The first real details about the final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ have finally been revealed including the biggest battle scene in television history…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
To understand the size of the final season of ‘Game of Thrones’, you first have to know the original plans orchestrated by show runners David Benioff and Dan Weiss when they were pitching this to HBO several years ago.
When George R.R. Martin — the author behind the ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ series that is the source material for ‘Game of Thrones — told them the broad strokes for what he envisioned as the end of his story, the show runners knew they were going to have a very expensive road ahead to finish this series the right way.
So originally, Benioff and Weiss pitched HBO on the final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ as three, two-hour movies that would close out the series because they were certain this was the only way the network could fund the kind of production it would take to close out this epic fantasy tale the way Martin intended.
“We have a very generous budget from HBO, but we know what’s coming down the line and, ultimately, it’s not generous enough,” Benioff told EW. “We end up with an epic fantasy story but with the level of familiarity and investment in the characters that are normally impossible in a two-hour movie.”
HBO shot down the idea because they are dedicated to their subscriber base rather than gambling at the box office but instead the network upped the budget for the final season at more than $15 million per episode to allow Benioff and Weiss to finish ‘Game of Thrones’ how they wanted.
The result was a six-episode final season that will debut in 2019 that took more than 10 months to shoot that left everybody involved with the series gasping at how ‘Game of Thrones’ will finally come to an end next year.
Details on the final season have been nearly non-existent with cast members only using words like ‘epic’ or ‘heartbreaking’ when taking about the last six remaining episodes but there’s not been a single bit of story leaked due to insane levels of security and secrecy to keep anything from the public eye.
During filming on the final season of ‘Game of Thrones’, the production crew even had ‘drone killer’ guns on set to shoot down anybody flying overhead trying to snap photos while scenes were being shot on location.
For the first time, HBO is allowing a few minor details to be released about the final season including how the first episode will open with a return to Winterfell with the King in the North returning home.
The ‘Game of Thrones’ final season debut is expected to mirror the first episode of the series in some ways but instead of King Robert Baratheon leading his caravan into Winterfell, this time it will be Queen Daenerys Targaryen and her army of Dothraki and Unsullied landing in the north for the first time.
The initial arrival of Daenerys and her army will also cause some conflict between Jon Snow and his sister Sansa Stark, who isn’t immediately pleased with her brother that he bent the knee to the dragon queen. The opening scenes will also see many characters meeting for the first time as well as a few reunions, although there’s nothing specifically mentioned.
That said, it’s safe to assume one of the biggest moments will be Jon Snow finally reuniting with his sister Arya Stark, who he hasn’t seen since he left to join the Night’s Watch back in the first season. This will also likely be a reunion of sorts for Tyrion Lannister and his ‘wife’ Sansa Stark because they were never divorced but rather she fled King’s Landing following the death of Joffrey Baratheon.
Meanwhile, the other teaser that was talked about in the extensive ‘Game of Thrones’ preview was the epic battle that’s been hinted at since the very first episode of the series. Again, no specific details were revealed but this will be the final battle between the living and the dead as Jon and Daenerys lead their forces against the Night King and the Army of the Dead.
To understand just how immense this battle scene will be, Peter Dinklage (who plays Tyrion Lannister) described it when compared to the famous episode ‘The Battle of the Bastards’, which involved Jon Snow leading a fight against Ramsey Bolton for control of the North.
“It’s brutal,” Dinklage said. “It makes the Battle of the Bastards look like a theme park.”
This epic battle scene won’t just involve a few characters, a ton of soldiers and take place over the course of several minutes. Instead, David Benioff teases that this will be a truly epic endeavor with a ton of layers to the battle and he trusted director Miguel Sapochnik — who also directed the ‘Battle of the Bastards’ episode — to oversee the production.
“Having the largest battle doesn’t sound very exciting — it actually sounds pretty boring,” Benioff said. “Part of our challenge, and really, Miguel’s challenge, is how to keep that compelling… we’ve been building toward this since the very beginning, it’s the living against the dead, and you can’t do that in a 12-minute sequence.”
There were 55 nights of shooting on this particular battle scene — and that was just for what took place outdoors at the Winterfell set. The remainder of the production moved indoors and from there Sapochnik was working for several weeks shooting all the different scenes necessary to put this battle together.
The Winterfell stage was massively expanded for the sake of this particular battle scene with a new castle exterior as well as a larger courtyard and much, much more being added specifically for this battle scene.
By the sound of things, this will likely be the biggest and most expensive battle scene in the history of television.
And that’s just one piece of the total puzzle that’s coming together for the final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ because everybody involved — from the show runners to the writers to the cast and crew — did everything possible to bring this story to a conclusion that would be satisfying for the faithful audience that loves this show.
When it was all said and done and filming had wrapped, actor Kit Harington, who plays Jon Snow, admittedly wept as he read the final page of his script for the six and final episode of the series.
“Every season, you read at the end of the last script ‘End of Season 1,’ or ‘End of Season 2,’” Harington said. “This read ‘End of Game of Thrones.’”
There’s still no word on the first trailer for ‘Game of Thrones’ season 8 but there’s a chance that arrives before the end of 2018 with the final six episodes debuting on HBO in 2019.