Game of Thrones season 7 is over but season 8 spoilers are already here!
NOTE: The following post contains MAJOR spoilers for Game of Thrones season 7 and 8!
It's hard to believe that Game of Thrones (as we know it) is almost over. The fantasy series created by David Benioff and Dan Weiss and based on the yet-to-be-completed A Song of Ice and Fire cycle of novels by George R.R. Martin not only became the most popular television show in the world, it is HBO's biggest hit series ever and came to define the network for the decade of 2010s.
Game of Thrones brought a new kind of complex storytelling and richly cinematic feel to television. It made global stars of its cast such as Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Sophie Turner, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau; many of the series' stars have joined the biggest film franchises like Star Wars (Clarke) and X-Men (Turner, Maisie Williams). In short, Game of Thrones changed everything, and television is now better because of it.
Season 7 was both record-setting and controversial. The truncated 7 episode season, whereas seasons 1-6 consisted of 10 episodes each, was praised for its breathlessly exciting action sequences and for delivering several huge moments, deaths, and reveals fans have been waiting years (book readers decades) to see on the show. Season 7 featured the longest episode of the series (yet), the season finale "The Dragon and the Wolf," and its shortest episode ever, "The Spoils of War." The season was also controversial for a number of reasons related to its brevity. Despite hackers leaking HBO emails containing story details and bootlegs of episodes proliferating online, it didn't affect Game of Thrones season 7's stellar ratings.
Now that the unforgettable seventh season has concluded, let's look past the coming winter and the dream of spring towards the yet unscheduled premiere of season 8. Here's what we know so far and what we are expecting from the final season of Game of Thrones:
SEASON 8 IN 2018?
Game of Thrones season 8 is planned for 6 episodes, by far its shortest season. However, this final 6 episodes may clock in at longer than an hour each and could end up as being the longest episodes of the series. Season 8 doesn't even shoot until fall 2017; season 7 also shot later in the year due to production's challenge of finding locations with enough snow for its winter setting. The much later production start time could mean the premiere of season 8 may not happen until late summer or fall of 2018; it could even possibly be delayed until 2019 - a very long wait for fans.
Season 7 has been criticized for its accelerated pace which negatively impacted how the story was told (thus far) and how the characters seem to teleport from location to location. Most fans would agree they would have preferred seasons 7 and 8 be the same 10 episode length as seasons 1-6, or even have more seasons to tell the story further. However, at least one Game of Thrones star is looking forward to the series ending.
NO MORE DORNE
Season 7 wrapped up the stories of many ancillary characters, including those from the secondary Great Houses of Westeros. Season 6 ended with House Tyrell of Highgarden doomed after the deaths of Margaery (Natalie Dormer) and Loras (Finn Jones), leaving their elderly matriarch Lady Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg) as the last living member of House Tyrell. Season 7 bumped off Lady Olenna, as well as the ancient and diabolical Walder Frey (David Bradley) and all of the Frey men. They were executed by Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) as revenge for the Red Wedding.
Dorne, the Seventh Kingdom, also looks like it won't be revisited in season 8, similar to how Storm's End was never seen again after Renly Baratheon (Gethin Anthony) was killed by Melisandre (Carice Van Houten) way back in season 2. The last we saw of Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma), she was chained up in the black cells of the Red Keep by Cersei (Lena Headey), forced to watch her daughter Tyene (Rosabell Laurenti Sellers) die from poisoning. Indira Varma confirmed that Ellaria won't return for season 8, leaving the status of Dorne up in the air.
THE GREAT WAR
The entire series has been building to this. Many fans expected to see the Great War against the Night King and the White Walkers take place in season 7, but this season was all just a preamble to the main event. Season 7 concluded with an armistice in the other war going on in Westeros between Cersei Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) for control over the Iron Throne. Instead, (most of) Westeros has agreed to unite and send their forces North to battle the Night King, who has brought down the Wall thanks to Daenerys' undead dragon Viserion.
We can expect a lot more people, including more of our beloved main characters, to die in the war with the Night King, as well as plot threads (such as the mining and forging of Dragonglass as well as the enduring presence of a number of Valyrian steel swords in Westeros) to finally come into play. Who dies, who lives, and will Spring ever come to Westeros are questions fans breathlessly await answers for.
JON AND DAENERYS LEARN THE TRUTH
Season 7 finally gave the definitive answer to the series' central mystery: Who are Jon Snow's real parents? Jon lived his whole life believing he was the bastard son of Ned Stark (Sean Bean) but now fans know the truth: Jon Snow was born as Aegon Targaryen, the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark - and he is the true heir to the Iron Throne. Sam Tarly (John Bradley) and Bran Stark as the magical Three Eyed Raven (Isaac Hemstead-Wright) confirmed Jon's parentage in the season 7 finale. However, neither Jon nor Daenerys, who are newly romantically entwined, are currently aware they are really nephew and aunt. Jon and Daenerys will no doubt finally learn of their family ties in season 8.
We can also expect to learn even more about the mysterious past of Rhaegar and Lyanna, the infamous tournament at Harrenhal where they met, and why Jojen (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Meera Reed (Ellie Kendrick) were sent to help Bran become the Three Eyed Raven. How this affects everything from Jon and Daenerys fighting the war against the Night King, their personal relationship, and Daenerys' bid to be Queen of Westeros in the wake of Jon being the true heir to the Iron Throne are all questions that should (and likely will) be answered.
CERSEI AND JAIME
A rift between the Lannister twins has been building for a long time, and it may now seem irreconcilable. Throughout Game of Thrones, Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) has slowly grown a conscience - while his beloved sister Cersei has only become more malevolent as Queen. Jaime had a near death experience fighting Daenerys and her dragon in season 7 and was humbled by it. Meanwhile, Cersei's plots to maintain her grip on the Iron Throne prove her to be as treacherous as their father Tywin (Charles Dance) ever was. Cersei also revealed she was pregnant by Jaime, setting off fan theories about the Valonqar prophecy and her potential death. Jaime finally abandoned Cersei and headed off for the North to fight for the side of the living.
What will eventually happen to the golden Lannister twins will no doubt have a monumental impact on the future of the Seven Kingdoms. In the meantime, fans will have to wonder: will Cersei meet her end by Jaime's hand?
THE GOLDEN COMPANY
Cersei paid off the Lannisters' debt to the Iron Bank in season 7 and also sent Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbaek) to Essos with funds to hire the Golden Company. The Golden Company are the greatest army of mercenaries on the Eastern continent, and Cersei mentioned to the Iron Bank's representative Tycho Nestoris (Mark Gatiss) that she needs the Golden Company to retrieve "some things that belong to [her]." Those 'things' could include certain characters who have eluded her grasp for several years now, chiefly Sansa Stark and her brother Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), whom Cersei still holds responsible for the murder of their father and death of her son Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) - even though she now knows it was Lady Olenna who killed Joffrey. Could the Golden Company be sent to capture and bring back the former Mr. and Mrs. Tyrion Lannister for Cersei's revenge?
A return to Essos, which was not seen at all in season 7 after all of the previous seasons set Daenerys' adventures there, could also allow us to learn what's been happening in Meereen, the royal city which was left in the care of Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman) after Daenerys and everyone else departed for Westeros.
WHAT HAPPENED TO YARA?
The dreams of Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan) to become Queen of the Iron Islands were violently sunk by her evil uncle Euron. He annihilated her Iron Fleet early in season 7 and took her prisoner. Theon (Alfie Allen) chose to save himself, but is now mustering the courage and support to go rescue his sister. Yara was last seen tied to Euron's horse and being dragged around King's Landing. We don't know what terrible things Euron has been doing to her since - but we can harbor some grim guesses (this is Game of Thrones after all). Whether Theon can rescue his sister and therefore finally find redemption for the crimes he committed against the Stark family is a question season 8 will surely answer.
Meanwhile, Euron has emerged as Game of Thrones' latest skeevy villain after the death of Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) in season 6. Euron made his ambitions to marry Cersei and become King of the Seven Kingdoms - while rubbing it all in Jaime Lannister's face - very clear. As season 8 draws to a close, Euron should finally get his comeuppance.
HOW WILL MELISANDRE DIE IN WESTEROS?
The ancient red priestess and deeply conflicted follower of the Lord of Light, Melisandre, still has one more uncertain role to play in Game of Thrones. Banished from the North by Jon Snow and Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham), who particularly hates her, Melisandre made her way to Dragonstone briefly in season 7 to herald the alliance between Daenerys and Jon Snow.
Before departing for Essos, Melisandre told Varys (Conleth Hill) they were both fated to die in Westeros. Melisandre is expected to make good on her word and return for season 8, but what final act the Red Woman must commit, how she will die - and whether everyone will see her for the feeble old crone she truly is - are major questions for season 8 to address. Will Melisandre finally be certain that Jon Snow is the Prince Who Was Promised and find some solace in knowing she helped bring him into the light?
ARYA AND SANSA'S FUTURE?
It was expected Lord Petyr Baelish a.k.a. Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen) would finally pay for his years of crimes perpetrated in the shadows against the Starks and the Seven Kingdoms. This wish came true when Sansa and Arya Stark teamed up and killed Littlefinger, thereby putting an end to Westeros' great manipulator who singlehandedly ruined their family. Now free from Littlefinger's machinations, the reunited Stark children face an uncertain future as Winterfell is on the front lines of the Great War with the Night King.
Will Sansa survive and continue to rule Winterfell when the true heritage of Jon Snow is revealed? Will Arya continue her path as an assassin and will it cost the youngest Stark daughter her soul? The Stark women have grown into beloved fan favorites - either one or both of them not surviving season 8 would be crushing for the North and for fans. One thing is for sure: there must always be a Stark in Winterfell.
Fans have awaited the big super brawl between the brothers Clegane for years. Season 8 is Game of Thrones' last chance to deliver on this main event fight, expected to be the final confrontation between the Hound Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann) and his undead older brother the Mountain Gregor Clegane (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson). The Hound has been on a journey of self-discovery since abandoning the Lannisters and fleeing King's Landing in season 2. The Mountain has been Cersei's loyal bodyguard after being killed by Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal) and resurrected by Qyburn (Anton Lesser).
The Hound's scarred face and fear of fire are the result of a brutal beating dished out by his older brother when he was a child. The season 7 finale only allows a single exchange between the brothers - hinting that season 8 will see the Hound finally kill his brother.
A DREAM OF SPRING
Will anyone survive to see The Long Winter end and Spring begin when season 8 is over? The final six episodes will also have to address the final fates of Davos Seaworth, Gendry (Joe Dempsie), Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer), Podrick Payne (Daniel Portman), and Varys, among others. Will Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) survive leading the Unsullied to war against the Night King and return to his love Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel)? Will Sam Tarly live happily ever after with Gilly (Hannah Murray) and baby Sam? Will Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) achieve his dream of making giant babies with Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) that will conquer the world? Will we ever see Jon's direwolf Ghost again?
It will surely be the sad end of an era when Game of Thrones signs off for the last time. But as the series has taught us, Valar Morghulis - all TV shows must die. Thankfully, there will be Game of Thrones spinoffs to bring fans back to the Seven Kingoms of Westeros.