We had a long time to wait since the penultimate season of Game of Thrones came to an end, zombie dragon and all. Now – in just five weeks – the hit fantasy epic has come back into our lives, reunited long lost characters, killed off some of our favourites (and least so), and toyed with our emotions like never before.
The countdown the final episode is upon us (although, we're still not quite sure if we're ready for what's to come after witnessing the game-changing massacre of The Bells) and we are guaranteed an absolute spectacle.
With just one episode to go until the final credits roll, it's safe to say the last scenes are set be the best of the monumental show's best.
Throughout season 8 we've already seen the grisliest (and most squint-worthy) battle in the TV series' history, Daenerys' slow but sure tumble into madness, and the shocking death of Night King (you can read our review of the Battle of Winterfell here).
Dear Lord of Light, we better prepare ourselves...
When can I watch the final episode?
The finale of Game of Thrones season eight will air on Sunday 19 May on HBO at 9pm Eastern time in America, while UK fans can tune into the simulcast at 2am on Sky Atlantic in the early hours of Monday morning.
The replay can be seen at the more reasonable and sleep-friendly time of 9pm on Monday 20 May (but be prepared to avoid a stream of surefire spoilers throughout the day!).
How long are the episodes for this final season?
While the eighth season only has six episodes, some of them are much longer than the one-hour slot they’ve filled in previous seasons. The first couple of episodes, however, were disappointingly short:
- Episode 1: 54 minutes
- Episode 2: 58 minutes
- Episode 3: 82 minutes
- Episode 4: 78 minutes
- Episode 5: 79 minutes
- Episode 6: 79 minutes
As noted by Winter Is Coming, the first episode was also the only one without an ‘Adult Content’ warning.
In a crushing blow for Thrones fans, however, 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 the first spin-off show, saying “you’re not going to see anything air anytime close to the season 8 finale.”
What was the budget for season 8?
Reports suggest season 8 of Game of Thrones cost HBO over $90 million (£69 million) - 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 of the final series?
All the main cast members have returned for the final series. As this is Game of Thrones, however, we can’t be sure who will survive until the very end. The Battle of Winterfell shocked us all when every one of our favourite characters came into danger of the Night King. After the loss of Eddison Tollett, Beric Dondarrion, Theon Greyjoy and Lyanna Mormont - who we must mention, all died a hero saving a fellow character - we can only feel nervous about what's to come in the Last War.
Although it is an ensemble show, the cast’s salaries could indicate which characters will be given the most prominence in the final season: in 2017, Variety reported that five cast members — Peter Dinklage (Tyrion), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime), Lena Headey (Cersei), Emilia Clarke (Daenerys) and Kit Harington (Jon Snow) — were all being paid $500,000 (roughly £380,000) per episode.
Other returning cast members have included Liam Cunningham (Davos), Sophie Turner (Sansa), Maisie Williams (Arya), Nathalie Emmanuel (Missandei) and Gwendoline Christie (Brienne). Ghost, Jon Snow's faithful albino direwolf, has also made a return to the final season.
Read our complete guide to all of the cast in Game of Thrones.
What happened at the season 8 premiere?
The cast premiered the first episode of the final season in New York in early April - albeit with some rather strict, Littlefinger-fated allusions for anyone who dared to leak major plot spoilers.
Aside from the epic opener of the new season - including Jon Snow finding out his true identity - the premiere was filled with glamorous outfits and sweet reunions between the cast.
Take a look at the best photos from the Game of Thrones season 8 premiere here.
Latest Game of Thrones trailers
Episode three, The Long Night, wasn't only the longest episode in the show's history, but the most epic, most grisly and most shocking. We all thought, surely, Game of Thrones can't possibly top an episode like the Battle of Winterfell?
Then, in episode four trailer, Daenerys promised vowed to "win the Last War".
Another mega battle was inevitable and, if the penultimate episode was anything to go by, we have much more to come. Planning on watching it tonight? Here is the trailer for episode five, The Bells.
Season 8 Episode 5 trailer
Season 8 episode 6 trailer
After watching the trailer for the finale (and in true GoT style) we know nothing. We can only hope one of the few deserving Westerosi ends up on the Iron Throne and Mad Queen Daenerys gets added to Arya's kill list.
Who is directing season 8?
Collider revealed David Nutter (who directed the infamous Red Wedding episode, The Rains of Castamere) will be directing episodes one, two and four. Miguel Sapochnik, who’s become known for action-heavy episodes such as Hardhome and Battle of the Bastards, will be directing episodes three and five. Showrunners DB Weiss and David Benioff will co-direct the sixth and final episode of the show.
Who has written season 8?
The final series will keep the show’s four-man writing team of DB Weiss, David Benioff, Dave Hill and Brian Cogman. Although George RR Martin was a guest writer for a few episodes in the show’s first four seasons, he will not return for season eight.
Hill wrote the season premiere, Cogman wrote the second episode, and Benioff and Weiss have shared the remaining four episodes between them.
Where can I watch Season 8?
Season 8 of Game of Thrones airs weekly on Sky and NOW TV.
If you want to catch up on seasons 1-8 while you wait for the finale, you can watch it on NOW TV right now with a 7 day free Entertainment Pass trial.
Find out everything you need to know about watching Game of Thrones in the UK.
What will happen in the Season 8 finale?
We've been on an endless shock stream throughout season eight and, with just over an hour left, we are left with more questions about Game of Thrones than ever before.
Who will sit on the Iron Throne? Will Jon Snow have to kill Daenerys? What did the Night King want with Bran Stark?
Our best hope would be a leaked script or two and, according to Entertainment Weekly, showrunners DB Weiss and David Benioff were already writing scripts for the final season during post-production on season seven. It’s not impossible, despite HBO’s careful attempts to keep things under wraps.
In November 2016 an anonymous Reddit user leaked details of the entire plot of season seven in a post which has since proven to be largely accurate (one spoiler, for instance, predicted that Viserion would be killed and revived by the Night King). If it happened once, it could happen again.
The cast have also dropped hints that the ending will be divisive, to say the least.
“To be able to act out the way that it all ends, it was really satisfying for us,” Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa Stark, told IGN.
“Who knows if it will be satisfying for the fans? I think a lot of fans will be disappointed and a lot of fans will be over the moon, I think.”
Further information has been released throughout the slow lead up to the finale. Weiss and Benioff revealed that season 8 would open with Daenerys and her army arriving in Winterfell - and she did.
We also already knew the series' final major battle episode would be the long-awaited showdown between the Army of the Dead at Winterfell.
“It’s brutal,” Peter Dinklage, who plays Tyrion Lannister, told Entertainment Weekly. “It makes the Battle of the Bastards look like a theme park.”
Emmy winning director Miguel Sapochnik, who directed the infamous season 6 episode Battle of the Bastards, directed the episode in question and the final battle reportedly took 55 days to shoot (with Sapochnik spending additional weeks on a sound stage).
Generally, the climactic episode of each Game of Thrones season is the penultimate episode; we’ve seen with episodes The Rains of Castamere, Battle of the Bastards and Beyond the Wall. As intense as it was, it certainly wasn't a chapter finisher.
With this in mind, the events of the final episode are completely up in the air.
What do fans think will happen in Season 8?
There have been some particularly inventive fan theories about what to expect from the final series, ranging from the mostly plausible to the downright silly.
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), and the idea that Bran Stark will (through a mystical, as-yet-unexplained McGuffin) turn out to be the Night King. Difficult, of course, as he didn't die in tandem with the icy warlord, but not implausible considering the Seven Kingdoms' relationship with magic.
When asked about the latter theory Isaac Hempstead, the actor who plays Bran, told Esquire he thought it “a bit far-fetched… but this is Game of Thrones, and anything is possible.”
How will the final season tie in with George RR Martin's books?
The TV series has already overtaken its source, George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. The plot of the final series will be based on his notes from the final two unfinished novels, The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring.
Martin has already released several excerpts from The Winds of Winter on his website, suggesting that progress is well under way. In January 2017, he told his fans he expected the book to be published before the end of the year.
While that estimate turned out to be unrealistic, it does suggest he has nearly finished the long-awaited time.
What do you think will happen in Game of Thrones season 8?