7:57am PT by Josh Wigler
'Game of Thrones' Stars Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke Tease "Relentless" Final Season
The final battle for the fate of Westeros arrives in 2019 — and a new look at the war ahead is already here.
Game of Thrones stars Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke have graced the cover of Entertainment Weekly in full Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen regalia as a means of previewing the eighth and final season of HBO's smash hit fantasy series. The final six episodes begin airing at some undisclosed point in the new year, and even with a limited runtime, the stars involved promise a breathtaking experience.
"It's relentless; scenes that would have been a one-day shoot five years ago are now a five-day shoot," says Harington. "They want to get it right, they want to shoot everything every single way so they have options." Clarke backs up Haringtons, adding that every step of the filming process took longer than usual: "[Every] choice, every conversation, every attitude, has this air of 'this is it.' Everything feels more intense."
From creators David Benioff and D.B Weiss all the way down the line, lips remains positively sealed about what to expect from the final run of Game of Thrones. Given where the story last left off, it's not hard to surmise some of what's ahead. Jon, Daenerys and Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) have put out the call to rally the realm in the face of the White Walkers, who are slowly making their way down from beyond the Wall and into Westeros proper. In the season seven finale, the Night King and his forces finally broke through the Wall, with House Stark's ancestral home of Winterfell the likely next stop on their campaign against the living.
"It's about all of these disparate characters coming together to face a common enemy, dealing with their own past and defining the person they want to be in the face of certain death," says co-executive producer Bryan Cogman, speaking with EW. "It's an incredibly emotional, haunting, bittersweet final season and I think it honors very much what [author George R.R. Martin] set out to do — which is flipping this kind of story on its head."
Even when Game of Thrones ends its story, the greater tale surrounding Westeros will continue on. HBO is developing several successor shows set in the World of Ice and Fire, including an unnamed prequel set thousands of years before the events of Thrones. Jane Goldman and Martin himself are the creators of that project, which has already started casting (including bringing aboard stars Naomi Watts and Josh Whitehouse) with an eye toward filming a pilot in the new year. The aforementioned Cogman is among a group of other writers who have been tapped to develop shows set within the Thrones universe, though no further announcements have been made in that regard.
Speaking previously with The Hollywood Reporter, HBO programming president Casey Bloys said that any Game of Thrones successors, if greenlighted, would not air "until at least a year after the final season." The exec also added that he did not expect every one of the scripts to move forward.
Some additional notes from the EW report:
• Benioff and Weiss have been planning the final season as early as 2012. In their original vision, Game of Thrones would have ended with three theatrical releases told over the course of six hours — a shortened Lord of the Rings trilogy, with the added advantage of several seasons worth of character development. The final result is a similar one, albeit without a trip to the box office.
• The final season begins in Winterfell, fully baked with callbacks to the very first episode of the series. Unlike the pilot, House Baratheon's procession is replaced by House Targaryen, as Daenerys arrives in Winterfell for the first time. From there, character collisions aplenty, including folks who have "messy histories," and others who have never met before — including Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), who is not an immediate fan of Daenerys, according to the report.
• Veteran Thrones director Miguel Sapochnik crafted an episode that's wall-to-wall action. It's a "brutal" episode, according to Dinklage, who adds: "It makes the Battle of the Bastards look like a theme park." Previous reports that the episode was filmed across 55 night shoots are apparently not accurate, as that figure only referred to exterior scenes. The action then moved into the studio, where filming continued for weeks. Benioff describes the battle sequence as something that was teased in the very first scene of the series: "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." The battle takes place at Winterfell, with the House Stark set expanded for the final season. Based on the description of "snow and blood" found throughout the Winterfell set, it doesn't sound like everyone's favorite castmembers will walk away alive.
• Final takeaway: Anyone who wants to find out how Game of Thrones ends should look no further than Gendry actor Joe Dempsie, especially if copious amounts of booze are easily within reach. As the actor himself explains: "There are moments where you don't trust yourself to have this in your brain … You're in possession of something millions of people want to know. It's such a bizarre feeling. And between now and when it comes out, I’m gonna be drunk at some point."
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