Winter Has Come

Season 8, the conclusion of Game of Thrones, is almost here. There’s a little over a month left to go until Season 8’s release date on April 14, and we’re learning more and more about the show’s long awaited final season. Of course, most of it is simply the tiny tidbits HBO wants us to know, but desperate as we are to learn how this conclusion will play out, we’re not complaining.

Over the last month or so, we’ve finally caught some glimpses at GoT Season 8 in motion–first in a Season 8 teaser trailer and then in a second teaser HBO released on Oscars day in February. One thing is for sure at this point: Nothing about Season 8 seems predictable right now. The show is best known for brutally killing off characters, even the ones fans love, and its final chapter is likely to elevate the feeling that nobody is safe to all-new levels. It’s also a time of war, with the rivalries that have marked all seven seasons finally coming to a head. Oh, and the White Walkers have shown up with their army of the dead, and they’re trying to wipe out all life in Westeros. So there’s a lot going on.

HBO is notorious for its attempts to stop secrets from leaking out onto the internet, although it’s not always successful (remember when one whole episode got out early in Season 7?). Things have been buttoned up pretty tight during production of Game of Thrones’ final season, but we do know a few details about what to expect. And there are plenty of theories from fans who’ve pored over every frame of the show and every word of A Song of Ice and Fire, the book series by George R. R. Martin on which the show is based.

Here’s everything we know for sure about Game of Thrones Season 8, including the date of when it’ll hit HBO, and what dangling plot threads remain to be resolved.

We Know Game of Thrones Season 8's Release Date

We Know Game of Thrones Season 8’s Release Date

Thanks to a teaser trailer for Season 8 that dropped in November, we know for sure that Game of Thrones is coming back in April 2019. Beyond that, a video released alongside the True Detective Season 3 premiere teased things further and confirmed a release date: April 14.

We've Gotten A Very 'Crypt'-ic Teaser

We’ve Gotten A Very ‘Crypt’-ic Teaser

In the lone teaser trailer released so far for Season 8, Jon, Arya, and Sansa walk slowly through the crypts beneath Winterfell while extremely ominous music and voiceovers play. There’s not much to glean from it as far as what’s actually going to happen in Season 8–think of it more as a tonal preview than a narrative one. But you might want to check out our full trailer breakdown anyway, since it’s oh so fun to speculate about Game of Thrones.

And Another One That Doesn't Bode Well For The Living

And Another One That Doesn’t Bode Well For The Living

HBO’s teaser dubbed “Aftermath” does not suggest Season 8 will have a happy ending. It wanders through a frozen Winterfell, focusing on key objects that are all closely related to main characters–like Jon Snow’s sword Longclaw, the chains used on Daenerys’ dragons, Jamie Lannister’s golden hand, and Bran Stark’s wheechair. They’re all left behind, and the teaser ends with a frosty figure standing at the gates of the castle as wind and snow blast around them; very likely, the Night King.

Does that mean that the White Walkers are going to win the war and bring the Long Night to all of Westeros. It seems more likely that this teaser is more about evoking feelings of doom and dread than being too literal a look at the future. Then again, what little footage we’ve seen of Season 8 isn’t exactly super upbeat, so anything’s possible. Watch the teaser for yourself right here.

But That's Not The Only New Footage We've Seen

But That’s Not The Only New Footage We’ve Seen

The teaser trailer featuring Winterfell’s crypts isn’t the only new footage we’ve seen from Season 8. On Oscars day in February, HBO released a new teaser video showcasing many of their upcoming shows, from Watchmen to Barry Season 2. Nestled in there was a never before glimpsed clip from GoT Season 8 that showed the Dany’s Unsullied army marching at what looks like Winterfell, and Arya gazing incredulously up at a dragon flying through the sky above the Stark keep. Knowing what we know about Season 8, this is probably in the first episode.

Season 8 Will Have Fewer Episodes Than Other Seasons

Season 8 Will Have Fewer Episodes Than Other Seasons

Season 8 is shorter than past seasons in terms of its number of episodes–there will only be six in total. However, it will be a longer season in terms of its overall length. Each of the episodes will be longer than the usual runtime of approximately an hour.

We Know The Full Run Times Of Each Episode

We Know The Full Run Times Of Each Episode

In March, HBO released the exact running time for each Season 8 episode:

  • Episode 1: 54 mins (April 14)
  • Episode 2: 58 mins (April 21)
  • Episode 3: 82 mins (April 28)
  • Episode 4: 78 mins (May 5)
  • Episode 5: 80 mins (May 12)
  • Episode 6: 80 mins (May 19)

That’s just over seven hours total. We’re expecting them to cram a lot into each ep.

Even George R.R. Martin Doesn't Know What's Going To Happen

Even George R.R. Martin Doesn’t Know What’s Going To Happen

You’d think the author of the entire series would know what’s going to happen in the end, but apparently not.

“I haven’t read the [final-season] scripts and haven’t been able to visit the set because I’ve been working on [The Winds of Winter],” Martin told Entertainment Weekly. “I know some of the things. But there’s a lot of minor-character [arcs] they’ll be coming up with on their own. And, of course, they passed me several years ago. There may be important discrepancies.”

Maybe that general confusion is what’s taking him so long to write the last two books?

HBO Is Having A Lot Of Fun With The Question Of Who Will Sit The Throne In The End

HBO Is Having A Lot Of Fun With The Question Of Who Will Sit The Throne In The End

The question of whose butt will be warming (or cooling!) the Iron Throne by the series’ conclusion is one that’s driven fans mad for decades, since the first Game of Thrones book was published in the ’90s. With Season 8 finally drawing the story to a close, that question is forefront in viewers’ minds–a fact of which HBO is keenly aware. They made that terribly evident with the teaser images the network released at the end of February, which featured nearly every remaining living character in the series taking their turn on the sharp, stabby throne. Follow the link to view them all.

The Remaining Living Characters Are Looking Fly

The Remaining Living Characters Are Looking Fly

In character photos from set released in early February, we caught a glimpse at what some of the remaining characters are up to as Season 8 gets underway. Most of them are looking fly, including Arya’s “I could kill you so easily I wouldn’t even break a sweat” look and Jon and Dany’s apparent comfort around one another (they are lovers now, after all, and presumably haven’t learned yet here that they’re related). Click the link to view them all.

Some Of The Show's Best Directors Are Returning

Some Of The Show’s Best Directors Are Returning

We know showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, as well as returning directors David Nutter and Miguel Sapochnik, are splitting the duties of directing the final six episodes. That’s very good news. Weiss and Benioff have obviously been instrumental to the vision of Game of Thrones since the beginning, but Nutter and Sapochnik have been responsible for helping to bring some of the show’s best moments to life. Sapochnik helmed episodes like Battle of the Bastards and Hardhome, and he’s apparently in charge of a huge battle scene in Season 8. Nutter has directed some intense episodes as well, including The Rains of Castamere–which contained the Red Wedding. He’s taking on three of the final six episodes.

Season 8 Starts The Way Season 1 Did

Season 8 Starts The Way Season 1 Did

Back in November, Entertainment Weekly had a big cover story about Season 8. It wasn’t too heavy on specific plot details, but it did reveal one in particular: Expect the opening of Season 8 to feel a lot like the opening of Season 1. Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) is marching to Winterfell with her forces, where she and Jon Snow (Kit Harington) mean to put up a defense against the White Walkers. It’ll echo the fateful moment from the show’s first episode, when King Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) marched to Winterfell to meet with Eddard Stark (Sean Bean), starting a series of events that would spell disaster for Westeros.

There Will Be An Epic Stark-Lannister Showdown

The Targaryens have returned to Westeros, the North is united against the White Walkers, and the politics are still raging, even as the worst winter in generations descends on the country. This is Game of Thrones, so there will be alliances, betrayals, and deaths–but if a recent teaser is any indication, we can bank on at least one big rivalry coming to its final conclusion. The struggle between the Starks and the Lannisters has been bubbling at various levels of murderous boil since the very first episode of the show. Season 7 suggested Cersei has a plan to wreck everyone’s life while pretending to back them against the White Walkers, and both Sansa and Arya have serious scores to settle with her.

Season 8 Has A Huge, Ambitious Battle

Season 8 Has A Huge, Ambitious Battle

Fighting is going to happen at Winterfell, and it’s going to involve White Walkers. That’s easy enough to figure out just from having watched the show, but the EW feature about the battle revealed some ancillary material, too–it’ll be the biggest battle the show has ever done. According to Peter Dinklage, it makes the enormous Battle of the Bastards in Season 6 “look like a theme park.” The hugely ambitious sequence took 55 nights to shoot, more than double The Battle Of The Bastards’ 25.

It's A Good Thing The Series Is Ending--According To One Actor

It’s A Good Thing The Series Is Ending–According To One Actor

Game of Thrones’ ending will likely be divisive–some fans may be thrilled that the series is actually coming to a close after all these years, while others will be sad the show is ending before the books could tell us author George R.R. Martin’s version of his conclusion. And there are many shades in between those two reactions. But one fan who knows exactly how he feels is actor Liam Cunningham, who plays Davos Seaworth on the show.

“I get asked all the time, ‘What the hell are you guys thinking? You could run Game of Thrones forever.’ If you want to stay cool, and the show is cool, the best way to stay cool is to not overstay your welcome,” Cunningham told IGN in February. “It would be dishonorable to stay on longer than we should. There’s a portion of me that will miss it dearly, and it will probably read Liam ‘Game of Thrones’ Cunnigham on my headstone. But it was time to get out and wrap up that story… People deserve the end of that story and to not drag it out just because there’s a book to be made. I think it’s very honorable what they’re doing.”

It'll Have An Intense Ending

It’ll Have An Intense Ending

Finishing the show has been pretty emotional for the cast, and they’ve revealed that what Game of Thrones has in store is pretty intense. Kit Harington cried during the table read, according to the EW story. Clarke told Vanity Fair the ending “f–ed me up.” Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays Jaime Lannister, told TheWrap that all the pieces fit together in the end, but even he found some of the outcomes surprising. And Dinklage, who plays Tyrion Lannister, trolled the world when he said to Vulture that he thought Tyrion got a “very good conclusion”–and then suggested that that conclusion may potentially be Tyrion’s death.

A Fan-Favorite Character Is Returning

A Fan-Favorite Character Is Returning

No, it’s not Lady Stoneheart (as far as we know). The show’s visual effects supervisor, Joe Bauer, told the Huffington Post that Jon Snow’s direwolf, Ghost, will return for the show’s final season. He hasn’t been around much because, apparently, direwolves have been very hard on the show’s VFX budget.

It's The End, But It's Not Over

It’s The End, But It’s Not Over

While the story of the Starks, Lannisters, and Targaryens is ending in Season 8 of Game Of Thrones, it’s not the end for Westeros. At least one prequel series about the world of the show is coming and will star Naomi Watts and Joshua Whitehouse, with casting ongoing. The prequel show is set to shoot a pilot in summer 2019.

Martin leaked on his blog that the show may be called The Long Night (he later retracted that mistaken reveal), and we know it takes place in the Age of Heroes, thousands of years before Game of Thrones, when great houses like the Starks and Lannisters were first founded. The title from Martin also suggests the show will cover the first war with the White Walkers, before the building of the Wall.

We Have Plenty More Theories