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Small Council: Let’s react to all the Game of Thrones info from SXSW!

(Photo by Amy E. Price/Getty Images for SXSW)

We got a whole mess of information about Game of Thrones seasons 7 and 8 at this year’s South by Southwest festival. Cameos! Season length! White Walker dragons (maybe)! This week on the Small Council, we decided to have a free-for-all. Which tidbit interested you most, and why? What does it portend, for the show or otherwise?

Warning: Razor’s entry contains slight SPOILERS.

DAN: Why does juicy information always come at once? Not half a week after HBO debuts a premiere date and teaser for season 7, showrunners David Benioff and Weiss drop all kinds of info nuggets at SXSW. In the interest of completion, let’s hit the highlights.

  • As suspected, Game of Thrones season 8 will consist of six episodes.
  • They gave us a breakdown of who’s writing what in season 8: Dave Hill will write Episode 1, Bryan Cogman Episode 2, and Benioff and Weiss will save the final four for themselves.
  • Someone asked Benioff if it was possible for a White Walker to control a dragon. His response: “Maybe.” Ooooooooh.
  • Game of Thrones spinoff or prequel may well happen, but Benioff and Weiss probably won’t be involved.
  • Ed Sheeran will have a cameo appearance in season 7. Weird as it sounds, this is just a higher-profile version of the show’s well-known predilection for giving cameos to musicians.

And some of the less surprising highlights:

  • Tyrion will have the best line of dialogue in season 7. Well…yeah.
  • Three visual effects teams worked simultaneously on season 7. Prettiness is coming.
  • Maisie Williams made a little joke about Sansa dying, but I wouldn’t read too deeply into it. She was just having a laugh.

Of all the news up there, the most notable is probably the bit about season 8 only having six episodes. I mean, we’ve basically known that for a while, but it’s good to have confirmation. Or terrible, depending on your point of view.

Look at it this way: if Game of Thrones season 6 was a loose (like, extremely loose) adaptation of The Winds of Winter, then seasons 7 and 8 can serve as a 13-episode adaptation of A Dream of Spring. Back in the day, the show adapted one book per season, and this way there’ll be three extra episodes. We’re actually getting more than we expected.

I know there are lots of holes in that analogy, but I’m trying to head off complaints that we’re being gipped because the final two seasons won’t be 10 episodes apiece. I’ve made plenty of peace with it. Now it’s all about looking forward to July 16.

SARAH: First off, I’m wildly jealous of everyone who got to go to the panel because Arya and Sansa are my favorite characters, and I adore Maisie and Sophie. If I could give Corey the evils for getting to go and look upon their fair visages, I would. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet three GoT cast members so far and I even got a very long hug from Daniel Portman (he wanted to make it awkward), but meeting Maisie is my ultimate stalker goal. (Yes, I just did a shameless name-drop. Apologies.)

Now to talk about something people care about. Regarding the information from the panel, I actually don’t think we’ve learned anything that we didn’t already know or assume. The confirmation of season 8’s six-episode run has upset people, but it doesn’t bother me at all. D&D think that six episodes is enough and I trust their judgement despite their past missteps (Dorne), dubious decisions (Dorne), and complete failures (Dorne).

Consider this — the Starks have Winterfell. Cersei is at war with Dorne and the Reach. Daenerys is making her merry way towards a storm of catastrophes in blissful ignorance. With every character in position, more or less, there’s not that much left to do besides confront the White Walkers and settle the country’s fate. How long will the final battle against the Walkers take? One episode? Two? I’m confident that the show can wrap up in thirteen episodes and I’m jazzed about it. We’ve been given one more year of hype to look forward to.

Something that made me laugh was news of Ed Sheeran’s cameo. I only know a couple of his songs, but as a fellow ginger, I firmly believe that Game of Thrones can never have enough redheads. We know that he was cast as a surprise for Maisie Williams, who is a huge fan, so I think it’s likely that they’ll share a scene. That leads me to suspect that he’s playing one of the many Frey children, and that Arya will dispose of him in a characteristically horrifying manner.

RICHARD: It still boggles my mind that D&D think they can wrap this all up in 13 episodes. But then again, HBO gave them carte blanche, so this must be exactly what they need, and I should be thankful they’re not milking the cash cow by generating 20 episodes packed with filler. I find comfort in Dan’s interpretation of the 13 remaining episodes being a lavish adaptation of A Dream of Spring, and my own personal vision of a White Walker dragon.

But I really want 20 episodes. It’s not based on logic. I just do. I’m already waiting years ahead of reality for the sequel/spinoff announcements to start coming. Eight seasons of Game of Thrones: Robert’s Rebellion will suit me just fine. Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad) ought to do it.

COREY: First off, I should say that I was there for the Game of Thrones panel, along with many panels before that, and nothing was generating the chatter that Game of Thrones was. I heard former Vice President Joe Biden’s name a few times in the hallways of the convention center, but Game of Thrones had all the buzz. The three previous panels held in the same hall ran about at about 25% capacity, while Game of Thrones didn’t have an empty seat.

As for the panel itself, there wasn’t so much news as confirmation of things we already knew, or at least suspected. That’s not to say that it wasn’t exciting, because it was. Benioff and Weiss come across as quite the pair, with Benioff being the diplomat and Weiss maintaining a hard exterior. Likewise with Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner, Turner shines as the more charismatic of the two. Williams joke about Sansa dying in season 7 was rather hilarious in person, but it was odd to see some fans running with it and taking it as fact.

Ed Sheeran appearing on the show? Yawn. He’s likely to be in the background of some large group shot, so it’s hard to get excited about something like that. I had held out hope that season 8 might end up being more than six episodes, but it seems Benioff and Weiss have a pretty clear plan in mind at this point. The on-set stories the duo shared were fun to hear, but I would have preferred more about the last two seasons of the show, even if I should have known better than to expect loose lips from the showrunners.

It might sound like I’m complaining, but the panel was a ton of fun. Balancing my Ipad on one leg, a notepad on the other, and my phone in hand was rather tricky, but it was worth it. If Game of Thrones does a panel next year, I will once again forgo bathroom breaks and lunch to be in the front row.

Photo Credit: Personal Photo, Corey Smith

RAZOR: I usually don’t get overly excited about these conventions that take place months in advance of the next season, even when the showrunners and two main cast members appear on stage. The usual questions were asked, and the usual dodging answers were given. I did not expect a trailer or any sort of footage, nor did I expect Benioff or Weiss to give us any juicy morsels to help pass the time until July 16 and the premiere of season 7.

However, I was intrigued by the non-answer Dan Weiss gave regarding the ice dragon. We’ve heard spoilery rumors about the Night King raising a dragon from the dead, and to have Weiss play coy with his answer makes me wonder if it will actually happen. Since we now know that Daenerys’ dragons will be the size of Boeing 747s come July, to have one of her own slain and raised to be used against her would certainly even the playing field.


  • Is there any chance of a full video of the panel being posted, either officially or surreptitiously? There’s short clips on youtube, but i’d love to watch the whole thing. Do SXSW panels get officially recorded?

  • If the 13 episodes seem rushed just to finish the story fans will be upset. Why not just do one 10 episode season and finish with a huge epic movie ? I voted maybe , I’ll take a wait and see approach. Sometimes less can be more.

  • There were only supposed to be seven seasons but then the story moved from 10 to 13 episodes and it was split. Instead of complaining that we got too few episodes be grateful we got three extras. And we get an extra winter to argue about what’s coming.

    Split intelligently because if there had been only three episodes left there would probably have been few possible endings. Chances are that’s where the final big battle and last bits of intrigue fall.

    Also, a season as well as an episode needs integrity…meaning it should stand on its own. We’ve all loved ninth episodes but it’s the season finales that set endings and present the problems ahead. D & D were able to make it more or less even.

    And let’s face it, battle scenes take the most time to film and prepare, particularly if dragons take part in them. I can make a good guess that in season 7 we’ll see at least parts of naval battle between the Greyjoys, the battle to take the Tyrell’s castle and the ambush afterwards and one nice sized battle beyond the wall. In Season 8 we know that there has to be at least one big, probably huge battle against the White Walkers and probably some smaller battles as well. That takes time.

  • Whilst I would dearly love ten eps for each of the last seasons, that wish comes more from me dreading the end of my most favouritest show ever, than believing it needs that many to finish up. Filler scenes? Yes please! A whole episode of reunited Starks (and direwolves) hanging out and catching up on what they’ve all been doing these past six years? An extra long episode please! Confirmation of the short final season means I have to hope for loads of DVD extras on the complete box set when it comes out. Deleted scenes, outtakes, extended director’s cuts, my fingers and toes are all crossed :)

    • I’m with you! What many regard as “filler” (that is, the non-battle scenes) is to some of us the heart of the story, the part that humanizes and defines the characters. Much of this was left out of the teevie version (an artistic choice for a video format), but as the tale wraps up, it would be nice to see an ending beyond fields of burned, bloody corpses, ruined buildings, devastated countryside, etc, regardless of how “visually exciting” it was in getting there. Who remains – and who they have become – at the end makes a difference.

      Well, in my opinion.

      • I never wanted a lot of battle scenes. I agree with you @zandru, the non-battle scenes ARE the heart of the story! When certain people are killed off, it actually hurts. No other series did that to me and seemingly will do so again this season! You want that connection and foreshadowing and irony with secret looks/actions. Actually, when I talk GoT with people, the battles/violence rarely factors into our convo!

  • Yup, would be happy to have fillers more. There is lots of stuff the tv series has skipped. It could be ten series of ten easily. Would it maintain its quality that way? Not sure. There’s the matter of pacing as well as number of characters and complexity of plot lines, but it seems that for something so successful they cld get more out of it and the fans would like that too. Perhaps they simply feel that leaving us feeling it should have been more, sets it up better for prequels. Actor commitments wld also be an issue. They are all big stars now and can command big wages. Just hurry up with that prequel HBO… preferably before GoT is completely over or not more than a year on, like another season would be. White Walkers don’t need to get Danys dragons… there are two in the bottom of a lake according to lore. A fan theory of ice dragons existing too, based on a GRRM spinoff book and numerous dragon skeletons…

  • IMO we are getting the worst of two worlds: on one hand, GRRM said that he is not sure whether he is writting 7 or 8 books. On the other hand, DnD are pretty adamant in giving us just 13 hours more of GoT.

  • Fillers are great when the add to the story. For example, we have the whole thing with the Griffs.
    Unless they’re a real component towards the ending, why spend time.

    Also, Dorne was a filler. Would you have liked a couple of hours of that? Chances are D & D realized that it wasn’t working and cut it back sharply. Extras from there could have added perhaps a full extra episode.

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