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Game of Thrones is currently airing its sixth season on HBO. The show has already been renewed by HBO for Season 7, prompting those close to the series to talk about how the episode count and schedule on HBO might change. Jack Bender, aka the guy responsible for that heartbreaking Hodor scene a couple of episodes ago, recently revealed in an interview that he would love to come back to direct, but with his busy schedule and a shortened episode count, he may not have the time. Yes, we said shortened episode count. Here’s what Bender had to say:
They’re only doing seven episodes, and they’ve got their regulars who have done it forever. I know that I had a wonderful experience doing the show and I know that Dan and David are thrilled with the shows, but I’ve got this series I’m mounting for the beginning of 2017 based on Stephen King’s trilogy of book… If available and they wanted me to, I would love to do that.

Over the last several months, fans have slowly had to come around to the idea that there may not be all that many episode of Game of Thrones left. The showrunners have already talked about feeling as if they only need 13 episodes in order to finish up the story. At the time, David Benioff said that “nothing was set in stone,” but director Jack Bender’s comments seem to indicate that 7 episodes is what is expected for Season 7. He also told Vanity Fair that he was involved with directing the series through last summer and all the way up to the most recent December and worked with Dan Weiss and David Benioff during much of that time. So, if he thinks there is only going to be seven episodes, there is probably only going to be seven episodes next year.

This would align with the comments the directors have made about episode count to round out the series. Of course, HBO is probably not overly excited about the prospect of Game of Thrones ending in a couple of seasons, much less losing a few episodes for each of the last couple of seasons on the air. HBO has had a rough time in the drama department over the last couple of seasons. The long-awaited Westworld has been benched for some time and the second season of True Detective didn’t go over so well. Neither The Leftovers or Vinyl have proved to be prominent replacements in the drama lineup, either. It looks as if HBO will only have a couple of additional seasons to find a big drama winner, too. 

As for Game of Thrones, will seven episodes be a problem in terms of storytelling and viewer expectations? I’d guess not. A lot of British TV programs do fewer than 10 episodes and still manage to engage viewers and exceed expectations in terms of quality. If Game of Thrones only needs seven episodes to tell its story, I’m all for it. But we’ll just have to wait and see. 

New episodes of Game of Thrones air on Sunday nights at 9 p.m. ET. In addition, you can find out what else is coming up with our what we know guide.