Even though season 8 will have Game of Thrones‘ fewest episodes ever, the production might spend as much time filming as before — increasing the evidence that GoT will return in 2019, skipping next year entirely.
Liam Cunningham, who plays Ser Davos Seaworth, told TV Guide on Thursday: “[The episodes are] definitely going to be bigger and what I hear is longer,” he said. “We’re filming right up until the summer. When you think about it, up until last season we’d have six months to do ten episodes, so we’re [doing] way more than that for six episodes. So that obviously will translate into longer episodes.”
GoT normally films for about six months, typically wrapping around December (the recent seventh season, which aired in the summer for the first time, shot from August to February). The final season starts shooting this month. If the production continues filming “right up until summer” that’s six months, at least, as Cunningham points out (and some rumors peg the season’s length of production as even longer).
As for the production length, GoT showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss first told EW they plan to spend a year and a half making the final season. EW also first reported that GoT might not return to 2019. With production not wrapping until summer, a 2019 rollout seems like an increasingly sure bet given the extensive amount of post-production required for the fantasy hit. Plus HBO’s other big splashy genre title Westworld is returning after nearly two years sometime in 2018 — there’s no premiere date yet — so it’s a good bet HBO will put its spotlight on the badass bots next year while focusing its Game of Thrones efforts on promoting season 7 for that fall’s Emmy consideration.
As for Cunningham’s other revelation, that the episodes will be longer, we’re less positive on that one at this point. The actor’s phrasing suggests he hadn’t yet received the scripts and another beloved Ser — Iain Glen (Ser Jorah Mormont) recently gave a very different reason for a longer production time: The final season will typically only have one unit filming at a time — much like a regular TV show. GoT in the past has often had two units — occasionally three, and very briefly even four — shooting simultaneously, typically in at least two countries. “I think this last season will take much longer to shoot because they can only use one unit because we’re all in the same sort of scenes,” Glen said. “We’re all starting to occupy the same territory, we’re all starting to be in the same storylines and so they can’t [have two filming units] anymore.”
So that’s two different reasons why GoT will spend so long on six episodes. Both Sers could be right (and we hope they are). We would be shocked if there weren’t at least a couple really long episodes in the final season as the last two seasons had episodes that broke the GoT record for longest-episodes ever. The cast will all know for certain how big those scripts are very soon — there’s a final season table read this Sunday.
Season 8 will be directed by three teams of directors: Previous GoT Emmy winners Miguel Sapochnik and David Nutter, along with the showrunners Benioff and Weiss. For more on the GoT final season and HBO’s prequel plan, check out our GoT FAQ.