Season 6 of Game of Thrones proved to be a momentous one for the hit HBO fantasy series, bringing in its largest viewing audience to date - averaging 5 million more viewers per episode than in previous seasons! This season also began expanding far beyond the narrative of George R.R. Martin's published novels, making it all but certain that Game of Thrones will wrap before Martin finishes his A Song of Ice and Fire series.
There is a chance, however, that Martin will release the much anticipated sixth book, The Winds of Winter, before the start of season 7. As we learned previously, Game of Thrones season 7 is premiering later in the year, aiming for a summer 2017 premiere instead of its usual spring slot. This will allow the production to film in more winter climates since, well, by now winter has actually come.
Still, even if Martin were to publish his next novel before the next season of Game of Thrones, he'd be hard-pressed to finish his novel series first. During today's Television Critics Association’s press tour, EW talked with HBO's new programming president Casey Bloys who confirmed that Game of Thrones season 8 will be the series' last:
"Yes, they have a very specific plan about the number of seasons they want to do. Believe me, as the new [programming executive] coming in, if I could get them to do more. I would take 10 more seasons. But we take their lead on what they think they can do the best version of the show."
Bloyd also said Game of Thrones' showrunners, David Benioff and Dan Weiss, are planning for season 8 to be only six episodes long instead of the usual 10 (season 7 will have only seven episodes), but that has yet to finalized and could still change.
Anyone who watched Game of Thrones season 6 should know the end is right around the corner. Last season spent a good chunk of its episodes positioning characters for what will be, presumably, their final arcs. This was most evident in the closing shot of the finale, which saw Daenerys leading an armada of ships across the Narrow Sea to Westeros, finally making her play for the Iron Throne. Waiting for her, however, is Cersei, newly crowned Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. It's still unclear just who Cersei will have in her corner, but it's a given she won't give up the throne without a fight.
The North, too, may have itself a struggle for power between Jon - hailed King in the North by his men in the finale - and Sansa, the trueborn daughter and heir of Ned Stark. Though there's no real animosity between two "siblings", Sansa was left feeling passed over when everyone was quick to proclaim Jon their King without considering it was actually Sansa (with help from Littlefinger) who brought about their victory against Ramsey Bolton. Then again, The Night King and his white walkers may come crashing through The Wall before an real arguments over who will rule can even come to pass.
Game of Thrones season 7 returns to HBO in summer 2017.