It’s been a long time since the penultimate season of Game of Thrones came to an end - zombie dragon and all - but at last the hit fantasy epic has returned. Although, we're still not quite sure if we're ready for what's to come after watching episode one, Winterfell.
One unconditional guarantee is the absolute spectacle that awaits us. With a handful of feature-length episodes - including the finale at 80 minutes long - it's safe to say these episodes (which reportedly feature the most complex sequences ever filmed for television) will be the best of the monumental show's best.
With the first episode having finally been broadcast in UK on Monday, HBO have released an even more tantalising - if not terrifying - trailer for the next episode.
Here’s everything we know so far about season 8 of the hit fantasy epic.
When does the next episode of Games of Thrones start?
HBO's Game of Thrones returned for its final season on Sunday April 14 in the US and April 15 for us, technically, as it was simulcast at 2am on Sky Atlantic.
What time is episode 2 on TV in the UK next week?
Game of Thrones will air every Sunday on HBO at 9pm Eastern time in America, while UK fans can tune into Sky Atlantic in the early hours of Monday morning at 2am or watch the replay at a more reasonable time of 9pm on Monday night.
You can find out more about how to watch Game of Thrones in the UK in our handy guide.
How many episodes will there be in season 8?
The eighth season will be the shortest yet; only six episodes, making it shorter than the penultimate season (seven episodes) and much shorter than the first six seasons of the show (which had 10 episodes each).
How long will each episode be?
While the eighth season will only have six episodes, some of them will be much longer than the one-hour slot they’ve filled in previous seasons. The first couple of episodes, however, are disappointingly short:
- Episode 1: 54 minutes
- Episode 2: 58 minutes
- Episode 3: 60 minutes
- Episode 4: 78 minutes
- Episode 5: 80 minutes
- Episode 6: 80 minutes
As noted by Winter Is Coming, the first episode is also the only one without an ‘Adult Content’ warning — the calm before the storm, perhaps?
In a crushing blow for Thrones fans, however, HBO head of programming Casey Bloys has hinted there could be another agonising wait between the end of Game of Thrones and the beginning of the first spin-off show, saying “you’re not going to see anything air anytime close to the season 8 finale.”
What was the budget for season 8?
Reports suggest season 8 of Game of Thrones cost HBO over $90 million (£69 million) - making the show the most expensive TV series of all time, even though season 8 has the fewest number of episodes since its inception. With roughly $15 million (£11 million) to spend on each episode, it's fair to expect dragons, direwolves and Night King-induced death unlike ever before.
Who is in the cast of the final series?
All the main cast members will return for the final series. As this is Game of Thrones, however, we can’t be sure who will survive until the very end. While we're delighted all our favourite characters survived the first episode - we can only feel nervous about what's to come in episode two.
Although it is an ensemble show, the cast’s salaries could indicate which characters will be given the most prominence in the final season: in 2017, Variety reported that five cast members — Peter Dinklage (Tyrion), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime), Lena Headey (Cersei), Emilia Clarke (Daenerys) and Kit Harington (Jon Snow) — were all being paid $500,000 (roughly £380,000) per episode.
Other returning cast members including Liam Cunningham (Davos), Sophie Turner (Sansa), Maisie Williams (Arya), Nathalie Emmanuel (Missandei) and Gwendoline Christie (Brienne).
Game of Thrones’ visual effects supervisor, Joe Bauer, has also confirmed Jon Snow's faithful albino direwolf Ghost — last seen in season 6 — will be making a return, saying “You’ll see him again. He has a fair amount of screen time in season 8.”
Read our complete guide to all of the cast in Game of Thrones.
What happened at the season 8 premiere?
The cast premiered the first episode of the final season in New York in early April - albeit with some rather strict, Littlefinger-fated allusions for anyone who dared to leak major plot spoilers.
Aside from the epic opener of the new season - including Jon Snow finding out his true identity - the premiere was filled with glamorous outfits and sweet reunions between the cast.
Take a look at the best photos from the Game of Thrones season 8 premiere here.
What did the new trailer reveal about episode 2?
Following the long-awaited arrival of episode one, Winterfell, the trailer for episode two was aired - causing us even more anticipation, fear and excitement.
In typical GoT-style, Winterfell left us hanging on the edge of our seat when Jaime Lannister arrived (with a whole new hairstyle too!) But the trailer made us want to know more as it hints that Daenerys will comes to face-to-face with Jaime the 'Kingslayer' who killed her father, Mad King Aerys II.
Who is directing season 8?
Collider revealed David Nutter (who directed the infamous Red Wedding episode, The Rains of Castamere) will be directing episodes one, two and four. Miguel Sapochnik, who’s become known for action-heavy episodes such as Hardhome and Battle of the Bastards, will be directing episodes three and five. Showrunners DB Weiss and David Benioff will co-direct the sixth and final episode of the show.
Who has written season 8?
The final series will keep the show’s four-man writing team of DB Weiss, David Benioff, Dave Hill and Brian Cogman. Although George RR Martin was a guest writer for a few episodes in the show’s first four seasons, he will not return for season eight.
Hill will write the season premiere, Cogman will write the second episode, and Benioff and Weiss will share the remaining four episodes between them.
Where can I watch Season 8?
Season 8 of Game of Thrones airs weekly on Sky and NOW TV.
If you want to catch up on seasons 1-7 while you wait for episode 2, you can watch it on NOW TV from today - and here’s a 7 day free Entertainment Pass trial.
What will happen in Season 8?
After episode, we still have SO many questions about season eight.
Who will sit on the Iron Throne? Could Cersei - or Daenerys - really kill Jaime Lannister? Will the Night King and his White Walkers and Ice Dragon rule Westeros?
Our best hope would be a leaked script or two and, according to Entertainment Weekly, showrunners DB Weiss and David Benioff were already writing scripts for the final season during post-production on season seven. It’s not impossible, despite HBO’s careful attempts to keep things under wraps.
In November 2016 an anonymous Reddit user leaked details of the entire plot of season seven in a post which has since proven to be largely accurate (one spoiler, for instance, predicted that Viserion would be killed and revived by the Night King). If it happened once, it could happen again.
The cast have also dropped hints that the ending will be divisive, to say the least.
“To be able to act out the way that it all ends, it was really satisfying for us,” Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa Stark, told IGN.
“Who knows if it will be satisfying for the fans? I think a lot of fans will be disappointed and a lot of fans will be over the moon, I think.”
Further information has been released throughout the slow lead up to the final season. Weiss and Benioff revealed that season 8 would open with Daenerys and her army arriving in Winterfell - and right she did.
We also know the series' final major battle episode will be the long-awaited showdown between the Army of the Dead, the various characters and their factions - all of which will take place at Winterfell.
“It’s brutal,” Peter Dinklage, who plays Tyrion Lannister, told Entertainment Weekly. “It makes the Battle of the Bastards look like a theme park.”
Emmy winning director Miguel Sapochnik, who directed the infamous season 6 episode Battle of the Bastards, will direct the episode in question. The final battle reportedly took 55 days to shoot, with Sapochnik spending additional weeks on a sound stage.
That won’t be the case for the final season, however; as translated by Mashable, Furdík said “in the third episode of the last season, there is a battle that the creators intended to be a historic moment in television.”
What do fans think will happen in Season 8?
There have been some particularly inventive fan theories about what to expect from the final series, ranging from the mostly plausible to the downright silly.
Some of the more interesting ideas include: that Tyrion Lannister might turn out to be a member of the Targaryen line (as the illegitimate son of Mad King Aerys), that Daenerys will be sacrificed to defeat the White Walkers (based largely on the book’s tales of Azor Ahai), and the idea that Bran Stark will (through a mystical, as-yet-unexplained McGuffin) turn out to be the Night King.
When asked about the latter theory Isaac Hempstead, the actor who plays Bran, told Esquire he thought it “a bit far-fetched… but this is Game of Thrones, and anything is possible.”
How will the final season tie in with George RR Martin's novels?
The TV series has already overtaken its source, George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. The plot of the final series will be based on his notes from the final two unfinished novels, The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring.
Martin has already released several excerpts from The Winds of Winter on his website, suggesting that progress is well under way. In January 2017, he told his fans he expected the book to be published before the end of the year.
While that estimate turned out to be unrealistic, it does suggest he has nearly finished the long-awaited time.
What do you think will happen in Game of Thrones season 8?