Game of Thrones is bigger than ever but it’s also closer to the end than ever, which has to have HBO quaking in their boots. While author of the novels the show is based on George R.R. Martin has promised two more hefty tomes, it was pretty clear last season that showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were taking steps to condense and conclude the story faster than Martin can or wants.
Variety first broke the story when they published a quote from Benioff saying “I think we’re down to our final 13 episodes after this season. We’re heading into the final lap,” though he cautioned that nothing was “set in stone.” The Hollywood Reporter followed up with Benioff and Weiss to further elaborate on where the show is at, where the show is going and how much time before it ends.
“We’re not walking away. We’re approaching the finish line. From the outset, our hope was to tell a complete story — beginning, middle and end. We are writing the final act now, and the last thing we want to do is stay on stage after the play is over.”
The reality of the show overtaking the books set in after the third season finished in 2013. The writers met with Martin at his home in Santa Fe to discuss the future of the books and the show and quickly it was realized that, because the show could not stop and wait, it would inevitably outpace Martin, a notoriously slow and finicky writer.
“In the beginning, we hoped that if the show worked, we’d get seven seasons to tell the tale. Seven kingdoms, seven gods, seven books — seven felt like a lucky number. The actual messiness of storytelling might not be quite that numerologically elegant, but we’re looking at somewhere between 70 and 75 hours before the credits roll for the last time.
They said that the show stands separate from the books at this point, while remaining indelibly Martin’s creation.
The show has diverged from the books quite dramatically by this point, but it’s still George’s world: The characters he’s dreamt up in the world he created. At this point, given the fact that we’re outpacing the novels, we all see the upside in the divergence: book readers won’t be spoiled by what’s to come on the show, and the show audience won’t have to worry about spoilers from the unpublished books. And we’re very happy that the show has led so many people to discover George’s amazing books.”
As for the show’s famous divergence from fantasy convention, the writers’ reiterated their appreciation for that fact. Just because the White Walkers are rapidly approaching the Wall with a zombie army intent on wiping out all life in Westeros doesn’t mean heroes like Jon Snow – whose murder at the hands of his own Night’s Watch brothers has dominated the conversation since last season – are safe (obviously).
“Central heroes don’t have any particular claim on immortality. In fact, we could argue that the notion of “central heroes” is one of the fantasy tropes that George’s books have so brilliantly exploded. Look, we all love Lord of the Rings, but none of us really believed that Sauron was going to kill Frodo. Was any gambler dumb enough to bet money on Voldemort defeating Harry? In traditional fantasy, when the forces of darkness are arrayed against the armies of light, everyone knows who’s going to win. And that’s one of the elements that bored us about traditional fantasy: the predictability of it.”