David Benioff and DB Weiss had previously hinted that they are “heading into the final lap” of the fantasy show. Now, in a post-season six finale interview with Deadline, the duo have said that 13 episodes remain, lending credibility to rumours that season seven will feature seven episodes and season eight just six. Fans have become accustomed to ten episodes per season, with each episode reportedly boasting a budget of $10 million.
“It’s two more seasons we’re talking about. From pretty close to the beginning we talked about doing this in 70-75 hours and that’s what we’ll end up with. Call it 73 for now,” Benioff said, explaining that it’s not just the fear of outstaying the show’s welcome that means the end is nigh.
The showrunners have a “cohesive story” in mind, with a beginning, middle and an end. “We’ve known the end for quite some time and we’re hurtling towards it,” he said. “Daenerys is finally coming back to Westeros, Jon Snow is king of the North, Cersei is sitting on the Iron Throne and we know the Night King is up there, waiting for all of them. The pieces are on the board now. Some of the pieces have been removed from the board and we are heading toward the end game.”
Former HBO programming president Michael Lombardo said earlier this year that he hopes the showrunners will be persuaded to continue Game of Thrones for longer. “Where these narratives go, it feels like another two years to them,” he said. “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.”
Lombardo’s optimism is looking increasingly misplaced, with Benioff insisting that they are “definitely heading into the end game”. “We wanted it to be one giant story, without padding it out to add an extra ten hours, or because people are still watching it,” he said. “We wanted to do something where, if people watched it end to end, it would make sense as one continuous story.”
George RR Martin, author of the A Song of Ice and Fire books on which Game of Thrones is based, might not be best pleased with rumours to shorten the seasons. The show might have overtaken his books now, but he said in 2014 that he wishes the seasons were 13-episodes long, so that Benioff and Weiss could “include smaller scenes that they had to cut, scenes that make the story deeper and richer”.
Game of Thrones season six came to a dramatic close on Sunday night. It will return to HBO and Sky Atlantic in 2017, probably in the spring.
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