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Game of Thrones final season: Release date, cast and theories

Winter is coming, but until then, we're left with reports and juicy rumors about the battle for the Iron Throne. Here's how to watch and what to expect.

got-daenerys

Daenerys is so close to landing that Iron Throne. Or is she?

HBO

Winter is supposedly coming, but for Game of Thrones fans, the wait can seem eternal. Season 7 ended in August 2017 with dragons and White Walkers and, uh, a little unwitting incest. And fans who are impatiently waiting for resolution can't even console themselves with a new George R.R. Martin book in the saga, because ha ha ha boo hoo hoo.

But those of us who have to live in the world of tax deadlines and oral surgery and performance reviews sure could use a fantasy escape back to the land of castles and wildfire and Tyrion's one-liners. So while we wait, here's a guide to the eventual final season of HBO's blockbuster fantasy hit. Hold the door!

We'll update this story as new information is revealed.

Release date, episodes and timing

So what's left to watch? The final season is season 8, and HBO has confirmed it's coming sometime in 2019, and will consist of six episodes. Only six, but they'll be super-sized, with each episode possibly the length of a movie.

Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, as well as David Nutter and Miguel Sapochnik, will direct episodes, and Benioff, Weiss, Bryan Cogman and Dave Hill will write the scripts. As fans well know, the TV show has veered off from Martin's books due to necessity, as a new book hasn't come out since 2011.

To watch the new season whenever it eventually drops, you'll need a subscription to HBO (or a friend with one), but if you don't have cable, you can pay for HBO Now, a streaming subscription version of HBO that doesn't require a regular cable subscription (or even a TV). Not sure you'll like it? You can stream HBO Now free for 30 days. And you can catch up on past seasons via HBO, Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra Blu-ray. Past seasons are also available on Hulu with an HBO Premium Add-on

Meet the cast

The major cast members who've survived to this point will be back (one exception: Ellaria Sand, who's presumably still watching daughter Tyene's body rot away in Cersei's dungeon).

Some of the top stars coming back are:

The Lannister children, Tyrion (Dinklage), Queen Cersei (Headey) and Jaime (Coster-Waldau), are still surviving, even if Tyrion and Cersei are gunning for each other and Jaime seems caught in the middle. Is Cersei lying to her brother/lover about being pregnant with their fourth child together, now that the other three have died? Quite possibly.

As far as House Stark is concerned, dad Ned (Sean Bean) lost his head back in the first season, and mom Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) and brothers Robb (Richard Madden) and Rickon (Art Parkinson, who really shoulda zig-zagged) joined him in the afterworld later. But Jon Snow (Harington), who's really Ned's sister's son, and Ned's true children Bran (Hempstead-Wright), Arya (Williams) and Sansa (Turner) are still alive and discovering that life in Westeros really is a Stark proposition.

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Life for Sansa and the other Stark kids has been anything but easy. 

HBO

Daenarys Targaryen (Clarke) seems to have found love with Jon Snow -- too bad she's his aunt (that sort of thing has never really mattered to Targaryens though, tbh). She's also teamed up with Tyrion, and her faithful retinue includes eunuch Grey Worm (Anderson), Missandei (Emmanuel) and Jorah Mormont (Glen).

Jon Snow's pal Samwell Tarly (Bradley-West) and his partner Gilly (Hannah Murray) discovered some vital secrets about Westerosi history during their time at the Citadel, and you just know it'll all eventually come out.

Also returning are Brienne of Tarth (Christie), her wannabe lover Tormund Giantsbane (Hivju), Davos Seaworth (Cunningham), Sandor "The Hound" Clegane (McCann) and his creepy zombie brother Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane (Björnsson), Arya's pal Gendry (Dempsie), mysterious priestess Melisandre (van Houten), tormented Theon Greyjoy (Allen) and his evil uncle Euron (Asbæk).

Not a lot is known about new characters joining the show in its final season. But according to the top-notch Game of Thrones Wikia, actor Marc Rissmann will play Harry Strickland, commander of the Golden Company, an army for hire. Other new characters who we don't know much about beyond their names include Fergus (played by Seamus O'Hara), Willa (Alice Nokes) and Sarra (Danielle Galligan).

What we know about the plot

Get ready for some serious action, and be braced to possibly lose some major characters. An HBO executive has made the final season sound like a bloodbath, describing cast members "one by one ... falling down to their deaths."

Star Maisie Williams knows how the show ends, and she's told her mom, so maybe you can bribe her to fess up. She also didn't buy into HBO president Casey Bloys announcing that the show planned to film multiple endings to fool nosy on-set folks who might leak big news. "I immediately thought, 'I don't think we've got the budget to shoot lots of different endings,'" she told Jimmy Kimmel.

Could a young generation of Northern leaders, led by young Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey), Alys Karstark (Megan Parkinson) and Ned Umber (Harry Grasby) be prepping for a powerful presence in the final season? We sure hope so, because Lyanna Mormont is a badass.

Will the Dragonpit appear once again? Fan site Winter is Coming reported on April 2 that the show is preparing to film at a ruined Roman amphitheater in the ancient Spanish city of Italica that served as the Dragonpit for a major scene in season 7. It could serve as a pivotal point for dragon drama or just a nice giant open meeting place for a battle or other confrontation.

Gendry's finally done rowing, and ready for action. Actor Joe Dempsie, who plays Robert Baratheon's secret son Gendry, told Digital Spy that he's been filming "a fair bit" of the final season, but smartly wouldn't reveal if he survives until the very last episode. Still, based on his parentage, fans are expecting big things from the young blacksmith with royal blood.

What's up with the GOT spin-offs?

George R.R. Martin doesn't want to call them spinoffs, but HBO is working on as many as five "successor shows" taking place in the Game of Thrones universe. Martin has said fans should not look for any familiar faces, as all of the new shows will take place before the time period depicted in Game of Thrones. It's not yet known if all, or how many, of the shows will actually make it to air.

No real plot details have been given for the successors other than the time period, with Martin saying "some may not even be set on Westeros." (An Essos-set story would certainly be fresh.)

But we do know what won't be covered: no Robert's Rebellion and no Dunk and Egg. Robert's Rebellion refers to Ned Stark, Robert Baratheon and Jon Arryn's rebellion against House Targaryen, and Dunk and Egg are other Martin characters, a hedge knight and his squire, who have their own stories taking place a century before the current books. Martin said when he's done writing all his tales of Dunk and Egg, he'd love for them to have a show, and that Robert's Rebellion will be explained in the current book series when (if...) he finishes.

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