While we not-so-patiently await the return of HBO's Game of Thrones, rumors, theories, and speculation about what could happen in season 6 have been running wild. We have postulated what could happen next year, but with so little of the published novels left to adapt, no one outside the inner circle of HBO series producers David Benioff and Dan Weiss and author George R.R. Martin knows what's coming. (Besides winter, of course. Winter is always coming.)
A bigger and perhaps more important question than what will happen next on Game of Thrones, is for how much longer will the series run? As fans of the books know, Martin's intention is for A Song of Ice and Fire to be only seven novels, but Martin himself has urged fans not to hold him to those plans. When previously remarking about his aim to finish in seven, Martin quipped that "my original plan was to finish in three," explaining that the story evolves as he writes it, making it difficult to pin down precisely how many books it will take for him to find his ending. But when it comes to a television series, well, they require far more structured planning than 'let's just see where the story takes us.'
Ever since HBO announced they were adapting Martin's ASOIAF novels into a series there have been jokes (and songs) urging Martin to write faster lest the show catch up with him. Game of Thrones is at that point now, covering roughly five books of material in five seasons. Sure, there have been notable changes in their adaptation, but for the most part the series has stayed true to the novels' major plot points and beats. And by that logic, seven books should equal seven seasons, right?
Nope, says HBO. Speaking to the TCA, HBO's president of programming Mike Lombardo said:
"Seven seasons and out was never the case. The question is how much beyond (seven seasons) it will go. David and Dan are feeling there are two more years after Season 6, that's what we're looking at right now. We hope that they would change their mind, but for now that's how they are feeling."
This isn't the first we've heard of HBO trying to milk more seasons of Game of Thrones from Benioff and Weiss, but it is the first somewhat definitive word we've heard about the pair considering eight seasons over seven. The decision to give Game of Thrones an extra season to finish its sprawling tale isn't a bad one either, especially when you consider those few lingering threads from book five that never made it into season 5. Compile that with the need to give the series' climactic conclusion its due time on screen, and you can easily see how 20 more hours isn't nearly enough time to wrap everything up.
Lombardo goes on to say that HBO "would be open to anything (Benioff and Weiss) want to do, there is enormous amount of storytelling in that world," implying the network is really up for anything - sequel, prequel, spinoff, whatever! That may be asking a lot of Benioff and Weiss, and I'm not so sure they'd be interested in immediately following their many years working on Game of Thrones with more Game of Thrones. Plus, fans would be right to be wary of HBO pushing for more Game of Thrones when there isn't any more of the story to be told.
Then again, Martin himself has already written short stories set in Westeros that aren't inherently connected to the war for the Iron Throne. Perhaps we'll see a series based around the Tales of Dunk and Egg in the years to come?
Game of Thrones returns to HBO for season 6 in spring 2016.