We’re counting the days until Game of Thrones returns for Season 8, but judging by these hints from one of the show’s stars, we’ll be counting a while longer.
Actor Liam Cunningham (who plays the show’s frequent MVP Ser Davos) recently told TV Guide that the final season’s six episodes are “definitely going to be bigger and what I hear is longer … We’re filming right up until the summer.”
And appearing at a panel for Amazon’s new sci-fi anthology series, Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams, at New York Comic Con, Cunningham gave us an idea of the production schedule for Game of Thrones‘ final season.
“Yesterday something quite monumental happened, I got the scripts for the last season … Kind of. They were delivered — there’s about 450 things you have to go through to open them and I’ve only done about 250 of them, so I haven’t read them yet,” he quipped on the panel. “Tomorrow I fly back to Ireland, I take a left out of the airport, and the first table read of the first three episodes is on Sunday; second table read Monday… then we rehearse for the rest of the week and start shooting the week after.”
That means, depending on your definition of “summer,” the final season could be filming for nine or ten months, despite only having six episodes to wrap everything up.
Luckily, Cunningham also seemed to confirm that the Season 8 episodes will be far longer, since the shooting schedule has also stretched: “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,” he told TV Guide.
At a few seconds short of 80 minutes, the Season 7 finale was the longest Game of Thrones episode ever. Anything beyond 90 minutes is highly unlikely, since the principal actors’ contracts kick in huge pro-rated overtime pay at that point. But a string of 80-90 minute episodes certainly seems possible.
And that means we really could be waiting until 2019 for the final season. Much like George R. R. Martin’s novels, showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss aren’t going to compromise quality to get the series on our screens faster, with a meticulous post-production schedule built in to make sure that the series looks as impressive and cinematic as fans have come to expect.
As an example, filming on Season 7 ended in February 2017 and the show didn’t premiere until July; previous seasons usually finished filming in December for an April debut. Depending on how elaborate the visual effects are — and we have every reason to believe this season will be the most complex yet, since the episode budgets are rumored to be around $15 million per installment — the post-production window could also extend.
So if you’ve been waiting for an opportunity to rewatch the series from the beginning, now might be a good time. You’ve got plenty of it to kill.