Game of Thrones Season 8: Release date, casting, trailers and theories

Get set for The Long Night

Spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 7 below

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The Long Night is here, everyone. Game of Thrones Season 7 bowed out with an epic final episode in which we learned of Jon’s true parentage and saw The Night King and its Ice Dragon break down The Wall and move on Westeros.

But we’re looking forward  to Game of Thrones Season 8 already, so here’s absolutely everything we know about the show’s final episodes, including release date, casting news and trailers.

When is Game of Thrones Season 8 returning?

Game of Thrones Season 8 was originally slated to return in late 2018 or early 2019. Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa, previously suggested that the show would return in 2019 during an interview with Variety, and now HBO has officially confirmed the news.

“Send a raven. #GameofThrones returns to @HBO for its eighth and final season in 2019,” a tweet from the official GoT Twitter reads. See that below.

The full statement reads:

“The epic fantasy series Game of Thrones will return for its six-episode, eighth and final season in 2019.

David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, David Nutter and Miguel Sapochnik will be the directors for the new season. Writers for the new season are David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, Bryan Cogman and Dave Hill.

The executive producers of the series are David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Carolyn Strauss, Frank Doelger and Bernadette Caulfield. Co-executive producers are Bryan Cogman, Guymon Casady, Vince Gerardis and George R.R. Martin.”

Why will season 8 take so long?

In January 2018, HBO boss Casey Bloys spoke to Entertainment Weekly to explain the long wait.

“Here’s what I’ll tell you,” he said. “They take the time they need to do the show at its highest level of quality. As the show has gone on, it’s gotten bigger — big battle scenes, big special effects.”

He continued: “These things take time. Here’s the one thing I can assure you: Dan and Dave were not sitting around on a beach waiting to go back to work. They’re perfectionists and this is the soonest it can come back at a level of quality that they are comfortable with.”

How many episodes will there be in Game of Thrones Season 8?

As confirmed by show runners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, Game of Thrones Season 8 will feature just six episodes. Though it is likely that each episode will be a feature-length, so anything from 60 mins to 120 minutes.

Speaking about the end of the show, Isaac Hempstead-Wright (Bran Stark) has said: “It won’t go the way some people want. It will be too happy for some people, or too sad, or too whatever. That’s the nature of an ending… Nothing more is coming, and the certainty of it being over will definitely bother people.”

Will there be any new characters in Game of Thrones Season 8?

The gigantic cast list for the show has been expanding season-on-season since its inception – and yet more are being added for season 8. According to fansite Watchers on the Wall, the first major casting for season 8 has been made for a character called Harry Strickland – who, in the books, is the leader of a mercenary group called The Golden Company.

You may remember in season 7 we learned that Cersei had sent Euron to fetch the Golden Company from over the sea in the eastern land of Essos, to help her conquer Westeros. Fans initially theorised that Daenerys’ old friend Daario Naharis might be leading this group, which might have challenged his allegiances to Cersei – but it looks as though this theory has been scuppered, and Strickland will be a brand-new villain. Strickland is reported to be played by Marc Rissmann (The Last KingdomInto The Badlands) after his Thrones character’s name was added to (then deleted from) his CV and his agent’s website. He is expected to appear in two episodes.

Another actor has also been cast, according to Lisa Richards Agency. Seamus O’Hara will play Fergus, according to his Spotlight page. Fergus is not a name from the books, so there’s no knowing what his character will do yet. See a picture of him below.

According to Watchers, more castings are due soon: they are for characters currently referred to as ‘Northern farmer, 25-35’, ‘Sassy and attractive girl, 18-25’, ‘Northern sentry, 18-25’, ‘Sailor, 35-50’ and a couple of guards, in their 20s and 30s. See the full descriptions here.

Watchers has also reported that a new character from the Frey clan may appear. Danielle Galligan has been cast as character named Sarra, and Watchers have noted that the only Sarra to appear in the A Song Of Ice and Fire book series is Sarra Frey – one of Walder Frey’s granddaughters. Game of Thrones has been known to recycle common names for small characters – but this one seems to close to just be a coincidence.

Is Game of Thrones Season 8 the last series?

Alas, yes. The showrunners have opted to split the final seasons into a smaller runs, but will make lengthier episodes. But basically, it’s endgame for these characters and maybe Westeros.

Is it going to include plots from the book?

Since its inception, the show and the book series, A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R. R. Martin have existed on an uneven time schedule. This means that parts of the book appear in the show further down the line, and that the show does not incorporate every storyline in the book.

Since the end of Season 6, the show has been running on completely fresh material – as its storylines went beyond that of A Dance With Dragons, Martin’s last finished work.

Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss with George R.R. Martin

Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss with George R.R. Martin

Is there a Game of Thrones Season 8 trailer?

Not yet, but when production begins – some images will begin to emerge.

So will George R. R. Martin write the ending?

It’s hard to say just how involved he is with the show’s finale. Just weeks ago Martin said that he hadn’t caught up with Season 7 of the show, but in previous series he had several writing credits for episodes.

In 2014, however, Benioff and Weiss said that they had sat down with Martin and learnt how the book’s were going to end. So whether they decide to follow Martin’s blueprint, or continue to take the show in their own direction is up for debate.

But considering that the show has taken a distinctly different path from the books in its later series, and Martin’s currently slow writing pace – Game of Thrones Season 8 could provide the definitive ending for the saga.

According to HBO’s President of Programming Casey Bloys, the show will shoot several different endings in a way to combat hackers and keep the finale secret. “I know in Game of Thrones, the ending, they’re going to shoot multiple versions so that nobody really knows what happens,” he said .

Where can I watch Game of Thrones Season 8?

As per previous seasons, Game of Thrones Season 8 will originally air on HBO, and then on Sky Atlantic the following day in the UK.

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Has Game of Thrones Season 8 started filming?

Yes. Filming began in Belfast late last year, and in January it was revealed that the show would be returning to Dubrovnik in Croatia to film part of the King’s Landing scenes for the final season, as reported by The Dubrovnik Times

In a post to Instagram last year, cinematographer Fabian Wagner posted a picture of himself alongside some of his colleagues, including director Miguel Sapochnik – with the caption “Back on Game of Thrones for prep of the final season and the team is back together”. The team behind some of the show’s greatest episodes – ‘Hardhome’, ‘Battle of The Bastards’ and ‘The Winds of Winter’ – are back for Season 8.

In September, Variety reported that each episode of the new series is budgeted to cost at least $15 million, far surpassing Netflix’s The Crown as the most expensive TV show ever ($10m per episode).

Speaking to TV Guide, Liam Cunningham (Davos) revealed that the show will be filming until summer next year. “When you think about it, up until last season we’d have six months to do ten episodes, so we’re [doing] way more than that for six episodes. So that obviously will translate into longer episodes.”

Emilia Clarke has revealed to the Telegraph that her and the cast will be on a social media ban as the show films. ”We have a very strict social media ban this year because people need to stop spoiling it for everyone. It’s really frustrating.”

Earlier in 2017,  HBO president Casey Bloys said, “I know in Game of Thrones, the ending, they’re going to shoot multiple versions so that nobody really know what happens. You have to do that on a long show. Because when you’re shooting something, people know. So they’re going to shoot multiple versions so that there’s no real definitive answer until the end.”

Who’s directing?

It’s been revealed in Collider that David Nutter (who directed Red Wedding episode, The Rains of Castamere) will be directing episodes 1, 2 and 4. Miguel Sapochnik, who’s become known for action-heavy episodes like Hardhome and Battle of the Bastards, will be directing episodes 3 and 5. Showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff will be co-directing the sixth and final ever episode of the show.

Who’s going to be in Game of Thrones Season 8?

Unless told otherwise, we can assume that all the main characters will be returning for the show. So Jon Snow (Kit Harrington), Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) will all feature in the epic finale.

Littlefinger (Aidan Gillian) came to grisly end at the end of Season 7 at the hand’s of The Stark sisters – so he’s well and truly out.

The director’s commentary on the season 7 DVD and Blu-ray has confirmed that Benjen Stark – aka Coldhands – died in the final episode of season 7. Describing the scene when Benjen saves Jon from the army of the dead and heads into battle the wights, director Alan Taylor says: “He meets his end here.” However, some are speculating about whether or not Benjen could return as a wight.

A big question remains about Tormund and Beric Dondarrion – two of the heroes who went beyond The Wall to capture a White Walker. At the end of Season 7 finale, The Dragon and The Wolf, we saw The Night King make his offensive on The Wall – and Eastwatch, where both characters were based. Neither character were killed on screen, so there’s a big chance they would return – but will it be as the living or the dead?

However in a now-deleted post to Instagram, Kristofer Hivju – who plays Tormund – was spotted in Belfast, Northern Ireland recently alongside with the cast members we know to be starring.

The same applies to Gendry, who returned midway through Season 7 after a lengthy absence. He too went beyond The Wall, and was last seen making his way back to Eastwatch to have a raven sent to Daenerys for reinforcements. He wasn’t spotted at all in the finale, so his location is also a mystery.

We know that The Night’s Watch will be returning though. Ben Crompton, (Lord Commander Eddison Tollett) confirmed to Chronicle Live that he will return and that he was at the table read for the script with Kit Harrington – aka Jon Snow.

We also know that Alys Karstark – whom Jon asked to swear fealty to him in season 7 – will be back for season 8, thanks to a listing on the website of actor Megan Parkinson’s agent. Next to Alys Karstark in the ‘fealty’ scene was Ned Umber (Harry Grasby), who has been spotted in Belfast, suggesting he will also appear in season 8.

Will we see Ghost again?

Jon’s direwolf, Ghost, has not been seen in the show since season 6 – a fact that’s in part down to the show’s CGI budget. In 2016 director Miguel Sapochnik explained: “It’s an incredibly time consuming and expensive character to bring to life,” adding that in the episode Battle of the Bastards he chose to include scenes with the CGI giant Wun-Wun rather than those with Ghost.

In December 2017 a group of fans started a campaign to raise £500,000 to contribute to the show’s CGI budget and ‘guarantee’ Ghost’s return. HBO have not yet commented on the campaign.

What’s going to happen in Game of Thrones Season 8?

Well, it’s going to be The Great War, isn’t it? The show and book have teased at lengths that the ultimate battle in the show is between the living and the dead – and now that The Night King is through the wall, that showdown is going to come sooner rather than later.

Obviously, there will be other smaller plotlines, but as the show moves towards its conclusion, every storyline sits within the lingering chill of The Night King’s assault on Westeros.

In a recent interview with Time, Kit Harington teased that this season the show is “bigger than it’s ever been”.

Meanwhile, in January 2018 Emilia Clarke told Access that the series is worth the wait. “Oh my god, it’s gonna be worth it,” she said, adding: “I don’t know if anyone’s ready. I don’t know if TVs are ready.” She continued: “I read the scripts this season and I, in some kind of a daze, walked out of my house… and about three hours later I came home and I still hadn’t taken it all in”.

However, speaking to The Times in January 2018 Maisie Williams has said viewers might not be shocked by the show’s denouement. “I don’t know if it’s gonna surprise people,” she said, “but it’s just different to what you think it’s gonna be.”

One person who doesn’t seem to give a damn is Cersei Lannister, who is already manoeuvring to defeat Daenerys and Jon’s armies once the battle is ‘over’. This was despite her promise to pledge her Lannister men to the cause. Basically, she’s going to screw over whoever she can to keep her icy hands on the Iron Throne.

Jon and Dany, meanwhile, got it on in the final episode as they started their journey from Dragonstone to Winterfell – with Tyrion lingering outside with a concerned look on his face. His concerns are likely different to ours, as Bran and Sam Tarly exposed Westeros’ best kept secret – that Jon is actually a Targaryen, that his real name is Aegon, and that he’s actually the rightful heir to the throne. Oh, and that means Dany is his Aunt. Gross. That will obviously play a big role in what comes next for the happy couple – but let’s quickly go through the big questions that remain.

Judging by a sneaky pic taken at Titanic Studios, Belfast, the Dothraki could play a huge role in the new episodes. The pictured hut was like many we saw in earlier Seasons in Essos – where the Dothraki were based.

The fighters were rarely used in Season 7, but this leaked photo could suggest that the Dothraki’s motives, and maybe even Essos will feature more heavily in Season 8.

What are the big questions that need to be answered?

What’s going to happen with Jon and Daenerys?

Either way – it can’t end well. Bran Stark is adamant that the pair need to know the truth about their ancestry, and you best believe he’ll find a creepy way of telling them. In the final episode, we also learn that Rhaegar and Lyanna Stark married before giving birth to Jon (Aegon), meaning that due to the line of succession (Rhaegar’s dad, Aerys II was killed by Jamie Lannister), Jon is actually the rightful heir.

That whole scenario begs a lot of questions – some we’ll never know the answer to. Does Jon want the throne? Probably not. Will Daenerys and Jon still feel the same way about each other when they find out? Hopefully not. And will it cause serious friction between the pair as they battle The Night King? Almost certainly.

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What was Tyrion doing outside of their room?

Perhaps the weirdest part of the whole scenario was Tyrion lurking outside of their room with a pretty confused look on his face. Throughout Season 7, Tyrion was adamant that Daenerys needed to begin thinking about a successor, much to her displeasure. Since her miscarriage early on in the show, Daenerys has repeated the prophecy that she cannot bear any more children. So Daenerys needs to start thinking about who will succeed her, Tyrion says, but Daenerys thinks its all a ploy for Tyrion to be named the successor.

Was Tyrion concerned about that whole situation because he’s worried a Dany child would be as obsessive, and potentially dangerous as she shows signs of being? Or did something happen between Cersei and Tyrion in that meeting room in King’s Landing? Tyrion was pretty shocked at the news at the news of Cersei’s ‘pregnancy’, and sounded distraught at the news of Tommen and Myrcella deaths. Could he be turning back to team Lannister? Surely not…

Is Cersei actually pregnant?

Well she says she is. But it’s been pretty conveniently timed. As Jaime’s loyalty appeared to wane, she revealed the news that she’s pregnant with their child. But during the Season 7 finale, Jaime abandoned Cersei and King’s Landing – and told her that “I don’t believe you” before he stormed out the room. This most likely refers to her order for The Mountain to kill him, which he didn’t, but nothing can be ruled out with Cersei.

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Are we finally going to see Clegane Bowl?

The big throwdown we can all get behind. A fight between brothers Sandor Clegane, our beloved antihero The Hound, and his ghastly brother, Gregor Clegane, The Mountain, has been longed for by fans for a while now. In the Season 7 finale, we got a brief glimpse of what that could look like as the pair squared up at the Dragon Pit in King’s Landing.

Will some of the main characters turn into White Walkers?

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays Jaime, certainly thinks it’ll happen. “You know some of the main characters are going to get turned. There are going to be some blue-eyed main characters running around, ” he told Esquire. “And, god, I hope it’s not me. That’s three hours of make-up in the morning.”

Is Bran Stark actually The Night King?

This popular theory picked up a bit of steam in the last few months, as we learned more about Bran’s powers and saw more of The Night King. The crux of this theory is, basically, that Bran Stark is actually The Night King. The theory suggests that Bran warged into The First Man as he is turned into a White Walker by the Children of the Forest and became trapped in that body. It’s pretty full on, but definitely plausible. Take a look here for the full lowdown.

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Stay tuned for for more Game of Thrones Season 8 information