10 Things We Know About Game of Thrones Season 8

Helen Sloan, HBO
Helen Sloan, HBO

We are now just over two weeks away from the premiere of the final season of Game of Thrones. It's a day fans have been waiting for since August 2017, when season 7 concluded in spectacular fashion. While the gigantic team of artists who bring the show to life both in front of and behind the camera have done an impressive job of remaining tight-lipped on any of the juicy details, there are a few things we do know about what to expect from Game of Thrones season 8. (Just be aware that if you're not caught up, there are spoilers ahead!)

1. There will be fewer episodes than in previous seasons, but they'll be longer.

Season 8 will be comprised of a total of just six episodes. While fans were initially disappointed to hear that the season would be so short, there is a silver lining: Three of the episodes will be about 80 minutes long, which is practically movie length. Here are the runtimes:

Episode one: 54 minutes
Episode two: 58 minutes
Episode three: 60 minutes
Episode four: 78 minutes
Episode five: 80 minutes
Episode six: 80 minutes

Many fans believed, based on multiple reports and even quotes from people behind the show, that every single episode would be closer to that 80-minute runtime. "Season 8 episodes will all I think be longer than 60 minutes. They'll be dancing around the bigger numbers, I know that for sure," director David Nutter said in November 2018. Though this turned out to be wishful thinking, fans are just happy that their Sunday nights will be full of Game of Thrones again.

2. The first episode will take place at Winterfell, and will mirror the pilot episode.

Without giving anything vital away, Entertainment Weekly shared some basic details about the first episode of season 8, which will in many ways mirror the series' pilot episode:

"Season 8 opens at Winterfell with an episode that contains plenty of callbacks to the show’s pilot. Instead of King Robert’s procession arriving, it’s Daenerys and her army. What follows is a thrilling and tense intermingling of characters—some of whom have never previously met, many who have messy histories—as they all prepare to face the inevitable invasion of the Army of the Dead."

3. Cast members have been (unsurprisingly) cryptic about it.

While many of the series' stars have shared the details of their final day of filming (Lena Headey's last day on the set was "weirdly tedious"), their feelings on the season overall, and how they predict fans will react to the ending, any true spoilers have been pretty much nonexistent. And much of what Game of Thrones insiders have sad has been rather cryptic. Case in point: Emilia Clarke.

When asked about the series ending by Vanity Fair, Clarke stated that, “It f***ed me up. Knowing that is going to be a lasting flavor in someone’s mouth of what Daenerys is ...” Clarke also added that she’s “doing all this weird s**t” in the final season. “You’ll know what I mean when you see it,” she explained. While not very helpful to those fans looking for details, it certainly adds some mystery around what we can look forward to.

4. We'll see ghost again.

According to special effects supervisor Joe Bauer, Jon Snow’s direwolf Ghost will be making his return to the screen this season. "He’s very present and does some pretty cool things in season 8,” Bauer told HuffPost of Jon's furry sidekick.

5. It will feature the most epic battle in Game of Thrones history.

It only makes sense that there would be a huge battle in the final season, as it's essentially what the entire series has been leading up to. And while we've seen some impressive battles before, most notably the Battle of the Bastards, insiders say that this upcoming fight—which took a whopping 55 days to shoot—will be like nothing the show has ever produced. "It makes the Battle of the Bastards look like a theme park,” Peter Dinklage, who plays Tyrion Lannister, told Entertainment Weekly.

6. Tormund Giantsbane and Beric Dondarrion are alive.

The first full-length trailer for the final season shows Tormund and Beric walking down a dark corridor in a quick scene, which seems to indicate that they are indeed alive. The last time we saw these two in season seven, they were being trapped on top of the remaining part of the wall after the Night King destroyed it with Viserion. No one knew if they had survived.

7. The Night King is intent on killing one person in particular.

Though it may seem as if the Night King just kills whoever—or whatever—gets in his way, he has a very specific target in mind. Vladimir Furdik, who plays the Night King, told Entertainment Weekly that, "People will see [the Night King] has a target he wants to kill, and you will find out who that is."

8. Jon Snow will learn his true parentage.

In an interview with TV Insider, co-showrunner D.B. Weiss all but confirmed that Jon Snow will learn his true parentage (which, let's face it, would be disappointing if he didn't as it's been such a major plot point). "From a dramatic standpoint, it makes things interesting, because the story is no longer about who Jon's parents are," Weiss said. "It's about what happens when Jon finds out."

9. They shot multiple endings.

It's been reported that multiple endings were shot for the season—and not because the showrunners couldn't decide on how to end the series, but so that they could ensure that no details about how the series will end would be leaked. “I know in Game of Thrones, the ending, they’re going to shoot multiple versions so that nobody really know what happens,” HBO boss Casey Bloys told The Morning Call. “You have to do that on a long show. Because when you’re shooting something, people know. So they’re going to shoot multiple versions so that there’s no real definitive answer until the end.”

10. It will shock fans.

Fans are hoping for the most intense, epic season in television history, and Clarke has pretty much assured us that will happen. While at the Academy Awards this year, the actress told Ryan Seacrest:

“It's going to be huge, that much everyone needs to know ... It took us a long time to film this one for a very good reason. But I think there's going to be some things ... I know there's going to be some things in this last season that will shock people.”

The final season of Game of Thrones premieres on April 14.

11 Fun Facts About Them!

Joan Weldon and James Arness star in Them! (1954).
Joan Weldon and James Arness star in Them! (1954).
Warner Home Video

In the 1950s, Elvis was king, hula hooping was all the rage, and movie screens across America were overrun with giant arthropods. Back then, Tarantula (1955), The Deadly Mantis (1957), and other “big bug” films starring colossal insects or arachnids enjoyed a surprising amount of popularity. What kicked off this creepy-crawly craze? An eerie blockbuster whose impossible premise reflected widespread anxieties about the emerging atomic age. Grab a Geiger counter and let’s explore 1954's Them!.

1. Them!'s primary scriptwriter once worked for General Douglas MacArthur.

When World War II broke out, the knowledge Ted Sherdeman had gained from his career as a radio producer was put to good use by Uncle Sam, landing him a position as a radio communications advisor to General MacArthur. However, the fiery conclusion of the war left Sherdeman with a lifelong disdain for nuclear weapons. In an interview he revealed that upon hearing about the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima, he “just went over to the curb and started to throw up."

Shifting his focus from radio to motion pictures, Sherdeman later joined Warned Bros. as a staff producer. One day he was given a screenplay that really made his eyes bug out. George Worthing Yates, best known for his work on the Lone Ranger serials, had decided to take a stab at science fiction and penned an original script about giant, irradiated ants attacking New York City. "The idea appealed to me very much,” Sherdeman told Cinefantastique, "because, aside from man, ants are the only creatures in the world that plan to wage war, and nobody trusted the atomic bomb at that time.” (His statement about animal combat is debatable: chimpanzee gangs will also take organized, warlike measures in order to annex their rivals’ territories.)

Although he loved the basic concept, Sherdeman felt that the script needed something more. Screenwriter Russell S. Hughes was asked to punch up the script, but died of a heart attack after completing the first 50 pages. With some help from director Gordon Douglas, Sherdeman took it upon himself to finish the screenplay. Thus, Them! was born.

2. Two main ants were built for the movie.

Them! brought its spineless villains to life using a combination of animatronics and puppetry, courtesy of an effects artist by the name of Dick Smith. He constructed two fully functional mechanical ants for the production, with the first of these being a 12-foot monster filled with gears, levers, motors, and pulleys. Operating the big bug was a job that required a small army of technicians who’d pull sophisticated cables to control the ant’s limbs off-camera. These guys worked in close proximity and often crashed into each other as a result, prompting Douglas to call them “a comedy team.”

The big insect mainly appears in long shots, and for close-ups, Smith built the front three quarters of a second large-scale ant and mounted it onto a camera crane. During scenes that required swarms of ants, smaller, non-motorized models were used. Blowing wind machines moved the little units’ heads around in a lifelike manner.

3. Them! features the Wilhelm Scream.

Fifty-nine minutes in, the ants board a ship and one of them grabs a sailor, who unleashes the so-called "Wilhelm Scream." You can also hear it when James Whitmore’s character is killed, and the sound bite rings out once again during the movie’s climax. Them! was among the first movies to reuse this distinctive holler, which was originally recorded three years earlier for the 1951 western Distant Drums. Since then, it’s become something of an inside joke for sound recording specialists. The scream has appeared in Titanic (1997), Toy Story (1995), Reservoir Dogs (1992), Batman Returns (1992), the Star Wars saga (1977-present), all three The Lord of the Rings movies (2001-2003), and countless other films.

4. Leonard Nimoy makes an appearance.

In one brief scene, future Star Trek star Leonard Nimoy plays an Army man who receives a message about an alleged “ant-shaped UFO” sighting over Texas. He then proceeds to poke fun at the Lone Star State, because, as everybody knows, insectile space vessels are highly illogical.

5. Many different sounds were combined to produce the screeching ant cries.

Throughout the movie, the monsters announce their presence with a haunting wail. Douglas’s team created this unforgettable shriek by mixing assorted noises, including bird whistles, which were artificially pitched up by sound technicians.

6. Sandy Descher had to sniff a mystery liquid during her signature scene.

Like Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, Them! has a deliberate pace and the massive insects don’t make an onscreen appearance until the half hour mark. Douglas took credit for this restrained approach, saying, “I told Ted, let’s tease [the audience] a little bit before you see the ant. Let’s build up to it."

So instead of showing off the big bugs, the opening scene follows a little girl as she wanders through the New Mexican desert, listlessly clutching her favorite doll. That stunning performance was delivered by child actress Sandy Descher. Later, in one of the most effective title drop scenes ever orchestrated, a vial of formic acid is held under her character’s nose. Suddenly recognizing the aroma, the traumatized youngster screams “Them! Them!” Descher never found out what sort of liquid was really sloshing around in that container.

“They used something that did smell quite strange. It wasn’t ammonia, it was something else,” she told an interviewer. Still, the mysterious brew had a beneficial effect on her performance. “They tried to create something different and it helped me a lot with that particular scene,” Descher said.

7. Them! was originally going to be filmed in 3D and in color.

To hear Douglas tell it, the insect models looked a lot scarier in person. “I put green and red soap bubbles in the eyes,” he once stated. “The ants were purple, slimy things. Their bodies were wet down with Vaseline. They scared the bejeezus out of you.” For better or for worse, though, audiences never got the chance to savor the bugs’ color scheme.

At first, Warner Bros. had planned on shooting the movie in color. Furthermore, to help Them! compete with Universal’s brand-new, three-dimensional monster movie, Creature From the Black Lagoon, the studio strongly considered using 3D cameras. But in the end, the higher-ups at Warner Bros. didn’t supply Douglas with the money he’d need to shoot it in this manner. Shortly before production started on Them!, the budget was greatly reduced, forcing the use of two-dimensional, black and white film.

8. The setting of the climactic scene was changes—twice.

Yates envisioned the final battle playing out in New York City’s world-famous subway tunnels. Hughes moved the action westward, conjuring up an epic showdown between human soldiers and the last surviving ants at a Santa Monica amusement park. Finally, for both artistic and budgetary reasons, Sherdeman set the big finale in the sewers of Los Angeles.

9. Warner Bros. encouraged theaters to use Them! as a military recruitment tool.

The film’s official pressbook advised theater managers who were screening Them!& to contact their nearest Armed Forces recruitment offices. “Since civil defense in the face of an emergency figures in the picture, make the most of it by inviting [a] local agency to set up a recruiting booth in the lobby,” the filmmakers advised. Also, the document suggested that movie houses post signs reading: “What would you do if (name of city) were attacked by THEM?! Prepare for any danger by enlisting in Civil Defense today!”

10. The movie was a surprise hit.

Studio head Jack L. Warner predicted that Them!, with its far-fetched plot, wouldn’t fare well at the box office. So imagine his surprise when it raked in more than $2.2 million—enough to make the picture one of the studio's highest-grossing films of 1954.

11. Them! landed Fess Parker the role of TV's Davy Crockett.

When Walt Disney went to see Them!, he had a specific objective in mind: Scout a potential Davy Crockett. At the time, Disney was developing a new television series that would chronicle the life and times of the iconic frontiersman, and James Arness, who plays an FBI agent in Them!, was on the short list of candidates for the role. Yet as the sci-fi thriller unfolded, it was actor Fess Parker who grabbed Disney’s attention. Director Gordon Douglas had hired Parker to portray the pilot who ends up in a psych ward after an aerial encounter with a gargantuan flying ant. And while his character only appears in one scene, the performance impressed Disney so much that the struggling actor was soon cast as Crockett.

By the Texan’s own admission, his good fortune may’ve been the product of bargain hunting. “Walt probably asked, ‘How much would Arness cost?’ and then ‘This fellow [Parker], we ought to be able to get him real economical,” Parker once said.

George R.R. Martin Doesn't Think Game of Thrones Was 'Very Good' For His Writing Process

Kevin Winter, Getty Images
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

No one seems to have escaped the fan fury over the finals season of Game of Thrones. While likely no one got it quite as bad as showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, even author George R.R. Martin—who wrote A Song of Ice and Fire, the book series upon which the show is based, faced backlash surrounding the HBO hit. The volatile reaction from fans has apparently taken a toll on both Martin's writing and personal life.

In an interview with The Guardian, the acclaimed author said he's sticking with his original plan for the last two books, explaining that the show will not impact them. “You can’t please everybody, so you’ve got to please yourself,” he stated.

He went on to explain how even his personal life has taken a negative turn because of the show. “I can’t go into a bookstore any more, and that used to be my favorite thing to do in the world,” Martin said. “To go in and wander from stack to stack, take down some books, read a little, leave with a big stack of things I’d never heard of when I came in. Now when I go to a bookstore, I get recognized within 10 minutes and there’s a crowd around me. So you gain a lot but you also lose things.”

While fans of the book series are fully aware of the author's struggle to finish the final two installments, The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring, Martin admitted that part of the delay has been a result of the HBO series, and fans' reaction to it.

“I don’t think [the series] was very good for me,” Martin said. “The very thing that should have speeded me up actually slowed me down. Every day I sat down to write and even if I had a good day … I’d feel terrible because I’d be thinking: ‘My God, I have to finish the book. I’ve only written four pages when I should have written 40.'"

Still, Martin has sworn that the books will get finished ... he just won't promise when.

[h/t The Guardian]

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