Game of Thrones Season 7 will consist of only seven episodes. We’ve known that for months, since HBO announced it via press release. All six of the show’s past seasons consisted of 10 episodes, so fans will have to content themselves with less when Season 7 premieres this summer.
Probably. Although we definitely know there will be fewer episodes this year, comments from a couple of the show’s cast members have made us wonder if there’s more to the story. First, Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) dropped this nugget in September:
And it’s a shorter series. We only have seven episodes this time. But we’re shooting for just as long, so there’s just as much content. And you guys will not be disappointed.
Then, just recently, Iain Glen (Jorah Mormont) said something along the same lines to the Radio Times:
[The Game of Thrones producers] are taking the length of time it takes to shoot ten episodes to shoot just seven this year and six next year. There are fifteen more hours left in Thrones as we understand it, but that may change, but that’s as far as we know.
First of all, Williams and Glen are both correct that the show is taking as long to film Season 7 as it did previous seasons. In the past, it’s shot from July through December. This year, it’s shooting from September through February. (It started later in the year to take advantage of naturally snowy conditions, winter having come and all.) In both cases, that’s a six-month shoot. But if there’s less material in Season 7, wouldn’t the shoot be shorter? What are they doing with the extra time?
One possible answer: each episode of Game of Thrones Season 7 will be longer than usual. Could we be in for supersized episodes come this summer?
It’s possible. Usually, Game of Thrones episodes run between 50 minutes on the short end (at 50 minutes on the dot, “The Red Woman” is the shortest episode of the show so far) and 60 minutes on the long end (“Hardhome” and “Battle of the Bastards” both clock in at an hour exactly). Most of them fall somewhere in the middle. However, there are times when the show pushes things, mainly in the season finales. “Valar Morghulis,” the Season 2 finale, runs 64 minutes, Season 4’s “The Children” runs 66, and Season 6’s “The Winds of Winter” runs for 68, the longest episode of the show yet produced.
Was the long runtime for “The Winds of Winter” a portent of things to come? That would explain what the producers are doing with all that time. However, another explanation is that they’re just spending more time on less material, making sure the scenes they do have are perfect, rather than filming more than we’re expecting. That take is bolstered by another comment Glen made to the Radio Times:
I think the scale and size of the set pieces, the world that is being created it’s just getting more and more extraordinary and they feel they need that time to shoot seven hours as opposed to ten.
It’s hard to square some of these comments. Glen’s comment above makes it sound like the producers are taking more time to perfect less material, but Williams’ comment about there being “just as much content” makes it sound like there will be…well, just as much literal content as in previous seasons.
Glen’s comment about there being “fifteen more hours left in Thrones as we understand it” is also interesting. We know Season 7 will be seven episodes long. We’re less sure about Season 8, although HBO has floated the idea of doing a final season of six episodes. Assuming that comes to pass, that means there are 13 more episodes of the show yet to see.
How then are we to take Glen’s comment about “fifteen more hours?” If all the remaining episodes are normal-sized, with one hour roughly equaling one episode, that implies a final season of eight episodes, not six. If, on the other hand, the remaining episodes are longer than normal, that could mean the producers are planning to pack 15 normal-sized episodes worth of content into 13 supersized episodes.
Or Glen and Williams are just talking freely without giving a ton of thought to the implications of their comments. Their word isn’t gospel. Still, it’s food for thought.
So what’s preferable? Knowing there will only be seven episodes in Season 7, would you rather each one be of normal length but crafted with special care, or supersized so there’s as much content as in previous years, but with each moment getting no more polish than usual?