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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, and say bye like Daenerys Targaryen herself, here's a guide to the eventual final season of HBO's blockbuster fantasy hit. 

We'll update this story as new information is revealed, be sure to check out the plot section for new details, or rumors. Hold the door!

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."

Drogo! Drogo! Could Daenerys' Sun and Stars, aka Khal Drogo, aka Jason Momoa, make a return? Maybe in flashback, or maybe in some kind of creepy zombieish resurrection? Fans became a little excited when Momoa shared a photo on Instagram in which he's seen lifting a Guinness with Game of Thrones showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff during the show's filming. Maybe they're just three pals hanging out. But fans can dream.

Drogo may or may not be present, but according to a June 2018 report from the Daily Express, the Dothraki will be back to aid their Khaleesi. A riding stable in Ireland apparently deleted two Instagram posts, one that showed a Dothraki warrior, another that mentioned them.

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.

Will the final season include more flashbacks featuring Rhaegar Targaryen, father of you-know-who (R+L=J)? The actor who plays him, Wilf Scolding, posted a photo of himself on May 2 standing in front of a hotel in Belfast, where the show is shooting, and fans went wild with speculation. He's since deleted it, but you can see it here, and really, fans would like to see a little more of his doomed relationship with Ned's sister Lyanna Stark.

Another rumor, courtesy of Watchers on the Wall, claims Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) and Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) have filmed a scene in which they fight alongside each other once more, presumably taking on the undead. That's a nice juicy scene to look forward to for those who ship that combat-ready couple -- but what does this mean for poor Tormund?

Speaking of secretive plot twists, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister) revealed in an interview at the Cannes Film Festival that the scripts were only given to the cast digitally, and that they self-deleted after a certain amount of time. So no hawking those things on eBay, folks. Coster-Waldau also revealed that he thinks the show ends "the right way" and "on its own terms." He says the storyline is one complete story from season 1 until the end, "and it makes sense."What's up with the GOT spin-offs?

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.

In June 2018, Deadline reported that HBO ordered a pilot of one of the shows. There's not a lot known about the show itself, which comes from writer Jane Goldman, who's known for the Kingsman movie series, as well as StardustKick-Ass and two X-Men blockbusters. It'll be set thousands of years before Game of Thrones, and HBO delivered a fairly generic plot summary, except for that bit about the White Walkers.

"The series chronicles the world's descent from the golden Age of Heroes into its darkest hour," the network revealed. "And only one thing is for sure: From the horrifying secrets of Westeros's history to the true origin of the White Walkers, the mysteries of the East to the Starks of legend … it's not the story we think we know." 

Martin says "some (of the successor shows) may not even be set on Westeros." (An Essos-set story would certainly be fresh.)

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.

This story was first published on April 6, 2018, and will be updated more frequently than GRRM publishes. 

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