Winter has finally come.
The White Walkers have broken through The Wall with a dragon under their command, and Westeros’s fate rests in the hands of a Stark bastard, a heavy drinking dwarf, a faceless girl, a red-headed schemer, a boy-turned-Raven, and the Mother of Dragons.
Game of Thrones’ eighth and final season looks set to be an epic sprint to the end of George RR Martin’s gigantic tale of kings, queens and paupers.
So, what do we know about the upcoming season? Look no further, as The Independent has put together a comprehensive list of everything we currently know about season eight, from new cast members and story speculation to air dates and how to watch.
Release date and how to watch
HBO first confirmed that Game of Thrones would return in the ‘first half’ of 2019, leading fans to believe that the series will likely be back April 2019. The network then confirmed that, yes, Game of Thrones would be back in April, but decided not to reveal the exact date.
Maisie Williams – who plays Arya – previously let slip that the “our first episode [will air] in April”. Viewers in the US can watch on HBO. Sky Atlantic and NOW TV will simulcast every episode in the UK. You will also be able to catch up via NOW TV.
What have we seen so far?
HBO have so far kept information regarding the upcoming season very close to their chest, barely revealing any new footage and doing all they can to prevent leaks. Fans got a glimpse of Jon Snow embracing his sister, Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) in an HBO 2019 sneak-peak video (watch above).
Entertainment Weekly have released the first (and only) official photo from the set of Game of Thrones, featuring Jon and Daenerys hugging.
The first official photo from #GameOfThrones’ final season is here! Get exclusive details on the most impossible finale in TV history in our report from the #GoT set: https://t.co/wjWGa4K2Yr pic.twitter.com/59aFZkCR0U— Entertainment Weekly (@EW) 1 November 2018
How many episodes?
Whereas the first six seasons all consisted of 10 episodes, season seven was made up of only seven. Showrunners David Benioff and D B Weiss have decided to likewise limit the length of season eight, deciding on just six episodes. (The duo originally wanted to release three feature-length movies, rather than six episodes, but HBO went against the decision.) Reports have previously claimed that each episode will also run for around 80 to 90 minutes – longer than the normal 60 minutes for the show.
Also of note: each episode cost a rumoured $15 million to produce. Reports vary on how much the cast have been paid, but Variety previously claimed Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jamie Lannister), Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister), Kit Harrington (Jon Snow) and Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister) all got $500,000 (£384,000) per episode.
Episode writers and directors
David Nutter – best known for directing the infamous Red Wedding – returns to helm three episodes of the final six, including the premiere, which is written by Dave Hill (who was behind last season’s episode “Eastwatch”). Producer Bryan Cogman has written the second episode, while Benioff and Weiss have written the last four.
“Battle of the Bastards” director Miguel Sapochnik returns for episodes three and five, while Benioff and Weiss will follow in the footsteps of other showrunners (including those behind Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, and Mad Men) in directing the very last episode of their show.
New cast members
Seeing as there are only six episodes in which to wrap up this epic story, it should be of little surprise that few new characters will be introduced. Casting calls have been ambiguous, detailing such parts as ”Northern Girl” and “Boy”. There’s little to go on, but reports previously detailed that Harry Strickland – the leader of the Golden Company in the books – has been cast, with The Last Kingdom’s Marc Rissmann taking on the role.
Who’s coming back? *Potential spoilers*
Along with all the main cast, Carice van Houten recently let slip that the Red Woman will return in a now-deleted Instagram post. Welsh actor Wilf Scolding, who played Jon Snow’s real father Rhaegar Targaryen during the season seven finale, also hinted at his return on Instagram – the post has, as expected, been deleted.
One person who does not look set to return is Mark Gattis’s Tycho Nestoris, who said earlier this year: “I’m not in it, so I guess I survive.” Ellie Kendrick’s Meera Reed also looks set not to return, having previously said: “[I’m not appearing] as far as I know.”
Also of note: Joe Dempsie has teased a huge role for Gendry in the upcoming season, saying he’s “done well out of it this year, for sure,” adding that he has filmed “a fair bit” for the final season.
A battle to end all battles
With so much secrecy, we know little for sure about season eight’s plot. However, we understand that the crew spent a massive 55 days filming one major battle in at the Moneyglass Base in Northern Ireland. That’s far longer than has been spent on any other Game of Thrones battle. Dinklage said the scene “makes ‘Battle of the Bastards’ look like a theme park.”
The opening scene
A report has also confirmed that the season will begin with Daenerys and Jon Snow arriving in Winterfell, with Entertainment Weekely describing the scene in a recent set report.
“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.”
HBO may have stayed quiet about the finale, but the cast and crew have spoken multiple times about how the show will end. Emilia Clarke said Daenerys’s finale moments “f**ked me up”, adding: ”Knowing that is going to be a lasting flavour in someone’s mouth of what Daenerys is…”
Sophie Turner has called the show’s ending “satisfying”, adding that season eight sees the show “bloodier than ever. It’s full of betrayal, full of war, full of danger.” Peter Dinklage said the showrunners “end it brilliantly. Better than I could have imagined, and you people are in for it. It ends beautifully for my character – whether it be tragic or not.”
Even Francesca Orsi, the Senior Vice President of HBO’s drama series, has spoken about the final episode, saying the script left the cast and crew crying. Read more about what each actor had to say here.
**Spoilers from the set**
For those wanting to go in completely unsullied, turn back now, for the following paragraphs are dark and full of spoilers.
Another huge castle
During production, the set of a newly built castle was spotted in Belfast. Originally, the construction was believed to be extra battle defences for an already established location, but images soon revealed a highly complex structure, having tripled in size – only the set of Winterfell matches up. Speculators believe it could to be the streets of King’s Landing which have been built to burn down, which likely means dragons are coming to the capitol.
Speaking of fire...
One fan of the series just happened to be passing by the set of Winterfell when they spotted the entire place on fire. You can see the video here. Looks like the Night King’s making the most of that dragon.
Over in King’s Landing...
Kit Harrington and John Bradley were spotted in character as Jon Snow and Samwell Tarly filming a scene together. Not too surprising, seeing as Sam’s currently in Winterfell, where Jon is heading. However, the pair were not filming in the Northern stronghold, but in King’s Landing, where their enemy, Cersei, awaits. Could they have finally put their differences aside?
Two fan favourites, back together
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Gwendoline Christie have been spotted filming scenes together. Reports claim that, during episode four, Brienne and Jaime — who will be reunited a few episodes back — will be forced to fight side-by-side against the undead. Where exactly the fight will happen remains unclear.
Until the bitter end
Speaking of Jaime – thanks to a lawsuit against the actor Coster-Waldau, we know that the character will survive until the end of the season. Documents filled in court show that he appears in all six episodes of the final season.
That’s the majority of what’s currently out there. As more trailers and photos are released, The Independent will be updating this article. When the show comes around we will have all the latest theories and reviews right here.