As fans gear up for season 6 of HBO’s Game of Thrones, the crew behind the scenes are already planning for future seasons — and the date of the show’s ultimate ending finale. Season 6 will continue the stories of several surviving characters, and promises more answers to the mysteries surrounding the White Walkers that seem to result in all out war.

Recently, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss admitted to considering shorter episode runs for Game of Thrones seasons 7 and 8, based on their decisions on how many hours the show had left in its overall run.

In an interview with Variety, Benioff said:

“I think we’re down to our final 13 episodes after this season. We’re heading into the final lap. That’s the guess, though nothing is yet set in stone, but that’s what we’re looking at.”

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The shorter seasons have been part of the rumor mill, and known of behind the scenes for some time. HBO’s entertainment president Michael Lombardo says that this idea has been part of many conversations between the creators and the network, and was always part of what Weiss and Benioff were thinking. And while an ending is certainly imminent, even Lombardo had to admit that ending the show in such a short time would be difficult, partially as an executive (who must appreciate the financial success of the series) and as a fan.

“It will be interesting to see how strongly they feel about being definitive about that when we are in a position to announce seasons 7 and 8. A show that resonates this way and works on all levels, it’s painful to imagine it ending. At the same time, David and Dan have a big responsibility and I respect that enormously. If we just keep going then we’re doing what the [broadcast] networks have done – and nobody wants to do that.”

The interview was immediately followed by a statement from HBO, clarifying that even though these conversations may be happening, nothing has been confirmed. HBO’s statement reads:

“Any conversations about the end of Game of Thrones and the number of episodes of future seasons is purely speculative. As is customary, HBO will sit with Dan and David to discuss the details once a decision has been made to go forward with season 7.”

With this plan in mind, Game of Thrones’ six ten-episode seasons would be followed by a seven episode season 7 and a six-episode season 8, ending with the show’s grand finale. While some might see this as sacrificing financial gain for artistic integrity, it’s important to remember that the show is no longer waiting for its source material — A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin — to catch up. Branching off into its own story with light notes from Martin, the show’s story might simply be coming to an end, and might foretell just how many stories fans will see if/whenever the next installment to the book series is published.

Game of Thrones season 6 will premiere on HBO on April 24, 2016.

Source: VarietyEW, THR