Posted on Tuesday, June 28th, 2016 by Angie Han
As they say at the Wall, our watch has ended. Well, at least for the next several months. Game of Thrones concluded its sixth season earlier this week and since then there’s been rampant speculation about what’s coming in season seven. Who’s in power, and who’s on their way down? What does the confirmation of a certain fan theory mean for a certain character, and what other fan theories might come into play next season? How will the new alliances upend the old power structure? And where the hell is Gendry? Has he just been rowing for the past three seasons?
And here’s another question: What do the people who actually make Game of Thrones have to say about what’s coming up next? In a post-finale interview, showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff teased the next big threat to the Seven Kingdoms, and revealed roughly how many hours we’ve got left in Westeros. (MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD for the most recent episode.)
Deadline sat down with Weiss and Benioff to discuss that explosive season six finale, and the episodes ahead. For several seasons now, the various factions within the Seven Kingdoms have been squabbling with each other while up north, another, greater threat has been gaining momentum. With Joffrey Baratheon, Walder Frey, and Ramsay Bolton all dead, the Night King looks to be the next major villain to wreak havoc on Westeros. But Weiss explained that this one is cut from a slightly different cloth:
I don’t think of the Night King as a villain as much as, Death. He is not like Joffrey, or Ramses. He’s not really human anymore. To me, evil comes when you have a choice between that and good, and you choose the wrong way. The Night King doesn’t have a choice; he was created that way, and that’s what he is. In some ways, he’s just death, coming for everyone in the story, coming for all of us. In some ways, it’s appropriate he doesn’t speak. What’s death going to say? Anything would diminish him. He’s just a force of destruction. I don’t think we’ve ever been tempted to write dialogue for the Night King. Anything he said would be anticlimactic.
Right now, the Seven Kingdoms is protected by the Wall, which is no mere ice-and-stone structure — it’s also enhanced by powerful spells, as mentioned by Benjen Stark in the latest episode. But it seems safe to assume the Night King and his forces will get past it at some point. Benioff is understandably playing coy about how that might happen:
We don’t want to give away too much. There are the books, and the show, and it would be a disservice to both if we went into too much detail on whether we’re going to use this or that. What is laid out in this season is, very clearly, that the wall isn’t just a physical structure keeping the army of the dead out. If the Wildlings managed to make it over, which they have, and the Night King has so much more in the way of both power and troops who’ll do literally anything he says…we’ll keep it at that for now.
While some shows make up the story as they go along, Game of Thrones has been more meticulous about its planning. And that means we might see some things next season that were set up a long, long time ago. “We’ve been talking about the ending, from the beginning,” said Benioff. “Once we get to the final end game, we’ve got very specific ideas that have grown organically over the past six plus years about where everything will end up.”
And as for when that end might come… well, we’re probably nearing the home stretch here. Benioff and Weiss have maintained that they want to finish with around 73 episodes, and as of this week’s season six finale we’re up to 60. Earlier reports have indicated the show could go out with two shorter seasons, and as of now the showrunners seem to be sticking with that plan. Here’s Weiss:
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It’s two more seasons we’re talking about. From pretty close to the beginning, we talked about doing this in 70-75 hours, and that’s what we’ll end up with. Call it 73 for now. What Dan says is really true, but it’s not just trying not to outstay your welcome. We’re trying to tell one cohesive story with a beginning, middle and end. As Dan said, we’ve known the end for quite some time and we’re hurtling towards it. Those last images from the show that aired last night showed that. Daenerys is finally coming back to Westeros; Jon Snow is king of the North and Cersei is sitting on the Iron Throne. And we know the Night King is up there, waiting for all of them.
The pieces are on the board now. Some of the pieces have been removed from the board and we are heading toward the end game. The thing that has excited us from the beginning, back to the way we pitched it to HBO is, it’s not supposed to be an ongoing show, where every season it’s trying to figure out new story lines. We wanted it to be one giant story, without padding it out to add an extra 10 hours, or because people are still watching it. We wanted to something where, if people watched it end to end, it would make sense as one continuous story. We’re definitely heading into the end game now.