'Game of Thrones' Showrunners Discuss Endgame: "We're Approaching the Finish Line"

"We are writing the final act now," Benioff and Weiss say about 'Thrones,' which they estimate will run for 10-15 more hours beyond season six.
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for HBO

In the last trailer for Game of Thrones season six, Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) issues a stern warning: "The real war is between the living and the dead, and the dead are coming."

But when will the dead arrive? Expect the White Walkers sooner than later, as showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss confirm to The Hollywood Reporter that their adaptation of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire is indeed approaching the end of the line.

Amid multiple reports that the series has a finite amount of time left, and following the show's season seven renewal, Benioff and Weiss spoke with THR about their current place with the story, and how the show's upcoming sixth season pushes the story of the Starks, Lannisters, and Targaryens closer to conclusion.

There is a lot of talk about the show approaching the endgame. Game of Thrones is an incredibly valuable property to HBO. Why walk away after potentially two more seasons? While shows like Mad Men were stretched out and split in half, how are you approaching bringing this all to a close? 

We're not walking away. We're approaching the finish line. From the outset, our hope was to tell a complete story — beginning, middle and end. We are writing the final act now, and the last thing we want to do is stay on stage after the play is over. 

Season six of Game of Thrones arrives before book six of A Song of Ice and Fire. At what point did you realize the show would pass, and therefore veer away from, the books? As fans of George and stewards of the television adaptation of his story, can you talk me through the process of coming to terms with the reality of the situation, and creating a plan of action that not only fulfilled the show's needs, but interacted with George's needs as well?

We realized we'd probably catch the books when we spent several days with George in Santa Fe in 2013, discussing the future of the book series and the television series. George's schedule is very much his own, as it should be for a novelist. But we're locked into a set schedule — a new season every year. In the beginning, we hoped that if the show worked, we'd get seven seasons to tell the tale. Seven kingdoms, seven gods, seven books — seven felt like a lucky number. The actual messiness of storytelling might not be quite that numerologically elegant, but we're looking at somewhere between 70 and 75 hours before the credits roll for the last time. 

The show has diverged from the books quite dramatically by this point, but it's still George's world: The characters he's dreamt up in the world he created. At this point, given the fact that we're outpacing the novels, we all see the upside in the divergence: book readers won't be spoiled by what's to come on the show, and the show audience won't have to worry about spoilers from the unpublished books. And we're very happy that the show has led so many people to discover George's amazing books.

One of the beauties of Thrones is its subversive storytelling, where key characters fail and die if that's what the reality of their situation dictates  the Ned and Robb Starks of the world. That said, for many, Jon Snow was viewed as the central hero fighting against the show's most catastrophic threat. What does it mean for season six and the show at large that a character of such importance is off the board at this late stage of the game?

Central heroes don't have any particular claim on immortality. In fact, we could argue that the notion of "central heroes" is one of the fantasy tropes that George's books have so brilliantly exploded. Look, we all love Lord of the Rings, but none of us really believed that Sauron was going to kill Frodo. Was any gambler dumb enough to bet money on Voldemort defeating Harry? In traditional fantasy, when the forces of darkness are arrayed against the armies of light, everyone knows who's going to win. And that's one of the elements that bored us about traditional fantasy: the predictability of it. 

Game of Thrones returns on April 24. What do you think about the show approaching the finish line? Stay tuned to THR.com/GameOfThrones for further interviews, analysis, videos and more.

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