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Season 7 of Game of Thrones was intense from start to finish, with major characters coming together for the very first time after many years far apart. With the Great War between the people of Westeros and the White Walkers looming, the squabbling for the Iron Throne never felt less important than throughout the seventh season. Alliances were made, bonds were broken, and a lot of people died to set up the upcoming eighth and final season of the series. Season 7 only ended back in August, but it's never too early to start preparing for the next batch of episodes. So, read on for our breakdown of what we know so far about the final season of Game of Thrones!

Why Is It Ending?

Fans of the book series on which Game of Thrones is based were probably not surprised to learn that the show would come to an end after eight seasons, but others might have been taken aback that HBO is willing to end the series that is arguably the biggest thing on TV from the past decade. Showrunner David Benioff has revealed that he and co-showrunner Dan Weiss pitched Game of Thrones as one giant story from the beginning rather than as an ongoing series. The show has been building to a conclusion from the very beginning. The finale has been a long time coming, and while it will be a bummer to face the end of the series, we can probably count on a pretty epic ending.

How Many Episodes Are Left?

Season 7 was the shortest season of Game of Thrones to date, clocking in at only seven episodes compared to the usual 10. Well, Season 8 will be even shorter. The final season will run for only six episodes, which means that an awful lot of action will have to be packed into each. That said, the odds are pretty good that we'll get some super-sized episodes like we did in Season 7 that run for more than an hour, so we shouldn't start worrying that there are only six hours left of the series just yet.

When Will Game Of Thrones Season 8 Premiere?

Season 7 of Game of Thrones debuted later in the year than usual, as the show required more snow for filming now that winter has come to Westeros, and we were waiting more than a year for new episodes. Unfortunately, it's entirely possible that the wait for Season 8 will be even longer. HBO programming president Casey Bloys, as recently as June, was not able to rule out a delay until 2019. Actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau revealed in August that filming was set to begin in October, and filming could last for as long as six months, if Season 8 production follows the same approximate schedule as the first seven seasons. We may have a while to wait before Season 8, although we'll keep you updated.

Can We Expect Spoilers?

HBO keeps pretty mum on Game of Thrones footage, which means that we'll probably have to wait until close to the premiere date to get a glimpse of the characters back in action. Furthermore, HBO programming president Casey Bloys has revealed that Thrones will be filming multiple endings in case of leaks, so we probably won't get the grand finale spoiled, even if HBO has to deal with any more leaks and hacks during Season 8. We'll be playing the waiting game this time around.

Where We Left Off: The Lannisters

There aren't too many Lannisters left as of the end of Season 7, with only Cersei, Jaime, and Tyrion still kicking around the Seven Kingdoms. Tyrion has been Team Dany for the last several seasons, and he spent most of Season 7 functioning -- or at least attempting to function -- as Hand of the Queen. It's thanks to his inside knowledge of King's Landing and his sister's brand of crazy that Dany and Co. were able to appeal for a temporary truce in the war for the Iron Throne. Tyrion did learn that Cersei is pregnant in the Season 7 finale, which could impact his decisions in Season 8. He has no love for his sister, but he did love his niece and nephew (yes, I'm ignoring Joffrey here), and he loves Jaime. He may not want to endanger the bun in the oven.

Jaime was firmly Team Cersei for most of Season 7, as the reveal of her pregnancy pretty much guaranteed his loyalty. It was only the arrival of the wight and news of the forthcoming Great War that got Jaime to abandon Cersei and join Dany to battle the White Walkers. He might come to his senses when surrounded by the likes of Brienne and Tyrion rather than manipulated by Cersei.

As for Cersei... well, it took convincing, but she finally agreed to Dany's proposal for a temporary truce to battle the White Walkers. At least, she pretended to agree. While Dany and her forces march north, Cersei has sent Euron Greyjoy to retrieve the Golden Company mercenaries to attack her enemies from behind. Cersei is still very much Team Cersei, and she's going to be bad news in Season 8.

Where We Left Off: The Starks

For the first time in years, more than two Stark kids were together at the same time without one being immediately killed off. (Way to not serpentine, Rickon!) That said, Bran was not exactly the boy he once was, as his transformation into the Three-Eyed Raven seemed to involve the loss of a lot of his personality. He came through for his sisters in the finale when he used his abilities to give evidence of Littlefinger's guilt, but his primary function seems to be exposition, as he was the one to finally definitively prove that Jon is indeed the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark.

Sansa has really come into her own as the Lady of Winterfell, running the North while Jon was off with Dany at Dragonstone. While some of her moves were... questionable and she was influenced by Littlefinger throughout the season, she ultimately revealed that she's a lot smarter than Littlefinger gave her credit for. Rather than turning on Arya in the finale, she finally forced Littlefinger to face all of his transgressions throughout the series, and she ordered his execution, which was swiftly carried out by Arya with Littlefinger's own dagger. She is now the unquestionable Lady of Winterfell.

For her part, Arya was happy to return to Winterfell in Season 7, but she didn't leave her past as no one behind. Her kill list still seems to be in effect, and she wasn't exactly hiding her fighting abilities, as her fantastic sparring session (featuring an epic move by Maisie Williams herself) with Brienne was out in the open. She was led to believe that Sansa was a traitor due to Littlefinger, and she totally creeped out her sister when Sansa discovered one of her faces. Luckily, the sisters banded together by the end of the season, and they're a united front going into Season 8.

Where We Left Off: The Targaryens

For the first time since Viserys' death in the first season, we can officially count more than one Targaryen on the series. The Season 7 finale definitively confirmed that Jon Snow is no bastard of the North. Instead, thanks to the marriage of Rhaegar and Lyanna, he's a legitimate Targaryen whose birth name was Aegon.

Despite an antagonistic relationship with Dany early on in Season 7, he came to regard her as his queen, and he's given up his claim as King in the North to join Team Dany. As the one person who has been taking the threat of the White Walkers seriously from almost the very beginning, he now has allies who actually believe him, which bodes well. Also, he hooked up with Dany in the finale, which he's probably going to feel pretty great about... until he finds out that they're related. Then again, he is a Targaryen by birth. Maybe he'll come around to the whole incest thing.

Dany came a long way in Season 7. She didn't put much faith in Jon's claims about the White Walkers until she saw them for herself (and lost one of her dragons in the process). She changed her priorities from destroying Cersei's forces and roasting her enemies alive to leading the fight against the army of the dead. With her two remaining dragons and her armies of Unsullied and Dothraki, she represents the Seven Kingdoms' best hope for surviving the winter.

The show revealed her belief that she can't have kids in Season 7, which means that Season 8 will likely either see her discovering that she's pregnant courtesy of her hookup with her nephew or she'll name a successor to the Iron Throne, who would probably be her nephew. Mirri Maz Duur was a witch about to be burned alive by Dany when she apparently made her prophecy about Dany never having kids, so Dany may discover that she's not quite as barren as she believed. We'll have to wait and see.

Where We Left Off: The Great War

The Great War began in earnest in the final episodes of Season 7. It was beginning to feel like the White Walkers would never actually lead their army of the dead into the Seven Kingdoms, but the Night King finally got the means to mount his attack when he shot one of Dany's dragons out of the sky. The Night King was able to reanimate Viserion and use the undead dragon to blast down a section of the Wall at Eastwatch, opening the way into the Seven Kingdoms (and possibly killing Tormund). The army of the dead now has a way to move south, which is very bad news for the people of the North. They were already facing a harsh winter with a potential shortage of food; now the White Walkers and their wights are on the move.

What Wild Cards Are Left?

One key player on Game of Thrones who is not yet accounted for is none other than the red priestess Melisandre. She returned to Volantis in Season 7, telling Varys that she would be back because it's her destiny to die in Westeros. One theory suggests that Melisandre could return with an army of slave soldiers from the temple of the Lord of Light in Volantis. She may still have a part to play with the inevitable Azor Ahai reveal as well.

Jaime Lannister is a bit of a wild card. His loyalties are being pulled in two different directions, as common sense tells him that Cersei is making a mistake, but he does genuinely love her. If the pressure gets to him in Season 8, he could very well snap and fulfill the valonqar prophecy about Cersei's death. Then again, he could just give up on Cersei forever and hang out with Brienne. Stranger things have happened.

Theon Greyjoy is still in the mix. He left Dany and Co. in the Season 7 finale to go after Yara, who had been captured by their uncle Euron. Given that Euron is apparently working to ferry the Golden Company to Westeros for Cersei, Theon could be instrumental in revealing to Dany and Jon that Cersei has plans of her own. If he manages to rescue Yara, their odds of success are even better.

How Will Game Of Thrones Continue?

Game of Thrones will be done after the Season 8 finale, but that won't necessarily be the end of Westeros for fans. A number of spinoffs are in the works that will at least be set in the same world as Game of Thrones, even if they don't necessarily feature any of the characters we've come to know and love/hate. The A Song of Ice and Fire book saga is technically still ongoing as well, although it's beginning to feel like George R.R. Martin will never finish Winds of Winter. We can still hope that the next book will be out in the foreseeable future, especially if we end up needing to wait until 2019 for Season 8.

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