Season 4 of Game of Thrones has barely started production, and we’ve already had a good number of updates: an “In Memoriam” video was shown at Comic-Con 2013 that mourned the departed characters while showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss teased aspects of the upcoming season, not to mention the casting of a pivotal Season 4 character, Oberyn Martell (“The Red Viper of Dorne”).

As fans of the hit HBO series know by now, Game of Thrones is based on a series of fantasy novels by George R.R. Martin. The story cycle is called A Song of Fire and Ice and currently encompasses five books, the latest of which, A Dance With Dragons, was published in 2011. The fourth book, A Feast For Crows, was published in 2005. The lengthy wait between books has created some trepidation among fans regarding the future of the series. Namely: will the cycle see a conclusion within our lifetime?

Recently, the notion that the show could end after seven seasons triggered a certain amount of speculation as to what happens if (and when) the HBO series catches up with the overall plot of the books.

At a recent press conference in Beverly Hills, HBO chief executive Richard Plepler and programming president Michael Lombardo were confronted with just this dilemma. This lifespan of seven seasons is apparently not the official company line, as Lombardo said the following (courtesy of Entertainment Weekly):

“As far as I’m concerned, they can go on as long as there are stories to tell. We certainly haven’t gotten anywhere near that conversation with [showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss].”

So where did this “seven seasons” notion come from? Frank Doelger, one of the show’s producers, who a few months ago said, “I would hope that, if we all survive, and if the audience stays with us, we’ll probably get through to seven seasons.”

Lombardo went on to address the elephant in the room (Martin’s near-glacial pace as a novelist):

“I know there are issues with the books and catching up.” 

And HBO CEO Plepler? He put it somewhat more bluntly:

“Our line to George was ‘keep writing.’ ” 

Lombardo echoed this sentiment: “Yes. Get busy writing.” 

Does this news signal some kind of tension between Martin and HBO? Not necessarily. We do know that Book Six of the series, The Winds of Winter, is “tentatively planned for release” in 2014, and Season 4 of the show still has to get through the second half of the third book, A Storm of Swords.

Things get a bit sticky with books four and five: roughly the first half of A Dance With Dragons takes place concurrently with the whole of A Feast for Crows, and untangling this narrative will likely prove something of a nightmare for the showrunners.

So there’s still quite a bit of time before the series “catches up” with the books, all told. While it’s true that the writers could interweave much of books four and five (which would tighten up the narrative quite a bit, as anyone who has read could confirm), there’s so much story still ahead. Martin’s on the fifth book and winter has technically not begun.

Indira Varma Joins ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 4

Meanwhile, Variety reports that Season 4 of GoT has yet another addition: Indira Varma will join the cast as Ellaria Sand, the lover of Prince Oberyn Martell of Dorne (to be played by Pedro Pascal of The Good Wife).

Like Ciarán Hinds, who joined the cast in Season 3 as Mance “King Beyond The Wall” Rayder, Varma is perhaps best known for her role on HBO’s Rome. She played Niobe, the wife of Lucius Vorenus (Kevin McKidd), who believed herself a widow and thus had a hard time adjusting to her husband’s return. She has also appeared in Bride and Prejudice, Human Target and Luther.

In A Storm of Swords, Ellaria accompanies Prince Oberyn to King’s Landing when Oberyn takes the seat on King Joffrey’s small council which was offered to his brother, Prince Doran Martell, the ruler of distant Dorne. Ellaria is the mother of the youngest of Oberyn’s bastard daughters, a group of smart, cunning young women known collectively as the “Sand Snakes,” and who have a tough reputation.

Without giving away too much, suffice to say that Ellaria could prove to be a central figure in the intrigues of Dorne, a kingdom which has not forgotten certain atrocities visited upon its high-born daughter, Princess Elia, at the behest of Tywin Lannister.

In a story full of strong women, Ellaria is not exactly on the level of Cersei Lannister, but with showrunners Benioff and Weiss’s penchant for combining characters in the book in order to speed the narrative along, there’s a chance that Ellaria could take on the characteristics of some other strong Dornish women in the long run. Varma certainly has the fire for the role, and could prove a welcome addition to an ever-expanding cast.

What do you think, Screen Rant readers – are you happy to hear that HBO is pressuring George R.R. Martin to finish A Song of Ice and Fire? Or do you think he should finish them at his own pace?

Game of Thrones season 4 will premiere on HBO in spring 2014.

Source: EWVariety