Winter is coming, both literally and literarily. It’s dropping below 30 here in New York but the wind chill is nothing in comparison to the icy chill — and steamy fire — of the newest GAME OF THRONES season eight trailer.
With the steady trickle of GAME OF THRONES season eight teasers and sneak peeks over the last few weeks, it’s hard to remember that the final season is still five months away. But the THRONES-less 2018 has been hard on fans and every tidbit is an opportunity to dive back into Westeros. Wild speculation is part of the fun, right?
As we near the final season, here’s everything we know (and don’t know) about the final season of GAME OF THRONES.
Mark Your Calendars
Crazy as it is, we don’t actually know when the premiere of GAME OF THRONES season eight will be. HBO has slowly been narrowing it down for us. First, it was just 2019, which itself saw outcry from fans as it meant a full year-plus without new episodes. Then, in July, HBO announced it will be in “the first half of 2019.” So, less than two years between seasons. A bit better, but not exactly a small window for viewers to mark on their calendars.
But that window got a bit smaller in November, when HBO confirmed that the final season of GAME OF THRONES season eight would start in April 2019 — a full nineteen months after the finale of season seven.
But, hopefully, our wait will be worth it. Season eight will feature six movie-length episodes. The long hiatus is due largely to the grand scale of the final season, with more complicated scenes, higher production standards, and more dragon CGI than previous seasons.
Where We Left Off
Since there has been so much downtime, let’s recap the state of affairs in Westeros at the end of season seven. House Stark is finally together again, with Arya, Bran, and Sansa reuniting in Winterfell. Sansa rules as regent while Jon Snow, King of the North, is away on business. Bran, in his own words, is effectively dead and is now the Three-Eyed Raven, the all-seeing pseudo-magical being.
Even though he was absent for whole seasons at a time, Bran knows everything that has happened to his sisters over the years, as well as everything that has happened for all of the time, it seems. Arya is still on her murder path, and she’s doing great. She is down to five names after iconically offing Walder Frey and his clan in the season premiere. (She took a brief detour to give Littlefinger his comeuppance, too.)
Jon Snow Still Knows Nothing…
Jon’s story was probably the center of season seven. Though he doesn’t know it, he is the rightful king of Westeros. Through his warg powers, Bran looked into the past and learned that Jon is actually the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. And thanks to Sam and Gilly’s studies, we now know that Jon Snow isn’t a bastard at all — Rhaegar married Lyanna in secret before Jon’s birth, and Jon’s real name is Aegon Targaryen.
Speaking of Sam, he continues to hold the entire show together via his studies at the Citadel. When not cleaning bedpans, he learns that Dragonstone, home of House Targaryen, sits upon a large amount of dragonglass, which can kill White Walkers. At Sam’s behest, Jon accepts Daenerys’s invitation to join her at Dragonstone.
Mother of Dragons, Except for that One
Daenerys’s Targaryen’s plotline is, thankfully, one of the easiest to follow. She wants the throne at essentially any cost. In season seven, she has finally made her way back to Westeros with her band of misfits and is ready to take on Cersei. Unfortunately, she loses her fleet and several of her allies pretty early on (pour one out for Lady Olenna, a badass until the end). Having lost to the Lannisters’ gambits, Daenerys gets to do what she does best: set stuff on fire with dragons.
Meanwhile, the issue of the real enemy persists at Dragonstone: White Walkers or Cersei. Daenerys doesn’t believe Jon’s claims about the undead and insists he bends the knee to fight Cersei for the throne. Jon refuses because she is a Targaryen, all the while the show drops hints that he himself is a Targaryen. (Speaking of which, there’s some good old-fashioned incest, with more hints about Daenerys’s potential fertility.)
Instead, Jon and his pals go beyond the Wall to gather proof of the White Walkers’ existence. The royally screw it up, though, and have to be rescued by Daenerys and her dragons. Sadly, Viserion falls via an ice spear, later to return as a White Walker dragon. Which is admittedly very cool, but not great for our heroes. Daenerys’s sheer badassery convinces Jon to bend the knee.
The Real Mad King
“Mad with power” doesn’t even being to describe Cersei Lannister. She is playing the game of thrones until she wins or dies.
Anachronistic pirate Euron Greyjoy is team Lannister and doing everything he can to win her over. He takes down the Greyjoy/Targaryen fleet and delivers the Sand Snakes to Cersei for revenge, which she takes with glee. For our obligatory financial subplot, Cersei uses the pillaged Tyrell gold to pay off her debts to the Iron Bank. She then turns around and borrows more money to hire the Golden Company, a band of mercenaries from Essos.
At Jamie’s behest, Cersei holds a summit for our warring parties to meet and discuss the threat of Winter. Cersei begrudgingly agrees to send troops to help fight the White Walkers. If that seems out of character for Cersei, it is. She really intends to have the Golden Company attack Daenerys’s forces. That lie is the last straw for Jamie. He abandons Cersei and heads North, where the Night King has broken through the Wall…
We Call Them “Teasers” for a Reason
So what do we know about GAME OF THRONES season eight so far?
Surprise, surprise — a series based on a book called A Song of Ice and Fire has a final showdown between ice- and fire-themed factions. The titular conflict has been a slow burn (pardon the pun) over the first seven seasons, but the elemental tribes will finally meet in the final season.
So far, official GAMES OF THRONES season eight teasers have emphasized this conflict, with Daenerys Targaryen’s dragon-based army on one side and the icy White Walkers on the other. In a new clip, an icy fog overtakes the North, and the wolf of House Stark and the dragon of House Targaryen with it, while the South and House Lannister’s lion are ablaze. The two elements come to a head in the map’s center, the victor unclear — if there even is one.
As most viewers probably expected, it looks like the living and the undead will do battle this season. Whether that’s the big finale or not is unknown — everyone involved in the show has been extremely tight-lipped about the ending, just calling it “satisfying” and ”bittersweet.”
But Wait, That’s Not All
But what about the characters we’ve come to know and love/hate/love to hate over the last seven seasons? Surely GAME OF THRONES season eight can’t just be about White Walkers and the impending winter. The ice vs. fire theme could represent the game of thrones itself, too. At the close of season seven, our contenders for the throne are Cersei Lannister, the current reigning whose power dwindles every day; Daenerys Targaryen, commander of an army of Unsullied, Dothraki, and dragons; and, unbeknownst to him, Jon Snow, the debatably rightful heir.
Cersei could represent fire, as well. House Lannister’s sigil is a lion and the colors red and gold — firey tones, and an animal classically representing fire. Cersei’s weapon of choice is fire, too. Wildfire, to be specific, positioning her as the uncontrollable foil to Daenerys’s militarized fire and Jon’s cool Northern stoicism.
Should we, then, expect to see Cersei join Team Fire and fight against the wintry White Walkers after all? Her life has already intertwined with the Targaryens’, as she fulfilled the Mad King Aerys Targaryen’s plot to destroy Kings Landing with wildfire. I would also not be surprised if wildfire played a role in defeating the White Walkers since any substance with magical properties seems to come up in that discussion (dragonglass, Valyrian steel, etc.).
The Guest List
The cast of characters in the seven kingdoms is famously extensive. As many characters as are currently on the show, there are probably even more who have already died. But nothing is off limits for GAME OF THRONES season eight.
We know that the main cast will definitely be returning. Not much of a surprise there. A number of second-tier characters are still up in the air with actors like Tobias Menzies (Edmure Tully) and Ellie Kendrick (Meera) going on record to say that they don’t know whether they’ll make the call sheet.
At the end of season seven, the fates of Beric Dondarrian and Tormund Giantsbane hung in the balance as the White Walkers attacked the Wall. But Kristofer Hivju, who plays Tormund, was seen at a table read in Belfast, indicating he will appear in one form or another (“appearing” never means “alive” on this show).
New Characters? On GAME OF THRONES? You Don’t Say
But casting calls have given us some insight into potential new characters for GAME OF THRONES season eight. German actor Marc Rissmann is one of the only concrete names that we have so far. He’ll play the leader of the Golden Company, dashing fans’ hopes that Daario Naharis would make a reappearance in that role. The casting notice says he’ll appear in two episodes, he rides a horse, and he’s an “authoritative, fit, cool and charismatic military type.”
Though we don’t know who will play them, some Northerners will join the cast. One is a young woman who is described as “sassy” and “confident” (a la Lyanna Mormont) who will have a “memorable” scene with the main cast. She will be joined by a young man playing a sentry, who will also work with the main cast though in a different scene.
An accidental leak revealed a new character named Sarra, played by Danielle Galligan. The only Sarra we know of so far is Sarra Frey, one of Walder’s granddaughters who may have married Robb Stark. She showed up at the Red Wedding, though played by a different actress. Is she out for revenge after Arya wiped out her family? Or is she thankful that her abusive grandfather is dead?
Don’t Listen to the Spoilers
After nearly ten years of making this show, it seems that GAME OF THRONES season eight is where spoilers die. They’re reportedly filming multiple endings, leaving even the cast in the dark as to the true final moments of the show.
But to whet our appetites, they have given us some details through official channels. In a large piece for Entertainment Weekly, we learned that GAME OF THRONES season eight will begin in Winterfell. Jon and Daenerys arrive with their army in an eerily familiar scene — think season one, episode one. Emotions will be… let’s say complicated as Sansa learns Jon has bent the knee, Arya sees her big brother for the first time in years, and Sam and Bran have to face who they know is Aegon Targaryen and his aunt-girlfriend.
Presumably, the gang has headed north to confront the White Walkers in what EW describes as the “most sustained action sequence ever made for television or film,” helmed by the same director as “Battle of the Bastards” from season six. That battle took 25 nights to shoot — this one took 55 just for the outdoor shots.
Time for Some Wild Speculation!
In an interview with Esquire, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau revealed, “You know some of the main characters are going to get turned. There are going to be some blue-eyed main characters running around.” It seems most likely that these new White Walkers could be Tormund and Beric, last seen dwarfed by the oncoming undead army. But we also don’t know the fate of Jamie himself. We know he went North, but we don’t know who or what he met when he got there.
Eagle-eyed fans also spotted some Dothraki-esque huts at the show’s Belfast studio. Since Daenerys has employed the help of the Dothraki in her quest for the throne, it is entirely possible that they have just set up camp wherever they go. But these huts don’t exactly seem practical for the North in winter. I’ll put my money on the longshot: a dream/vision sequence involving Dany and Khal Drogo. Jason Momoa is a bonafide movie star now, so it’d be a good publicity move to have him make one final appearance since his death/resurrection/death in season one.
— Crown_For_A_King (@Crown_ForAKing) September 8, 2017
A Big Ole’ Grain of Salt
Obviously, none of this is set in (dragon)stone. HBO knows what they’re doing and are experts at playing the long game. GAME OF THRONES season eight is their crown jewel at the moment, so it will certainly get the royal treatment. Everything they release is carefully calculated to make us think exactly what they want us to think.
And you know what? I’m fine with that. But the night is dark and full of terrors, so we have to find our ways to tide ourselves over until April. What are your theories for GAME OF THRONES season eight? Who do you think will return and who will meet their demise? Leave us a comment!