Game of Thrones 8: Everything you need to know about the final season

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It’s been a long time since the penultimate season of Game of Thrones came to an end – zombie dragon and all – but we're still not quite sure we're ready for what's to come.
With just to days to go until the final season's start, HBO have released more and more tantalising – if not terrifying – teasers and trailers; scenes from an apocalyptic Winterfell, Sansa offering her home to the Mother of Dragons, the arrival of the Golden Company et al.
The Golden Globe and Emmy-winning series is based on George RR Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice medieval fantasies about the power struggles among the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.After seven seasons, 67 episodes and 47 Emmy awards – a record for any scripted show in television history – the wildly popular, critically acclaimed epic fantasy is finally bidding farewell.One unconditional guarantee for season 8 is the absolute spectacle that awaits us. With a handful of feature-length episodes on the other side of the season premiere, it's safe to say these episodes (which reportedly feature the most complex sequences ever filmed for television) will be the best of the monumental show's best.When does ‘Games of Thrones’ season 8 start?The HBO series returns for its final season on April 14 in the US and April 15 in the UK.In SA, the first episode will air on M-Net at 3am weekly from Monday April 15  and then both M-Net and Showmax at 10pm.
How many episodes are there?The eighth season is the shortest yet with only six episodes – shorter than the penultimate season (seven episodes) and much shorter than the first six seasons which had 10 episodes each.How long is each episode?While season 8 will only have six episodes, some of them will be much longer than the one-hour slot they filled in previous seasons:
Episode 1: 54 minutes
Episode 2: 58 minutes
Episode 3: 60 minutes
Episode 4: 78 minutes
Episode 5: 80 minutes
Episode 6: 80 minutes
HBO head of programming Casey Bloys has hinted there could be another agonising wait between the end of Game of Thrones and the beginning of an upcoming spin-off show, saying “you’re not going to see anything air anytime close to the season 8 finale”.What was the budget?Reports suggest season 8 cost HBO over R1.3bn, making the show the most expensive TV series of all time, even though season 8 has the fewest number of episodes since its inception.Who is in the cast?All the main cast members will return for the final series. As this is Game of Thrones, however, we can’t be sure who will survive.Game of Thrones’ visual effects supervisor Joe Bauer has also confirmed Jon Snow's albino direwolf, Ghost – last seen in season 6 – will make a return.
What happened at the season 8 premiere?The cast premiered the first episode of the final season at a lavish screening event in New York earlier in April – but no one who attended has dared leak major spoilers.We can reveal that, in its lighter moments, the episode was filled with witty one-liners, unlikely political (and carnal) alliances, and a bit of bed-warming for a twin brother/lover-abandoned Cersei in King's Landing.Of course, many of us are waiting for our favourite lovers, Jon and Daenerys, to discover they're related (and, potentially more upsetting for the Mother of Dragons, that her new beau is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne).The news, first confirmed through Bran's visions, shouldn't be a secret for long after their arrival in Winterfell.Unlike some season openers in years gone by, this premiere contains no epic battles or large-scale set pieces.What violence there is, is dark, brutal and unsettling. That’s balanced out, however, by a noticeably lighter tone.What did the trailer reveal?Firstly, we saw Arya running from someone (or something?) through stone corridors, suggesting her usually powerful disposition was rattled by a fight-or-flight scenario.Over footage of Ser Davos and Master of Whisperers Varys looking unhappy, her voiceover says: “I know death. He’s got many faces. I look forward to seeing this one.”“Death” could be the Night King, or perhaps a suicide mission to save her family from the Winterfellian battle we know is upon us.We go on to see Cersei’s army of mercenary sell-swords upon the Narrow Sea, presumably headed for King’s Landing.
For those wondering what happened to the Wall, the trailer also confirmed the survival of Beric and Tormund.Beric was seen with a flaming sword and Tormund was stomping through a corridor.Cersei also appeared to be back in full maniacal swing, standing at the battlements of King’s Landing with her sinister advisor, Qyburn.Perhaps most excitingly the trailer showed Daenerys leading her army of eunuchs out of Winterfell alongside Jon Snow, setting the scene for the battle between the Seven Kingdom and the undead.Jaime, who also seems to be at Winterfell, is seen drawing steel and crying out as flames roar around him.As troops appear to gather at Winterfell, we also see Greyworm (the eunuch Unsullied) and Missandei (Daenerys’s advisor) in a passionate kiss. My money’s on a quick death.Dragon-wise every character appeared titillated as ever – Drogon and Rhaegal were seen flying all over the place.Near the end of the trailer Tyrion appears before we cut to Brienne of Tarth, Podrick, Ser Jorah, and sundry Unsullied and Stark troops preparing for battle. Just before an undead hoof hits the ground.Who is directing season 8?David Nutter (who directed the infamous “Red Wedding” episode) directs episodes one, two and four.Miguel Sapochnik directs episodes three and five, and showrunners DB Weiss and David Benioff co-direct the sixth and final episode.Who wrote season 8?The final series kept the show’s four-man writing team of DB Weiss, David Benioff, Dave Hill and Brian Cogman. Although author George RR Martin was a guest writer for a few episodes in the first four seasons, he did not return for season eight.What do fans think will happen?There have been some particularly inventive and far-fetched fan theories about what to expect.Some of the more interesting ideas include that Tyrion Lannister might turn out to be a member of the Targaryen line (as the illegitimate son of Mad King Aerys); that Daenerys will be sacrificed to defeat the White Walkers; and that Bran Stark will turn out to be the Night King. © Telegraph Media Group Limited 2019

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