes are very, very expensive to make — if they are doing this, they're probably not doing them to full scale. Also, during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live in February 2018, Maisie Williams denied that this was happening. "I don't think we've got the budget to shoot lots of different endings," she said. "As we know, sometimes presidents don't always tell the truth."
8. The Dragonpit will make another appearance. Los Siete Reinos, a Spanish fan site, confirmed that the Seville authorities had approved permits for filming at the ruins of Itálica, where the Dragonpit scenes were shot for season seven.
9. The Unsullied might get to battle in the snow for the first time. The Unsullied are fierce warriors, yes, but weather-wise, Slaver's Bay is basically the south Florida of Essos. Some of these dudes have never seen snow in their lives, which is why the rumor that the Unsullied cast have been seen shooting in front of a green screen surrounded by snow-like material is so fun.
10. There's probably going to be a big battle at Winterfell. This could be the same one that the Unsullied are dealing with in number 10 or something different, but either way, preparations for battle scenes have been spotted at the Winterfell set in Northern Ireland. And as Watchers on the Wall has noted, it appears there will be a lot of casualties at this battle.
11. King's Landing has a new domed building. This could mean nothing, or it could mean... something, but fan site Winter Is Coming has noted that there's a new dome on the King's Landing set in Belfast; it's a replica of one on St. Blaise's Church in Dubrovnik, Croatia, where other King's Landing scenes are filmed. As you'll recall, Cersei blew up the Great Sept of Baelor back in season six, so this could be the site of a new sept. Then again, it could also just be a house getting an upgrade.
12. The ending won't feel rushed despite the smaller number of episodes. Many fans complained about season seven's wildly accelerated pace, but according to Missandei actress Nathalie Emmanuel, they won't have much to complain about in the show's final season. "They’ve taken the exact number of hours to tell the story they want to tell and it will be brilliant," she told Metro U.K. this past March.
13. There are going to be a handful of new characters, though they're probably minor. A guy named Frank Blake has been cast as "Northern Sentry," and HBO is casting for a young mother and her child for scenes to be filmed later this year. There are also new roles for a "Northern Girl" and a "boy who has to fight to make his way in the world." Slightly more major new faces include Marc Rissmann, who'll be playing Golden Company commander Harry Strickland, and Danielle Galligan, who'll be playing a character known only as Sarra.
14. Melisandre will probably be back. In season seven, Melisandre left Westeros and went to Volantis to do R'hllor knows what. Eagled-eyed fans did some sleuthing on Carice van Houten's Instagram and found that she was driving in the U.K., more specifically on a route that would take her near the GoT set, so there's a decent chance she'll live to see another episode or two.
15. The actor who plays Euron Greyjoy thinks he's going to die. "As a perennial fan of the underrated Greyjoys, I'll be sad to see this happen, but I understand that it probably needs to happen. After all, when you play the Game of Thrones you win or you die, and there's no way Euron is going to win. "He knows his time is spare," Pilou Asbæk told Variety last year. "He knows he’s going to die at one point. And if you ask me, it’s probably going to be spectacular. I hope so."
16. Tormund Giantsbane probably survived the collapse of the Wall. When we last saw everyone's favorite ginger Wilding, he was trying and failing to fight off Viserion the Undead, but his fate was left a mystery. He's since been spotted in Belfast and at table reads for the show, though, so unless he's coming back as a White Walker, you can rest easy that he's still kicking.
17. There could be a battle at the gates of King's Landing that spills over into the city. Watchers on the Wall have noticed that the crew first built a breached gate for the city, then covered the breached section up to make it look whole and new. This could be a sign that they're eventually going to destroy the nice part during filming so that the ruined part is visible, and what would ruin a city gate but an attacking army?
18. There will be more flashbacks. This might have seemed like a given, but now there's actual information to back it up. Wilf Scolding, who played Daenerys's brother Rhaegar Targaryen in flashbacks last season, was spotted in Belfast, leading to speculation that he'll be back for season eight. He also posted a photo of himself in front of a hotel there but deleted it, either because he knew it was potentially spoiler-y or because he just didn't want to feed the GoT rumor mill.
19. In August 2018, HBO released the first new footage from season eight. In a blink-and-you'll-definitely-miss-it moment, Jon and Sansa are seen reuniting at Winterfell. If your gut tells you it's old footage of them hugging at Castle Black, Entertainment Weekly has confirmed its authenticity.
20. The show will have a "very satisfying but also very surprising" ending, according to Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. Speaking to Huffington Post in August 2018, the actor teased that the final season is so good, he wrote the writers to say, "I don't think you could've done a better job at finishing this story." He also said that the season is "all the things that I was hoping for." Vague, yes. But we'll take it for now.
21. Prequels are coming… and one already has a title. Yes, there will be life after Game of Thrones. Not long after the announcement that at least five prequels were in the works, it was announced that Naomi Watts has signed on to star in one of them. On his website, George R. R. Martin, definitely, maybe let it slip that her prequel series is called The Long Night.
This shouldn’t be brand new information to anyone who’s been following the status of these prequels. In June, GRRM said The Long Night was his preferred title for the prequel. “More likely HBO will want to work the phrase ‘Game of Thrones’ in there somewhere,” he wrote at the time.
22. Jon and Dany are together and cuddling! In October 2018, Entertainment Weekly unveiled the first official image from season eight, featuring Jon and Dany in an embrace outside.
23. You will see unexpected characters in the final episode. This, according to EW reporter James Hibberd, who wrote the cover story. He adds, “I gradually begin to piece together what has happened in Westeros over the previous five episodes and try not to look like I’m freaking out.” If you’re planning on asking James for more details, tough luck: as he reveals in the piece, he went through major security to get to the set (scanned badge, stickers covering his phone camera, an HBO escort).
24. Season eight will open in Winterfell. Per the EW report, the season premiere will also have “plenty of callbacks to the show’s pilot,” with Daenerys and her army in place of Robert Baratheon and his crew. Also on deck: some “thrilling and tense intermingling” between characters (including those who’ve never met and those with “messy” histories).
25. There will be a big action sequence involving the Army of the Dead. Again, from EW: episode is directed by Miguel Sapochnik, who famously gave the world the season 6's six episode. According to Peter Dinklage, the episode will be far more brutal than the infamous battle.
This post will be updated as more Game of Thrones season eight details emerge.
H/T Cosmo US