Game of Thrones season 8 release date, episodes, spoilers, filming and everything you need to know
WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Game of Thrones season eight. Obvs.
Game of Thrones is an absolute pop-culture phenomenon, so it’s hard – not to mention heart-breaking – trying to imagine the television landscape without it.
Nevertheless, we’ll soon be faced with that cold, hard reality – the last ever season of HBO’s fantasy epic is coming. Feel unprepared? Here’s everything you need to know about the end of the saga, from cast to plot spoilers to air dates.
Game of Thrones season 8 premiere date: When will it start?
It’s going to be another long wait, with official word coming from HBO that the eighth and final season will arrive in 2019. This was later narrowed down to “the first half of 2019” – which we suppose is slightly better.
And now, after narrowing it down even further to April, HBO has finally confirmed a premiere date of Sunday, April 14, 2019.
UK broadcaster Sky Atlantic has also confirmed that the final series will be simulcast on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV at 2am on Monday, April 15 alongside the US’s HBO airing. It will then air again at 9pm on Monday night in the UK.
It fits with the timeline that had previously been tipped by by Sansa actress Sophie Turner – with her on-screen sibling Maisie Williams later suggesting an April return date too. However, Williams later denied releasing that info, posting on Twitter that the quote was “completely false and taken from an interview I did years ago”.
HBO President Casey Bloys had previously promised a lengthy hiatus: “[David Benioff and Dan Weiss, showrunners] have to write the episodes and figure out the production schedule We’ll have a better sense of that once they get further into the writing.”
“We honestly don’t know yet [when the final episodes will air],” Benioff admitted. “There’s been a lot of back and forth about air dates. That’s a long way off from being settled.”
Bloys later acknowledged that Benioff and Weiss’s vision for their grand finale is far more “complicated” than prior years.
“Our production people are trying to figure out a timeline for the shoot and how much time the special effects take,” he said.
“The shooting is complicated enough — on different continents, with all the technical aspects — and the special effects are a whole other production period that we’re trying to figure out. That is a big factor in all of this.”
“The final season is taking a long time because it’s the biggest thing we’ve ever done,” Benioff said backstage at the 2018 Emmys.
“Even though it’s six episodes, it was nearly a full year in Belfast either prepping it or shooting it,” he continued. “It’s quite extraordinary what the crew and the actors created, and I think when people see it they’ll understand why it took so long.
Ser Jorah actor Iain Glen has also suggested that bringing the show’s sizeable cast together for the final outing also complicates matters: “We’re all starting to be in the same storylines and so they can’t [have two filming units] anymore. I think this last season will take much longer to shoot because they can only use one unit.”
Once final GoT episodes land on HBO in the US next year, you can expect Sky Atlantic to simulcast the final season in the UK. (Though, if you can’t stomach the thought of staying up that late, there’s always the repeat viewing later in the day at the more manageable time of 9pm to look forward to. You can also watch it on demand any time after 2am.)
If you don’t want to stump up for the full Sky package, you can try a NowTV Entertainment Pass, which gives you access to the show (and loads of others) on all your devices.
Game of Thrones season 8 trailer: Is there any footage from the new episodes?
In August 2018, HBO unveiled a new trailer to tease all of its upcoming shows, from True Detective season 3 to Big Little Lies season 2.
And yes, hidden away among several shots of Thrones season 7, at the 1:10 mark is one brand new clip featuring Jon Snow, Sansa Stark and a not-so warm embrace.
An official teaser trailer for the new series then dropped in December 2018, and while it still didn’t reveal a whole lot, it did give viewers a look at a dark twist on the show’s opening.
Fire and ice, anyone?
And now, we’ve got this release date trailer which shows Jon Snow (Kit Harington), Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) and Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) gathering in the crypt at Winterfell.
Game of Thrones season 8 cast: Who’s in it?
Kit Harington (Jon Snow), Peter Dinklage (Tyrion), Lena Headey (Cersei), Emilia Clarke (Daenerys) and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime) are all optioned for an eighth run of episodes in June 2016 – for a reported $1.1million (£885,000) per episode!
Gendry actor Joe Dempsie revealed to Digital Spy that he’s been filming “a fair bit” for the final six episodes.
“I’ve done well out of it this year, for sure,” he said, before adding that fans shouldn’t assume his character survives till the end.
“As with all these things, we never shoot in chronological order – so you might have people coming in at the beginning and at the end, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they make it all the way through!”
Unsurprisingly, Pilou Asbæk has confirmed his return – hopefully to see horrid Euron Greyjoy get his comeuppance. “I got some great scenes next season,” he told Syfy Wire.
Asbæk later elaborated to Thrillist, describing his role in season eight as “small… but never… significant”. “Hopefully… I’ll do enough monkey business to make an impact.”
You’ll be happy to hear that Jon Snow’s loyal direwolf Ghost “has a fair amount of screen time in season eight” and has “some pretty cool things” to do.
The Night’s Watch will also resurface, according to actor Ben Crompton, who’ll reprise his role of Lord Commander Eddison ‘Edd’ Tollett one last time before his watch is ended for good.
Wilf Scolding played Rhaegar Targaryen – a.k.a. Jon Snow’s father – in the season seven finale and posted an image of himself outside the Europa Hotel in Belfast on Instagram. Could he be returning for more flashbacks / time-travel shenanigans?
Both Tom Wlaschiha and Vladimir Furdik have been spotted on location, meaning that fans could be seeing Jaqen H’ghar and the Night King in the final episodes. (One fan theory even suggests that the Night King will end up sitting on the Iron Throne, after the Red Keep set was turned an icy white.)
Even Mark Addy has been seen hanging with his former cast-mates in Ireland… is Robert Baratheon returning for flashbacks?
Beyond that, we’ve definitely seen the last of Indira Varma as Ellaria Sand, as well as Diana Rigg as Olenna Tyrell, with both characters meeting a grisly fate in season 7, episode 3, ‘The Queen’s Justice’. (Ellaria’s demise was implied more than shown, but Indira Varma has said she’s not returning.)
Mark Gatiss played Tycho Nestoris – an envoy from the Iron Bank of Braavos – in GoT‘s fourth, fifth and seventh seasons, but has insisted he’s not back for the eighth.
Thoros (Paul Kaye) also met his end in episode 6, ‘Beyond the Wall’ – which probably means no more second chances for Beric Dondarrion in the GoT universe – while Benjen Stark (Joseph Mawle) is also very much dead.
Ellie Kendrick has also cast doubt on a return for Meera Reed – which probably discounts that fan theory about her being Jon Snow’s twin sister – and despite being pictured with GoT‘s showrunners, Jason Momoa has ruled out any sort of resurrection for his popular character Khal Drogo.
And, in what counts as the show’s biggest casualty for a while, Petyr Baelish (Aiden Gillen) finally got what was coming to him in season 7’s finale – so no more Littlefinger in season 8 (unless Arya takes up his appearance, of course).
The fates of Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) and Beric (Richard Dormer) are also up in the air, after both were caught up in the devastation wrought by the Night King at the wall. (Hivju has since been spotted in Belfast, which some fans have taken to mean that Tormund survives.)
“The thing is, with so few characters left, [the viewers] should get used to and get ready for… Thrones returning to form and killing its main characters quickly,” Kit Harington has said.
“They’re going to go, and they’re going to go fast, and I think that the payoff of our characters not being in great peril this year will be that, next year, it’s going to be a bloodbath.”
Not quite a ‘cast member’ but Rebecca Van Cleave, who was Lena Headey’s body double in season five’s famous walk of shame scene, returned for at least three daysof filming in Dublin. (Make of that what you will!)
Even in the show’s dying days, new cast will be joining the ranks – including “a straight-talking” and “Northern-accented” young girl, a tough young boy who “has to fight to make his way in the world”, a middle-aged mercenary (part of the Golden Company?) and a rough-and-ready sailor.
Marc Rissman (The Last Kingdom) confirmed via his Spotlight CV that he’d be playing Harry Strickland, leader of the Golden Company, in season 8, though the credit was later deleted. Whoops!
It’s also been revealed, thanks to her resumé, that Danielle Galligan will star in the final season as a character named Sarra – and the only Sarra we know from the books is Sarra Frey, so could House Frey be making an appearance and should Arya watch her back?
Casting notices have also gone out for a male soldier with an imposing presence and combat skills, a clean-shaven ‘grieving man’ and a young village girl role for an actress aged 18-25 who will have to be naked above the waist (classic Thrones).
Former EastEnders star Alice Nokes has also joined the cast for season eight playing a character named Willa, although we don’t know much about her character yet.
David Nutter (‘The Rains of Castamere’) is also returning, while Benioff and Weiss will tackle the series finale themselves.
Game of Thrones season 8 episodes: How long will it run?
In June, Benioff and Weiss appeared to confirm that the show would wrap up with two shorter seasons.
“It’s two more seasons we’re talking about,” Benioff said. “From pretty close to the beginning, we talked about doing this in 70-75 hours, and that’s what we’ll end up with. Call it 73 for now.”
Given the 67 hours that were covered by the close of season 7, that leaves us with just 6 remaining – and in March 2017, we finally had it 100% totally officially confirmed that the eighth and final season will span just six weeks.
“Every single episode of the six you’ve got left in Season 8 is gonna be monumental,” Samwell Tarly actor John Bradley said. “I think you’re gonna get six ‘episode nines’ this year.”
It’s believed that GoT story editor Dave Hill (‘Home’, ‘Son of the Harpy’) will write the season 8 premiere, while producer Bryan Cogman will pen the second (having previously written 10 episodes, including 2015’s controversial ‘Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken’).
Benioff and Weiss will then divide up the remaining four episodes – including, of course, the grand finale.
“There’s probably a world where we could have milked this thing for another eight seasons, and that would have been very lucrative for all of us,” acknowledged Cogman. “But [Benioff and Weiss] really wanted to go out on a good high point.”
Ser Davos actor Liam Cunningham suggested that filming on the final season would commence in September 2017, while Sophie Turner also let slip in February 2017 that she’d be back filming on Thrones later in the year.
Jaime actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau later revealed that he’d be back shooting from October 2017, while Cunningham (again) suggested that the cast will be filming “bigger” and “longer” episodes up until the summer of 2018.
By January of that year, Peter Dinklage confirmed the the cast were about halfway through filming the final season. “It’s the final season, and it’s a long one so we’re taking our time,” he added.
Emilia Clarke had wrapped filming by June, confirming the news in an Instagram post, with Maisie Williams following suit a short while later, including the hashtag “last woman standing” in her post – a hint at Arya’s survival?
Opening up about her final day on the set of Thrones, Maisie called the fan-favourite character’s ending ” beautiful”. “I ended on the perfect scene,” she added.
Shooting on all six of the final GoT episodes wrapped on Friday, July 6 – the end of an era!