Fans have known for a while that HBO’s Game of Thrones would end before the books did, but the Emmy Award-winning fantasy saga may end sooner than anyone thought.
In an exclusive interview with Variety, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss confirmed they are considering ending the show with a final 13 episodes after the upcoming Season 6. One possible scenario is 7 episodes for a shorter seventh season in 2017, and 6 episodes for a final eighth season in 2018 to wrap up the epic saga.
“I think we’re down to our final 13 episodes after this season,” Benioff said. “We’re heading into the final lap. That’s the guess, though nothing is yet set in stone, but that’s what we’re looking at.”
As wildly popular, critically acclaimed and culturally ubiquitous as Game of Thrones has become, it may be difficult for some fans to picture a world without GOT. Ratings are at an all-time high for the show, its deviation from its source material notwithstanding. But everyone knew the TV series based on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire epic fantasy series couldn’t last forever, and the show has already begun to push past the five published novels.
Season 6 will mainly be based on the hitherto unreleased sixth book of the series, The Winds of Winter, though it will also include material from the fourth and fifth books, A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons. It has become one of the most highly-anticipated seasons since the show first began airing in 2011, as it will be the first time the show has bypassed Martin’s books.
According to the Variety interview, one of the main reasons the creators are considering this course is because the epic scale of the final episodes means production can no longer keep to the schedule of ten episodes a year. Shortening the seasons will enable them to spend more time on each episode.
“It’s crossing out of a television schedule into more of a mid-range movie schedule,” Weiss said.
Insiders spoke to the Hollywood Reporter on Thursday and confirmed the executive producer’s statements, though HBO said that nothing is set in stone concerning on the show’s future.
“Any conversations about the end of Game of Thrones and the number of episodes of future seasons is purely speculative,” an HBO spokesperson said in a statement. “As is customary, HBO will sit with Dan and David to discuss the details once a decision has been made to go forward with season seven.”
However, HBO programming president Michael Lombardo seemed to agree with Benioff and Weiss’ comments, and estimated Game of Thrones had about another two years’ worth of material before it ends.
“That’s my understanding from them right now, those have been the conversations we’ve had,” Lombardo said to Variety. “Because where these narratives go, it feels like another two years to them. As a television executive, as a fan, do I wish they said another six years? I do.”
“I’m always an optimist, and I do believe we will figure this out,” he added.
It’s long been speculated that the television adaptation of the story of Westeros and the battle for the Iron Throne would reach its inevitable conclusion at Season 8. The theory seemed all the more likely when cable network sources told THR in January that HBO was near a two-season renewal deal that would extend the show through eight seasons.
If the creators of the show do decide to end it with two more seasons with fewer episodes, the good news for long-time fans is that they will be able to focus more on each episode, perhaps resulting in better attention to detail and a more cinematic storyline.
Since it’s a foregone conclusion that the show will end before Martin’s books, and that the next season will go beyond the plot as established so far in the novels, it will also be interesting to see how the story of the show will end and how it will compare to Martin’s The Winds of Winter when it’s published.
Whether Martin’s vision will be wildly different than the show’s interpretation remains to be seen, especially with the final ending for the series to be revealed in A Dream of Spring, the planned title for the seventh and final novel.
Game of Thrones‘ sixth season premieres on HBO on April 24, 2016.
[Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images]