The marketing for Game of Thrones season 8 is well underway now, and EW‘s latest cover story dropped some fascinating hints about fans can expect from the final season. While HBO has yet to reveal a trailer or even the release date for the final six episodes of the series – the network promises it will premiere in the first half of 2019 – co-executive producer Bryan Cogman promises it will be “a very emotional, haunting, bittersweet final season.” In the meantime, here is some new info for fans to obsess over.
Season 8 of Game of Thrones will depict the final confrontation between the people of Westeros, led by Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), and the army of undead White Walkers ruled by the Night King. It will also resolve the lingering question of who will sit upon the Iron Throne, currently occupied by Queen Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), which has been complicated by the fact that Jon is actually half-Targaryen and his lover, Daenerys, is actually his aunt. In addition, there are numerous subplots involving the series’ bevy of fan-favorite characters to be resolved as the fate of all of Westeros is threatened by the army of the dead.
EW visited the set during the production of season 8 and spoke to many of the key players, including the actors and the series’ creators and executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. While the magazine’s coverage was spoiler-free, there are still a number of compelling hints about how Game of Thrones will conclude that we’ve compiled here:
The magnitude of Game of Thrones‘ ending was certainly felt by the cast, who received top-secret encrypted season 8 scripts in October 2017. While most immediately devoured their copies of the final episodes, two main players waited until the cast’s table read: one was Liam Cunningham, who plays Davos Seaworth, because he couldn’t crack the email attachment’s security, and the other was Jon Snow himself, Kit Harington, who wanted to wait to experience it live with his fellow actors.
The reactions were emotional; Harington admits to crying (twice) while Emilia Clarke “flipped out.” Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa Stark, found the final scripts “completely overwhelming” and she was among the first to email her reactions to Benioff and Weiss. Peter Dinklage even broke his longstanding tradition and didn’tskip to the end to find out if his character Tyrion Lannister dies. Of course, everyone was sworn to absolute secrecy about the final episodes and the producers even banned any kind of selfie on set.
Game of Thrones had already been shooting under a blanket of extreme secrecy but they stepped up security in season 8 – thanks to Star Wars. David Benioff and Dan Weiss have their own Star Wars movies in the works and their new boss, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, as well as Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson, showed Game of Thrones‘ head honchos ways to beef up season 8’s security even further. Weiss said, “They’ve given us a lot of hints about how to lock things down, things we never would have thought of or didn’t know were possible.”
Part of their tactics included using drone killer robots to shoot down drones trying to take paparazzi photos from above and special code names for each of the actors in order to see production documents. This is all great practice for Benioff and Weiss, who will presumably begin working on their Star Wars projects once Game of Thrones season 8 concludes.
Game of Thrones‘ producers’ original plan wasn’t to end the series on HBO: they wanted to release three two-hour films that would comprise the final season in movie theaters. This was meant to echo Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, which is author George R.R. Martin’s major influence when he wrote A Song of Ice and Fire, but it also was a tactic to get more money from HBO. Benioff and Weiss feared even their original $5 million-per-episode budget (which now pales in comparison to Disney’s $10 million-per-episode budget for The Mandalorian) wouldn’t be enough to depict the conclusion they had planned; their reasoning was a theatrical release would get them a budget worthy of summer tentpole-sized movies.
However, HBO is about creating content for their subscribers and not releasing theatrical films and besides, Game of Thrones‘ audience only grew season-to-season, which was enough to justify giving Benioff and Weiss everything they needed to end Game of Thrones the way they wanted – which includes a budget of over $15-million per episode for season 8.