What to Know Before the ‘Game of Thrones’ Premiere

Winter is (finally) here.

click to enlarge Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) - Helen Sloan
Helen Sloan
Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke)

It may be springtime in Cincinnati, but winter is here, y’all! After a grueling 20-month wait, Game of Thrones’ (9 p.m. Sundays, HBO) eighth and final season is finally upon us. Critically lauded — it has the most Emmys of any primetime scripted series — and beloved among audiences across the globe, this just may be one of the biggest television events in history. While plot details are pretty much under lock and key, here’s what we know to expect.

Where We Left Off

One of the biggest reveals of last season was that Jon Snow is no bastard — he is the son of Ned’s sister Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen, quite literally making his story “a song of ice and fire.” Depending on whose house you claim, he’s the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. He doesn’t know this yet, but the info is on its way.

Jon bent the knee, pledging his allegiance to Daenerys Targaryen and securing allies in many major players throughout the realm. Jon and Dany also banged. Awkward. This isn’t the first incestuous relationship in the show, of course (Hi, Jaime and Cersei), but this important genealogical detail will certainly affect their romantic and diplomatic partnership.

After slaying poor dragon Viserion, the Night King turned him into a sort of White Walker and used him to knock down The Wall, sending thousands of the frigid undead pouring into Westeros. 

By the Numbers 

The final season consists of just six episodes, so the series will be wrapped before the end of May. That makes this the shortest season yet, but its episodes are among the longest. Chronologically, the runtimes are 54 minutes, 58 minutes, 82 minutes, 78 minutes and the final two are 80 minutes each. They are said to feel like six movies.

Spoilers — Sort of

Details are few and far between since this season, much like the last one, largely consists of original content not found in author George R. R. Martin’s books (though he told showrunners what to expect in the forthcoming source novels) and because anyone from the show who drops a spoiler will be subjected to Ramsay Bolton’s wrath. I assume. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister) has said their final scripts existed only digitally and would “self-destruct,” disappearing after each scene was filmed. Maisie Williams recently let it slip on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon that her character, Arya Stark, dies in the second episode…as part of an April Fool’s prank. Which means you can probably guarantee that Arya does not die in the second episode. Right?

There were definitely casualties in the collapse of The Wall at the end of last season, but it looks like Beric Dondarrion and Tormund Giantsbane made it out alive, as they are both seen in the trailer.

The battle scenes are a hallmark of the series — and this season is sure to go out with a bang. The final battle scene took 55 days to film across three locations (to compare, the iconic “Battle of the Bastards” took 25 days). With so many of the Westerosi forces convening to take on the Night King and his undead army, this will no doubt be the most brutal of them all.

What’s Next

Game of Thrones isn’t over yet and spinoffs are already in the works. HBO ordered a pilot of a prequel starring Naomi Watts that is thought to take place thousands of years before the events of this series. Since Watts is the biggest star attached to this unnamed project, I’m gonna go ahead and guess she dies first, Sean Bean style.

Meanwhile, Martin continues to work on the final two novels in his Song of Ice and Fire series. To say Martin takes his time writing these epics is an understatement — every year it’s predicted that book six, The Winds of Winter, will be released, to no avail. However, it is widely speculated that he has finished this penultimate novel and will be announcing it in the next few weeks. A Dream of Spring will follow as the final installment.

Truly the only thing we know for sure is that it’s going to be tough for fans to say goodbye to this story, the characters and the experience of watching Game of Thrones. But remember: What is dead may never die. 

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