One of the biggest television shows is coming to an end. HBO's monster hit of a series Game Of Thrones, based on George R.R. Martin's books, will release its eighth and final season in 2019.
When the curtain falls on the show, fans of the series who started with Martin's books would have waited over two decades to find out the ultimate fate of their favourite characters. An exclusive report by Entertainment Weekly (EW) on the final season of Game Of Thrones provided a glimpse of what might happen in the epic six-episode final season, which reportedly has a budget of US$15 million per episode.
Here are some takeaways from the report.
1. The season will open in Winterfell
The most concrete piece of information to come out of the report is that the eighth season will open with Queen Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons, arriving in Winterfell - the home of the Starks - that is now ruled by Jon Snow, thought to be the illegitimate son of Ned Stark.
Jon is one of the contenders for the Iron Throne, which rules the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.
The start of season eight will mirror the first season opener when then King Robert Baratheon went to Winterfell and was welcomed by the Starks.
Viewers will remember that Jon and Daenerys developed an incestuous relationship in the last season. Jon was revealed to be the son of Daenery's brother Rhaegar Targaryen and Ned Stark's sister Lyanna Stark, although both Jon and Daenerys have yet to discover their blood connection.
2. Sansa will clash with Jon and Daenerys
Aside from a romance, Jon and Daenerys also forged a political alliance. Jon bent the knee to Daenerys, pledging his loyalty to her, unknown to the people of the North, including his sister (though they are actually cousins) Sansa Stark.
The report explicitly said that Sansa will be unhappy that Jon submitted to the Targaryen daughter, at least at first.
While this is a confirmation of a plot line, it can hardly be considered a spoiler. Much of Sansa's story has seen her outsource her protection only to be bartered and sold, so it's understandable that she does not trust anyone outside of her immediate family. And for Jon to bend the knee without consulting her is even more of a blow, especially after all she has suffered to be back with her family.
3. An unprecedented epic battle
Remember Battle of the Bastards in season six and how magnificent it was? Well, Game Of Thrones creators and cast say the upcoming season's big battle will blow that out of the water.
Peter Dinklage, who plays Tyrion Lannister, said the scene is "brutal" and will make "the Battle of the Bastards look like a theme park".
The battle's outdoor scenes alone reportedly took 55 nights to film. The shoot later moved into the studio where it took weeks to shoot. It is expected to be the "most sustained action sequence ever made for television or film".
In comparison, the Battle of the Bastards took 25 days to shoot.
4. Winterfell - location of final battle?
The writer of the EW piece was granted a set visit where the cast shot the sixth and last episode of the season and series. The set visit was to Winterfell, which means the finale will at least partially be set in the Stark's home.
Most importantly, the story says that to pull off the largest battle scene, the production team "hugely expanded its set for the Stark ancestral home", which means that Winterfell is very likely the location of the battle between the living and the dead. It's a location that makes the most geographical sense, since Winterfell is the closest to the Wall, an immense fortification, which the supernatural White Walkers destroyed at the end of last season.
In the grand tradition of Game Of Thrones, the final battle will likely be in the penultimate episode and not the finale of the series. Blood was also observed on the ground of the set and the pits were thick with smoke, which resembles a post-battle scene.
5. Characters from the dead?
The author of the EW report also said that he was "stunned" as he saw characters in the finale he did not expect. This can mean many things but two possibilities stand out. One is that characters who disappeared from the story early might make a comeback (looking at you, Gendry). The other possibility is that characters who were dead could be brought back to life.
The show has already established that it is possible to do so - Jon himself came back to life with the Red Woman's help. And White Walkers reanimate corpses all the time. Perhaps Lady Stoneheart - the vengeful ghost of Catelyn Stark brutally murdered in the Red Wedding who has yet to appear in the television version of the story - can join the fun.
6. Bittersweet ending
Showrunner David Benioff said the final season as "incredibly emotional, haunting, bittersweet". While it's almost a surefire guarantee that some of these beloved characters will not survive Martin's chopping block, calling the final season "bittersweet" also gives us hope that the White Walkers are unlikely to be triumphant in their final battle. An apocalyptic ending where everyone ends up dead or a reanimated corpse cannot be in anyway sweet, right? We're hoping at least some of our favourite characters make it out of the final battle alive.