Game of Thrones fans have bravely suffered through their own Long Night over the past weeks and months, left without new episodes of the smash-hit fantasy series from 2017 to 2019 in the biggest gap between episodes we’ve seen since the HBO drama began in 2011.
In the meantime we've had just one thing to sustain us – feverishly trying to find out everything we can about Game of Thrones season eight, from the storyline and returning characters to exactly when we’ll actually see the last battle for Westeros erupt across our screens – and as we edge ever closer to the series airing, we're only getting more invested in the whole thing.
- Game of Thrones fans are mourning Kit Harington’s beard
- Game of Thrones showrunners still don't know how George RR Martin's books will end
- Game of Thrones recap – where did we leave the characters ahead of the final series?
So enter our Citadel of knowledge, and prepare to wait out the coming storm. It shouldn’t be too bad – if the White Walkers can happily spend eight years walking very slowly towards the South, we can handle waiting a little longer for the next episode...
This article will be updated regularly
When is Game of Thrones back on TV?
Game of Thrones will continue in the US on Sunday 21st April, simulcasting with a UK broadcast in the early hours of Monday 22nd April on Sky Atlantic. It will then be repeated in the UK on Monday evening, and continue in this format for the following weeks.
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How many episodes are there in season 8, and how long are they?
Just six, sadly, in contrast to 2017’s seven-episode run and the ten-episode seasons we enjoyed from 2011-2016. Still, some of the episodes are supposedly longer than usual, so we might not miss out on as much material as you'd think.
HBO has revealed that the opening episode (airing Sunday 14th April) will come in at 54 minutes, while the second episode (Sunday 21st April) will have a running time of 58 minutes, neither of which are particularly long, but it's rumoured that the third episode will be a record-breaking hour and 20 minutes long, with the series' penultimate and final episodes also granted a significantly extended runtime (though exact times for these episodes have yet to be confirmed).
"Season 8 episodes will all I think be longer than 60 minutes," David Nutter, who directed three episodes of the final run, previously said in a reddit AMA.
"They’ll be dancing around the bigger numbers, I know that for sure."
Definitely more bang for your buck - and according to one of the series stars, the bucks weren't in short supply for this final season.
"We spent twice as much shooting these six episodes than we did on two full seasons before," Nikolaj Coster-Waldau said at the Cannes Lions Festival.
"No expense has been spared. We’ve gone all in."
Is there a trailer for Game of Thrones season 8 yet?
Yes, and you can watch it right here. There was no fanfare when the trailer was released, with the show's Twitter account simply saying, "The trailer is here".
More recently, HBO also released two "promos" for the series that reveal some new clips, as we've discussed in more detail here....
...and they also shared a teaser that appeared to show the bloody aftermath of a battle at Winterfell (see below), where our favourite characters seem to have misplaced some of their most treasured accessories.
And that wasn't the only moody teaser given to whet our appetites this year, as HBO had previously released a sneak peek of the season when it announced the release date back in January 2019. THIS short teaser sees three of the Stark children – Arya, Sansa and Jon Snow – reunite at the family crypt in Winterfell.
You can check out another sneak peek below, which sees a wave of ice from the north take over the dragon of House Targaryen and the Wolf of the Starks clash with a wave of fire from the south (specifically, the lion of the Lannisters).
Funnily enough, the presence of any trailers at all is slightly to the chagrin of the secretive showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss.
"I wish there were no trailers,” Weiss told Entertainment Weekly. “I just want somebody to say, ‘Trust me, go see this.’”
Benioff added: “[David Lynch] was saying he wished there were no trailers, and it’s true.”
What will happen in the series?
As usual, secrecy is paramount, but given the cliffhanger ending of the previous series – where the Wall is brought down by the White Walkers and their undead dragon – it seems fair to assume season eight will largely concern itself with the final battle between the living and the dead, as well as Cersei’s (Lena Headey) attempts to double-cross her new allies Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke).
And now it has been revealed that one episode this year will revolve around a huge battle at Winterfell between some of our favourite characters and the Army of the Dead, in what may be the longest fight scene ever committed to film.
“What we have asked the production team and crew to do this year truly has never been done in television or in a movie,” co-executive producer Bryan Cogman told EW.
“This final face-off between the Army of the Dead and the army of the living is completely unprecedented and relentless and a mixture of genres even within the battle. There are sequences built within sequences built within sequences. David and Dan [wrote] an amazing puzzle and Miguel came in and took it apart and put it together again. It’s been exhausting but I think it will blow everybody away.”
Elsewhere in the series, it seems likely that Cersei will recruit legendary mercenary army The Golden Company, a group who appeared in an unused storyline from George RR Martin’s novels and who were referenced multiple times in season seven. Marc Rissman has reportedly been cast as the leader of The Golden Company, Harry Strickland.
It also seems likely the new episodes will explore Jon’s true identity as the rightful King of Westeros, as well as Theon Greyjoy's (Alfie Allen) attempts to rescue his sister Yara (Gemma Whelan) from the clutches of his evil uncle Euron (Pilou Asbaek).
“From a dramatic standpoint, it makes things interesting, because the story is no longer about who Jon’s parents are,” showrunner DB Weiss told TV Insider.
“It’s about what happens when Jon finds out.”
“Jon is someone who plays by the book. He cannot lie,” added Harington.
“Finding out about Dany would be very hard for him.”
And according to star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (who plays tainted knight Jaime Lannister in the series, pictured), the whole thing could leave a few characters being turned to the side of the undead…
“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.com when asked about the final season.
“And, god, I hope it’s not me. That’s three hours of make-up in the morning. I know that if [Thrones showrunners] David Benioff and Dan Weiss read this, they’ll go, ‘Oh, yes we will’.”
“It’s going to be the greatest thing that’s ever aired on TV,” former cast member Jason Momoa told EW following a visit to the season eight set.
“It’s going to be unbelievable. It’s going to f*** up a lot of people.”
Other rumours from filming include an epic battle inside the Throne Room of King's Landing, the death of several major characters (which we won't mention here in case it's true) and a shock execution that may leave audiences gasping. Oo-er.
How big are the battle scenes?
Well, pretty big – the aforementioned Battle of Winterfell (rumoured to be episode three of the series) ended up taking 11 weeks of night shoots, with hundreds of people working for months in rural Ireland in freezing temperatures - and not all the 20-plus stars involved in the battle enjoyed it too much.
“It was the most unpleasant experience I’ve had on Thrones,” Iain Glen, who plays Ser Jorah Mormont, said. “A real test, really miserable. You get to sleep at seven in the morning and when you wake in the midday you’re still so spent you can’t really do anything, and then you’re back. You have no life outside it. You have an absolute f—ked bunch of actors. But without getting too method [acting] about it, on screen it bleeds through to the reality of the Thrones world.”
“The hard work pays off on this show,” Maisie Williams added. “After one of those really tough days, you know it’s going to be part of something so iconic and it will look amazing.”
Apparently the battle, rumoured to play out over a longest-ever 90 minute episode, will also see the death of "beloved characters," so watch this space to see which of your favourites survives, and which of them start kickin' it with the Night King instead.
And of course, this may not be the only battle of the series - rumour has it that another massive clash will occur in one of the series' later episodes, possibly episode five given that "Battle of the Bastards" director Miguel Sapochnik is directing episodes three and five this year.
As for who may be fighting in that later episode, well, we can only imagine it'll be the White Walkers knocking on the door of King's Landing itself. Here's hoping Cersei kept a few pots of wildfire back for a rainy (or rather, icy) day.
Well, this is the million dollar (or rather, rumoured 15 million-dollar-an-episode) question. We imagine the White Walkers will either be routed or emerge triumphant, and while we’re hoping for the former, George RR Martin has always promised the end to his saga will be “bittersweet”.
This may mean that while our heroes may win, there will be a terrible cost – possibly the life of one of our very favourite characters.
Sansa Stark actress Sophie Turner has described the ending as “incredibly emotional” and “very satisfying,” while Harington also said it made him “really emotional.”
“I cried at the end!” he told Alex Jones and Ricky Wilson on The One Show. “We had the read-through last week, in fact, so I know everything now.
“It wasn’t anything particular that happens. You have to remember, I’ve done eight years of it. I think, no-one really cares about [Game of Thrones] more than us… It’s been an institution longer than any other institution I’ve been in. School, drama school, anything.”
“We want people to love it,” co-showrunner DB Weiss told EW. “It matters a lot to us.
“We’ve spent 11 years doing this. We also know no matter what we do, even if it’s the optimal version, that a certain number of people will hate the best of all possible versions. There is no version where everybody says, ‘I have to admit, I agree with every other person on the planet that this is the perfect way to do this’ — that’s an impossible reality that doesn’t exist. I’m hoping for the Breaking Bad [finale] argument where it’s like, ‘Is that an A or an A+?’”
“From the beginning we’ve talked about how the show would end," Benioff added. A good story isn’t a good story if you have a bad ending. Of course we worry.”
For other ideas about how it'll all end up, check out our favourite theories here.
Which characters are returning?
All the lead actors (including Harington, Clarke, Headey, Peter Dinklage and Coster-Waldau) are set to return alongside the likes of regulars Maisie Williams, Sophie Turner, Liam Cunningham, Rory McCann and many many more (with quite a few of them spotted by fans arriving in Belfast for filming).
Basically, there will be no unexpected absences, and if you can think of one of the 6 billion characters in Westeros that are still alive, they’ll probably be in there (except maybe Indira Varma’s Ellaria Sand, who doesn’t appear to be back following her imprisonment in the last series).
Less clear, though, are the fates of fan-favourite characters Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) and Beric Dondarrian (Richard Dormer), who were manning the icy Wall before it was at least partially destroyed by the White Walkers.
“I do know [whether I'll be involved] but I have been told not to say – because it would give away whether Beric Dondarrion survives the collapse of The Wall,” Dormer told RadioTimes.com last year.
Fingers crossed they make it back, if only so Tormund can finally pursue his love for Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie).
Sadly, however, we've now received word that one character WON'T be returning, having been murdered horribly offscreen - Ser Pounce, aka the pet cat of King Tommen (RIP). Is no-one safe???
What else are the actors saying about the new series?
All sorts! Especially when it comes to their individual characters' final scenes...
"I feel very, very... I'm trying to find the right word," Peter Dinklage said. "I think [Tyrion] was given a very good conclusion. No matter what that is — death can be a great way out."
"I ended on the perfect scene," Maisie Williams told The Guardian. "I was alone – shocker! Arya’s always bloody alone."
"But I was alone and I had watched a lot of other people wrap. I knew the drill, I had seen the tears and heard the speeches.”
"It’s over and I cried like a baby on the last day," Emilia Clarke told The Daily Mail. "I felt completely lost."
She continued: "Ten years is a long time. It’s like losing an actual limb. I was 22 – a child – when I first walked on the Game of Thrones set. I grew up with [Daenerys]."
"I cried at the end!" Kit Harington said on The One Show.
"It wasn't anything particular that happens. You have to remember, I've done eight years of it. I think, no-one really cares about [Game of Thrones] more than us… It's been an institution longer than any other institution I've been in. School, drama school, anything."
Get the tissues ready, folks...
Who else is directing the series?
David Nutter, who directed a number of Thrones episodes from 2012 to 2015 including fan-favourite The Rains of Castamere (aka the Red Wedding episode) will be taking the reins for season eight’s first, second and fourth episodes, while showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss are making their official directorial debut (having previously worked on the episodes "Two Swords" and "Walk of Punishment" as individual directors) with the very last instalment of the series.
Guess they want to make sure that one comes off just right.
Yes, absolutely loads - HBO released a whole cache of season 8 images in February, many of which you will have seen in this article. For more, you can see a pretty large collection here.
The channel also released a brand new poster on 21st March, featuring a very clever redesign of what at first appears to be the Iron Throne. Expand the image to see what we mean...
What's that? You want more arty depictions of the Iron Throne in poster form? Fine, fine, you twisted our arm - and good luck trying to find clues in the bodies below...
What will I watch when Game of Thrones is over?
We're sure you'll find something - there's an awful lot of Thrones-inspired medieval-y series out there nowadays - but in the immediate aftermath, fans of the series will be able to watch a special making-of documentary on Sunday 26th/Monday 27th May, the week after the series finale airs.
Called Game of Thrones: The Last Watch, the two-hour documentary will show fans exactly what it took to bring Westeros to life, and is described as an “up-close and personal report from the trenches of production, following the crew and the cast as they contend with extreme weather, punishing deadlines and an ever-excited fandom hungry for spoilers.
“Much more than a ‘making of’ documentary" HBO added, "this is a funny, heartbreaking story, told with wit and intimacy, about the bittersweet pleasures of what it means to create a world — and then have to say goodbye to it.”
The one-off episode has been made by British filmmaker Jeanie Finlay, and will air on Sky Atlantic in the UK in the usual Game of Thrones slot, aka 2am on the Monday morning followed by an evening repeat at 9.00pm.
How are they keeping it all a secret?
In recent years the security around Game of Thrones has become tighter and tighter, and this time in an attempt to stave off the usual set leaks (collated by fans on reddit over the last few series) HBO president of programming Casey Bloys has revealed that multiple endings will be filmed to prevent spoilers from leaking ahead of the finale.
Meanwhile, star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau has suggested the cast aren’t having scripts at all this year, instead using an odd method to deliver their lines.
“The first season we got the scripts like you should get them and then you could sit and do notes and stuff,” he said on the Scandinavian talk show Skavlan. “And then after a couple of years, they got paranoid because there was some leaks so we had to get them only digital, on a PDF file.”
“Now 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. 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.”
Coster Waldau is of course joking about that last part and those other accounts should probably be taken with a pinch of salt too – HBO previously claimed to have filmed fake scenes for season seven in an attempt to discredit genuine on-set photos – but after last year’s storm of leaks and hacks, we can definitely be sure HBO are taking things even more seriously this time.
"The secrecy is crazy," Sophie Turner told Vulture. "We have a whole different name for it when we're shooting it. I think this season it was like The Tree of Life or something."
Turner also explained that they even have a "drone killer" that disables any drones attempting to fly over the set.
"I don't know how it does it. It creates like this field around and the drones just drop," Turner said. (And yes, there is such thing as a Drone Privacy Shield. The more you know.)
She added: "Also, we shoot fake scenes. We got into costume in Croatia because we know the paparazzi lurk around there, so we would spend like half a day doing nothing."
Whether all these precautions mean this page will remain fairly bare even when the series is airing, well, only time will tell. For now just watch the skies, and remember that dark wings bring dark words – and the odd plot spoiler.
Game of Thrones airs on NOWTV and Sky Atlantic at 2am and 9pm on Mondays