Final fantasy: everything you need to know ahead of Game of Thrones season 8
Lela London has the lowdown on everything you need to know about the last instalment in the epic HBO series
It's been a long time since Season 7 of Game of Thrones came to an end, zombie dragon and all. Here's everything we know so far about the eighth (and final) instalment of the hit fantasy epic...
When is Games Of Thrones, Season 8 on TV?
HBO has confirmed that Game Of Thrones will return for its final season on April 14 - the ominous trailer for which we've just seen.
In a crushing blow for fans, however, HBO Head of Programming Casey Bloys has hinted there could be another agonising wait between the end of Game of Thrones and the beginning of the first spin-off show, saying "you're not going to see anything air anytime close to the Season 8 finale".
How many episodes will there be in Season 8?
The eighth season will be the shortest yet - only six episodes - making it shorter than the penultimate season (seven episodes) and much shorter than the first six seasons of the show (which had 10 episodes each).
How long will the episodes be?
While the eighth season will only have six episodes, some of them will be much longer than the one-hour slot they've filled in previous seasons. The first couple of episodes, however, are disappointingly short:
Episode 1: 54 minutes
Episode 2: 58 minutes
Episode 3: 60 minutes
Episode 4: 78 minutes
Episode 5: 80 minutes
Episode 6: 80 minutes
The first episode is also the only one without an 'Adult Content' warning - the calm before the storm, perhaps?
Who is in the final series?
The cast's salaries could indicate which characters will be given the most prominence in the final season: in 2017, Variety reported that five cast members - Peter Dinklage (Tyrion), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime), Lena Headey (Cersei), Emilia Clarke (Daenerys) and Kit Harington (Jon Snow) - were all being paid $500,000 (roughly €445,000) per episode. Other returning cast members include Liam Cunningham (Davos), Sophie Turner (Sansa), Maisie Williams (Arya), Nathalie Emmanuel (Missandei) and Gwendoline Christie (Brienne).
A leaked cast list contained a couple of surprising inclusions, namely Kristofer Hivju (who plays Brienne of Tarth admirer Tormund) and Richard Dormer (Beric Dondarrion). The last we saw of the unlikely pair was in the Season 7 finale, in the midst of the cataclysm that was the Wall collapsing under the Night King's new ice dragon. It's safe to say they survived. At least for a scene or two.
Who will direct season 8?
Collider revealed David Nutter (who directed the infamous Red Wedding episode, 'The Rains Of Castamere') will be directing episodes one, two and four. Miguel Sapochnik, who's become known for action-heavy episodes such as 'Hardhome' and 'Battle Of The Bastards', will be directing episodes three and five.
Showrunners DB Weiss and David Benioff will co-direct the sixth and final episode of the show.
Who wrote Season 8?
The final series will keep the show's four-man writing team of DB Weiss, David Benioff, Dave Hill and Brian Cogman. Although George RR Martin was a guest writer for a few episodes in the show's first four seasons, he will not return for Season 8. Hill will write the season premiere, Cogman will write the second episode, and Benioff and Weiss will share the remaining four episodes between them.
Where can I watch Season 8?
Season 8 airs at 2am on Monday, April 15, on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV to coincide with HBO's premiere in the US. The episode is also repeated at 9pm on Sky Atlantic that night.
What will happen in Season 8?
We don't know much, but in November 2016, an anonymous Reddit user leaked details of the entire plot of Season 7 in a post which has since proven to be largely accurate (one spoiler, for instance, predicted that Viserion would be killed and revived by the Night King). If it happened once, it could happen again. The cast have also dropped hints that the ending will be divisive, to say the least.
"To be able to act out the way that it all ends, it was really satisfying for us," Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa Stark, told IGN. "Who knows if it will be satisfying for the fans? I think a lot of fans will be disappointed and a lot of fans will be over the moon, I think."
Further information has been released in the slow lead-up to the final season. Weiss and Benioff have revealed Season 8 will open with Daenerys and her army arriving in Winterfell and that Sansa is not at all happy with Jon Snow having bent the knee to the Mother of Dragons.
We also know the series' final major battle episode will be the long-awaited showdown between the Army of the Dead, the various characters and their factions - all of which will take place at Winterfell.
"It's brutal," Peter Dinklage, who plays Tyrion Lannister, told Entertainment Weekly. "It makes the Battle of the Bastards look like a theme park."
The final battle reportedly took 55 days to shoot, with director Sapochnik spending additional weeks on a sound stage. Slovak actor Vladimír Furdík, who plays the dreaded Night King, revealed at a convention in Hungary that the epic battle will also occur much sooner than expected.
Generally, the climactic episode of each Game of Thrones season is the penultimate episode. That won't be the case for the final season, however, as Furdík said: "In the third episode of the last season, there is a battle that the creators intended to be a historic moment in television."
What do fans think will happen in Season 8?
There have been some particularly inventive fan theories about what to expect from the final series, ranging from the mostly plausible to the downright silly.
Some of the more interesting ideas include: that Tyrion Lannister might turn out to be a member of the Targaryen line (as the illegitimate son of Mad King Aerys); that Daenerys will be sacrificed to defeat the White Walkers (based largely on the book's tales of Azor Ahai); and the idea that Bran Stark will (through a mystical, as-yet-unexplained McGuffin) turn out to be the Night King.
When asked about the latter theory, Isaac Hempstead, the actor who plays Bran, told Esquire he thought it "a bit far-fetched… but this is Game of Thrones, and anything is possible."
How will the final season tie in with George RR Martin's novels?
The TV series has already overtaken its source, George RR Martin's A Song Of Ice And Fire. The plot of the final series will be based on his notes from the final two unfinished novels, The Winds Of Winter and A Dream of Spring.
Martin has already released several excerpts from The Winds Of Winter on his website, suggesting that progress is well under way. In January 2017, he told his fans he expected the book to be published before the end of the year.
While that estimate turned out to be unrealistic, it does suggest he has nearly finished the long-awaited tome.