There's a strong case to be made that the Game of Thrones season 8 finale will be the biggest moment in scripted television history. Messily so, because the days of a nation gathering around their television sets to find out at the very same moment who shot JR in Dallas are over, and both the viewing of and discussion around TV has atomised with the advent of streaming and social media. But it is sure to be the biggest talking point of the day when the finale is broadcast sometime in 2019, a spectacle likely to even eclipse whatever one Donald Trump has planned that day.
Production on the eighth and final season wrapped last month, and tidbits – albeit very guarded and probably HBO-approved ones – about the show's climax have been slowly extracted from the cast (and a couple of crew members) when they haven't been busy filming.
We thought it was about time to round them up and glean what we can.
Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen)
Describing Dany's "final on-screen moments", Clarke told Vanity Fair: "It f***ed me up. Knowing that is going to be a lasting flavour in someone’s mouth of what Daenerys is…”
This was unusually candid for a GoT cast member and suggests Daenerys' story may not exactly end heroically and with fanfare – which is probably for the best given her character has always been deeply flawed, an egalitarian one minute a despot the next.
Even more intriguingly, Clarke added that Dany will be "doing all this weird shit [in season 8]. You’ll know what I mean when you see it.”
She told NewsCabal that filming her final scene left her in tears: "It's the grand finale. This is it. It's over and I cried like a baby on the last day. I felt completely lost."
Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth)
When the reporter asked, “So someone dies?” Christie replied: “I think just the show ending is going to send all of the world into professional help.
“I think it’s going to make me incredibly emotional. We’re all emotional about the fact that this is the end, and this is the end of something incredibly significant for all of us, and it’s been a truly incredible thing to be a part of.”
No confirmation of a death then, though I don't think anything has ever been more certain than a character dying in the final season of Game of Thrones.
Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark)
Speaking to Digital Spy, Turner was quick to dismiss the idea that her new "The pack survives" tattoo, a Stark slogan, constitutes a spoiler, pointing out: "That would be terrible, if I got the ending tattooed on my body just before the last season came out. That would be so stupid.”
She did, however, serve this up: “People have come up with so many fan theories about how it’s going to end, and who will end up where, and who will end up with who. It really is so unpredictable the way that it ends up. I’m very satisfied with that, and I think that the fans will be satisfied with that, too. Well, we hope. We’ll see!”
It's not so much the GoT creators' or George R. R. Martin's fault that so much of season 7 was predicted correctly but the internet fandom's for so ceaselessly theorising around the show and plotting out its every possible course. If indeed the show does manage an "unpredictable" conclusion it will be quite the feat, and a pleasing one given surprise has been an integral part of the show, perhaps even cementing its success with that infamous killing off of its protagonist Ned Stark back in season one.
"This season is bloodier than ever. It’s full of betrayal, full of war, full of danger," Turner has also told Just Jared, which frankly you would expect given the increased budgets and shorter number of episodes.
Joe Dempsie (Gendry Baratheon)
“I’m sure David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss, co-showrunners] don’t pay too much attention to people’s theories and speculation there is all over the internet, but it would be a bit of an anti-climax if a well popularised theory turned out to be the way it ended," Dempsie told Metro, presumably referencing the popular theory that Gendry may end up on the Iron Throne when all is said and does, as he has a strong claim to it and Daenerys and Jon might decline the chance to rule (or not live to be able to).
"There’s many pitfalls and I think they really have achieved [avoiding them] with this. It’s an ending I don’t think many people will be expecting and I think, on reflection, people will really, really enjoy.”
Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister)
“I think it’s going to be the best season of television anyone has ever seen," Dinklage has enthused to the Belfast Telegraph. “It takes you to a place that you never saw coming – that I didn’t see coming," he added. "Just be prepared. It’s a fun ride!”
Speaking about the finale to Entertainment Tonight, meanwhile, he claimed that co-creators Dan Weiss and David Benioff are "the best writers in television” and promising: “They end it brilliantly. Better than I could have imagined, and you people are in for it.”
“It ends beautifully for my character – whether it be tragic or not.” Beautifully, eh? I guess we can expect Tyrion to go out in a Shakespearean way, then.
Iain Glen (Ser Jorah Mormont)
Glen offered an appraisal of the show's ending not just as a cast member but as a fan.
"When I read it, I thought it was rather brilliant," he told The Express Tribune. "I am a bit of a fan of the series as well so it satiated my expectation and hopes. He did also caution: "But with something this big like Game of Thrones, you cannot please everyone."
The actor also told India Today of GoT: [It’s] is the biggest TV show ever and the finale will reflect that.”
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Ser Jaime Lannister)
Coster-Waldau is one of the show's best actors and Jaime one of its most underrated characters. Nikolaj had "such a mixture of feelings" when reading the final script, but thought "they just couldn't have done a better job on ending our story.
“We’ve worked harder than ever before. We spent twice as much time shooting these six episodes than we did on two full seasons before. No expense has been spared. We’ve gone all in,” he continued to Variety. “We really hope people will like it. We’ve done our best.”
In the same interview, he confirmed he'd shot "the last scene in the script", before swiftly clarifying "the last scene with me," suggesting, unsurprisingly, that the final shot won't be a slow push-in close-up of ol' Jaime's face.
Talking about how "brutal" the Shireen burning scene was ("I just couldn't watch it") he hinted that there will be more shocking deaths of beloved characters as the show concludes, because it just makes sense in terms of storytelling.
“Even the most extreme things have been driven by story. At this point in the show… you’re reaping the rewards of the work that’s been put into all these characters. As an audience member, you’re kind of invested into every single one of these people, which is… I shouldn’t talk about the ending here.”
Kit Harington (Jon Snow)
The King of the North actor has been more tight-lipped than most when addressing the finale, but during an appearance on Zoe Ball's BBC Radio 2 breakfast show, he expressed his excitement at fans finally getting to see how everything wraps up.
“I’m so excited for people to see it," he said. "I think it’s going to be extraordinary. Hopefully, it’ll change TV again like it did originally, and break boundaries. I think it might."
High praise, then.
Discussing the ending with KISS FM, Harington said: “I can’t really answer whether I’m happy or not. I don’t think it’s about happy or sad, really. I’m satisfied with what they did, but I don’t know whether I’ll be really satisfied until I see it.
“It’s quite nice walking around, which will only happen for a few months before everyone’s seen it, knowing. I know and no one else does. I know how it wraps up. I think it’s gonna be groundbreaking.”
Liam Cunningham (Ser Davos Seaworth)
On the flipside, Liam Cunningham - who has appeared in the series since its second season - issued a rather morbid warning to fans hopeful for a happy ending.
"We’re all going to die," he said while appearing on Irish series The Late Late Show. "Don’t forget ‘valar morghulis’ which is one of the phrases on the show which means ‘all men must die.’”
He added that the finale will make 'epic look small".
“We have normally six months to shoot ten episodes and on the six episodes that we have done for the last season has taken us nearly a year,” he said.
Cunningham continued: “I can also repeat what the head of HBO said. He’s seen the six episodes twice and said it’s like watching six movies.”
Francesca Orsi (Senior Vice President, HBO Drama Series)
Moving behind the camera now, HBO exec Orsi said that when the whole cast and key crew sat down for a script read of the entirety of season 8, "it was a really powerful moment in our lives and our careers.
"By the end, the last few words on the final script, the tears just started falling down," she told The Hollywood Reporter. "Then there was applause that lasted 15 minutes.”
This might be hyperbole, but it has to be a good sign. Side-note: the video of Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul reading the script for the final episode of Breaking Bad for the first time is quite charming.
David Benioff (co-creator/co-shorunner)
The creators of the show have obviously kept pretty tight-lipped about how their baby will come of age, but consider this from Benioff on the conclusion's departures from the books (via Time):
“It’s already too late for that. We’re already well past the point of it jibing 100 percent. We’ve passed George and that’s something that George always worried about — the show catching up and ultimately passing him — but the good thing about us diverging at this point is that George’s books will still be a surprise for readers who have seen the show. Certain things that we learned from George way back in that meeting in Santa Fe are going to happen on the show, but certain things won’t. And there’s certain things where George didn’t know what was going to happen, so we’re going to find them out for the first time too, along with millions of readers when we read those books."
Steve Kullback (VFX producer)
This is potential spoiler territory now, but on the DVD commentary for season 7, Kullback let slip that he was "asked to make [Cersei's map room] an exterior location in an upcoming episode.
"I can't tell you why," he said, "but that'll pay off."
This is ominous for Cersei. Unless she's going to go off on a monologue about how much she enjoys the sunshine and feeling the wind in her cropped hair, I'd imagine a threat will come from the sky. A dragon perhaps?
Isaac Hempstead Wright (Bran Stark)
Hempstead Wright's thoughts on the finale don't give much or really anything away, but, echoing those of Glen, are a sobering reminder that - what happens - a significant portion of the fanbase are going to be pissed.
He told The Hollywood Reporter:
"It won’t go the way some people want. It will be too happy for some people, or too sad, or too whatever. That’s the nature of an ending. Midway through a season, there’s always the idea that this is going to continue and somewhere along the way we’ll make up for it all. When it comes to a conclusion, this is the end. Nothing more is coming, and the certainty of it being over will definitely bother people. But overall, I think we’re going to smash it. (Laughs)"
Game of Thrones season 8 will arrive on HBO and Sky Atlantic early 2019 (more on when exactly here).