It already feels like a long time since season seven of Game of Thrones came to an end, zombie dragon and all. Here's everything we know so far about the eighth (and final) season of the hit fantasy epic:
When is Games of Thrones season 8 on TV?
HBO has confirmed that Game of Thrones will return for its final season in April 2019.
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. "You’re not going to see anything air anytime close to the season 8 finale," he said.
How many episodes will there be in season 8?
The eighth season will be the shortest yet, with 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 the episodes be?
While the eight season will only have six episodes, they will be much longer than the one-hour length of previous seasons. It appears episodes will be up to 80 minutes, and potentially there could be feature-length instalments.
When does filming begin for Game of Thrones season 8?
Actually, it began in October 2017, with much of the filming taking place on an enormous backlot at Belfast's Titanic Studios, and carried on for quite some time: key cast members, including Kit Harington, were photographed by fans near the studio in late November. Production officially wrapped for Game of Thrones in July 2018.
Who is in 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. Although it is an ensemble show, the cast's salaries might give some indication 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 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, telling Huffington Post, "...you’ll see him again. He has a fair amount of screen time in season 8."
Who will direct 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 will write season 8?
The final series will keep the show's four-strong 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 and Cogman will write the second episode, while Benioff and Weiss will share the remaining four episodes between them.
What will happen in Season 8?
Obviously, we don't know, yet – but the answers are out there. According to Entertainment Weekly, showrunners DB Weiss and David Benioff were already writing the scripts for the final season during post-production on season seven. It's not impossible that one of those scripts could leak t the public, 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 in the slow lead up to the final season. Weiss and Benioff have revealed season 8 will open with Daenerys and her army arriving in Winterfell, and that Sansa is not at all happy with Jon Snow having bent the knee to the Mother of Dragons.
The series' final major battle episode will be the long-awaited showdown between the Army of the Dead and the various characters and their factions, 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. The final battle reportedly took 55 days to shoot, with Sapochnik spending additional weeks on a soundstage.
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 have to sacrifice herself to defeat the White Walkers, and the idea that Bran Stark will (through a mystical, as-yet-unexplained McGuffin) turn out to be the Night King. When asked about this last 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."
Check out the first look of the final season of Game of Thrones below
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 in Martin's series, The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring.
With the final season of Game of Thrones delayed until 2019, it is possible (albeit unlikely) that The Winds of Winter may be published before season eight hits our screens. Martin has already released several excerpts from the novel 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. Although that estimate turned out to be unrealistic, it does suggest he has nearly finished the long-awaited tome.