It’s been a long time since the penultimate season of Game of Thrones came to an end - zombie dragon and all- but we're still not quite sure we're ready for what's to come.
With just a days to go until the final season starts, HBO has released more and more tantalising - if not terrifying - teasers, trailers and pictures; scenes from an apocalyptic Winterfell, Sansa offering her home to the Mother of Dragons, the arrival of the Golden Company, et al.
One unconditional guarantee is the absolute spectacle that awaits us. With a handful of feature-length episodes on the other side of the season premiere, it's safe to say these episodes (which reportedly feature the most complex sequences ever filmed for television) will be the best of the monumental show's best. 
Here’s everything we know so far about season 8 of the hit fantasy epic.

When does Games of Thrones season 8 start?

HBO confirmed that Game of Thrones will return for its final season on April 14, 2019 in the US. The UK release date is April 15.

What time is episode 1 on TV?

The first episode of Game of Thrones season 8 will air in the US at 9pm Eastern time (1am GMT) and at 2am on Monday 15 April in the UK.

How many episodes will there be in season 8?

The eighth season will be the shortest yet; only six episodes, making it shorter than the penultimate season (seven episodes) and much shorter than the first six seasons of the show (which had 10 episodes each).

How long will each episode be?

While the eighth season will only have six episodes, some of them will be much longer than the one-hour slot they’ve filled in previous seasons. The first couple of episodes, however, are disappointingly short: 
  • Episode 1: 54 minutes
  • Episode 2: 58 minutes
  • Episode 3: 60 minutes
  • Episode 4: 78 minutes
  • Episode 5: 80 minutes
  • Episode 6: 80 minutes
As noted by Winter Is Coming, the first episode is also the only one without an ‘Adult Content’ warning — the calm before the storm, perhaps? 
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. With roughly $15 million (£11 million) to spend on each episode, it's fair to expect dragons, direwolves and Night King-induced death unlike ever before.

Who is in the cast of the final series?

All the main cast members will return for the final series. As this is Game of Thrones, however, we can’t be sure who will survive until the very end — albeit the first episode.
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 including Liam Cunningham (Davos), Sophie Turner (Sansa), Maisie Williams (Arya), Nathalie Emmanuel (Missandei) and Gwendoline Christie (Brienne).

Game of Thrones’ visual effects supervisor, Joe Bauer, has also confirmed Jon Snow's faithful albino direwolf Ghost — last seen in season 6 — will be making a return, saying “You’ll see him again. He has a fair amount of screen time in season 8.” 
A leaked cast list contained a couple of surprising inclusions, namely Kristofer Hivju (who plays loveable wildling and Brienne of Tarth admirer Tormund) and Richard Dormer (otherwise known as the much-revived Beric Dondarrion). The last we saw of the unlikely pair was in the Season 7 finale, in the midst of the cataclysm that was the Wall collapsing under the Night King’s new ice dragon.

It’s safe to say they survived. At least for a scene or two. 

What happened at the season 8 premiere?

The cast premiered the first episode of the final season last week in New York - albeit with some rather strict, Littlefinger-fated allusions for anyone who dared to leak major plot spoilers.
We can reveal, however, that episode 1 of season 8 is unlike many premieres in the show's history. Where we've come to expect large-scale set moments and major battles, this episode is a little more financially reserved. At least as reserved as something violent, brutal and unsettling can be.
In its lighter moments the episode was filled with witty one-liners., unlikely political (and carnal) alliances, and a bit of bed-warming for a twin brother/lover-abandoned Cersei in King's Landing.
Of course, many of us are waiting for our favourite unintentionally-incestuous lovers, Jon and Daenerys, to discover they're related (and, potentially more upsetting for the Mother of Dragons, that her new beau is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne).
It's safe to say the news, first confirmed through Bran's visions, shouldn't be a secret for long after their arrival in Winterfell.

What did the trailer reveal about season 8?

The ominous trailer released in March has got everyone on the edge of their seat for the first episode. 
The new two-minute trailer has well and truly taken the Westeros Wide Web by storm.

Firstly, we saw Arya running from someone (or something?) through stone corridors, suggesting her usually-powerful disposition was rattled by a fight-or-flight scenario.
Over footage of Ser Davos and Master of Whisperers Varys looking rather unhappy, her voiceover says: “I know death. He’s got many faces. I look forward to seeing this one.”
‘Death’ could very well be the Night King, or perhaps a suicide mission to save her family from the Winterfellian battle we know is upon us.

We go on to see Cersei’s army of mercenary sell-swords upon the Narrow Sea, presumably headed for King’s Landing. German actor Marc Rissmann (Last Kingdom) has been confirmed as Golden Company commander Harry Strickland and it could very easily be him, with his back to the camera, looking ready to address the army.
For those wondering what happened to the Wall, the trailer also confirmed the survival of Beric Dondarrion and Tormund Giantsbane. Beric was seen with a flaming sword and Tormund was stomping through a corridor (not too dissimilar to the one we saw Arya legging it through). 

Mad Queen Cersei also appeared to be back in in full maniacal swing stood at the battlements of King’s Landing with her sinister advisor, Qyburn.
“Everything you did brought you where you are now,” he says. “Where you belong. Home.”

Perhaps most excitingly, the trailer saw Daenerys leading her crack army of eunuchs out of Winterfell alongside Jon Snow, setting the scene for the battle between the Seven Kingdom and the undead. 
Jaime, who also seems to be at Winterfell, is seen drawing steel and crying out as flames roar around him. While I’ve not quite forgiven him for pushing Bran out that tower window to protect his rather terrible twin lover, the clips do suggest he has heroically attempted to fight for the people she hates the most.

As troops appear to gather at Winterfell, we also see Greyworm (the eunuch Unsullied) and Missandei (Daenerys’ advisor) in a passionate kiss. My money’s on a quick death.
Dragon-wise, every character appeared titillated as ever. Drogon and Rhaegal were seen flying all over the place — Winterfell, in particular — and shocking the Starks below.
Later, the non-zombie dragons appear to be approached by Daenerys and Jon — presumably for the secret Targaryen’s first test flight.

Near the end of the trailer Tyrion (finally!) appears before we cut to Brienne of Tarth, Podrick, Ser Jorah and sundry Unsullied and Stark troops preparing for battle. Just before an undead hoof hits the ground.

Winter has come.

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 will write the season premiere, Cogman will write the second episode, and Benioff and Weiss will share the remaining four episodes between them.

What will happen in Season 8?

We know nothing (said in pure Ygritte exasperation) for sure, but we are chipping away as the premiere draws closer.

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 in the slow lead up to the final season. Weiss and Benioff  have revealed season 8 will open with Daenerys and her army arriving in Winterfell and that Sansa is not at all happy with Jon Snow having bent the knee to the Mother of Dragons.

We also know the series' final major battle episode will be the long-awaited showdown between the Army of the Dead, the various characters and their factions - all of which will take place 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, will direct the episode in question. The final battle reportedly took 55 days to shoot, with Sapochnik spending additional weeks on a sound stage.   
Slovak actor Vladimír Furdík, who plays the dreaded Night King, revealed at a convention in Hungary that the epic  battle will also occur much sooner than expected.
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.

That won’t be the case for the final season, however; as translated by Mashable, Furdík said “in the third episode of the last season, there is a battle that the creators intended to be a historic moment in television.” 

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), that Daenerys will be sacrificed to defeat the White Walkers (based largely on the book’s tales of Azor Ahai), and the idea that Bran Stark will (through a mystical, as-yet-unexplained McGuffin) turn out to be the Night King. 

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.”

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