Just last week, HBO made viewers eager to know when the penultimate season of Game of Thrones would premiere sit through a social media stunt in which flames slowly melted a block of ice. The stunt was met with a mixed response, as most fans just wanted the news of when the adaptation of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire would finally be back on their screens for a shortened seventh season. After an arduous wait, the midsummer premiere date was finally confirmed along with a teaser for 'The Great War' that's on the horizon.
That quick tease was almost enough to make you forget there are only a handful of episodes left in the entire series, with the upcoming season comprised of a mere seven episodes. But while it's already a foregone conclusion that season 7 will be a few episodes shy of the show's typical 10-episode installments, some speculation persisted that co-showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff might yet opt to have the eighth and finale season run a bit longer. After all, not long ago, HBO president Casey Bloys said,“They’re still figuring it out because I think they’re trying to get a shape of the season. They always do what they think [will yield] the best version of the show. It’s all about how many they’re comfortable [with]. But I’ll always take more.”
As it turns out, Weiss and Benioff will be going the less-is-more route with season 8. The duo recently confirmed at SXSW (via EW) the final season of Game of Thrones will clock in at a scant six episodes. Speaking rather matter-of-factly, Benioff said:
"It's only going to be six episodes for the final season."
The news, coupled with the fact that the show is also coming to an end, will likely be a bitter pill to swallow for most fans. Still it's nice that the creators aren't interested in stretching the series' final run to fit a prescribed or corporate-mandated episode count. While Bloys said he would always take more episodes, seeing the premium channel grant Weiss and Benioff the creative freedom to end the series on their (truncated) terms is a positive sign that Game of Thrones will reach its conclusion without having to turn to unnecessary filler before announcing who will sit atop the Iron Throne.
Besides, as Kit Harington recently said, there are advantages to using a smaller episode count, as some of the show's already impressive per-episode budget can be funneled into creating grander special effects and more bombastic action sequences. While many fans will likely say they'll take more episodes over larger set pieces, it just comes down to the story Weiss and Benioff have left to tell. It may not be the most popular choice, but it seems it'll only take then 13 episodes until the series is done.
Game of Thrones season 6 premieres on Sunday, July 16 @9pm on HBO.