So, what now? Game of Thrones concluded last night with a finale that was, well, technically a finale. The story came to a conclusion. That conclusion was at times frustratingly mediocre and other times maddeningly stupid. Bran as the winner? No prophecies explained? None of that Night King lore made relevant? But there's reprieve for disgruntled fans-one million of whom have signed a petition to get a rewrite of Season Eight that's simply better than what we saw. George R.R. Martin still has to finish The Winds of Winter, the sixth book in his A Song of Fire and Ice series, and Game of Thrones' HBO team just set the bar laughably low.
After eight years of writing, The Winds of Winter is still not yet complete, nor has the seventh (and likely last) book in the series been started. The most recent book in the series, A Dance with Dragons, was published in 2011-the same year the show premiered. As recently as last week, Martin took to his blog to clarify, "No, THE WINDS OF WINTER and A DREAM OF SPRING are not finished. DREAM is not even begun; I am not going to start writing volume seven until I finish volume six."
He also refuted any rumors that HBO requested he delay publishing them until the series wrapped: "I assure you, HBO and David & Dan would both have been thrilled and delighted if THE WINDS OF WINTER had been delivered and published four or five years ago… and NO ONE would have been more delighted than me," he wrote.
Yes, we can see why David Benioff and Dan Weiss, HBO's Game of Thrones showrunners, would have been thrilled. After Season Five, which concluded with Cersei's walk of atonement, Sansa and Theon's escape from Ramsay Bolton, and the murder of Jon Snow at the Wall, the show had officially outpaced the book series. A Dance with Dragons concluded similarly, with the stabbing of Jon and Cersei's atonement walk. Sansa was still in the Vale with Littlefinger, while Arya was becoming an assassin in Braavos, Stannis Baratheon was marching toward Winterfell, and Bran was heading North of the Wall. (Vox has a deeper explanation of where A Dance of Dragons left off, if you need a refresher.)
As Season Six began, the writers had little source material from Martin to tell them how all these complex, rich storylines tied up. Martin helped guide the last three seasons, but they faltered without the intricacies of his books or its perfectly plodding timeline-with a few exceptions, like the "Battle of the Bastards" episode.
Some of the show's key plot points will surely carry through in Martin's last books; he told 60 Minutes in April, "I don't think Dan and Dave's ending is gonna be that different from my ending." And Bran is a much more central character in the books thus far, which means if Martin chooses to make him King, it might not feel so completely out of left field. There are also chapter excerpts from The Winds of Winter floating around the internet, if you're in the mood for some light character spoilers.
There's no saying when Martin will drop another A Song of Ice and Fire book on us. It could be next month, and it could be another eight years from now. He's been working on this series for nearly 50 years in total, so what's a few more? But it is safe to assume it will have more life to it than the final seasons of Game of Thrones.
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