‘Game of Thrones’ EPs and Cast Talk the Final Season, Jon & Dany, and the Battle for Power

Game of Thrones

It has to be agonizing: The uncertainty. The anticipation. The wait for what fate has in store! We’re not just talking about what may befall the Seven Kingdoms on Game of Thrones. This is about the 16 (!) months and counting that the fantasy’s fanbase has been waiting for the eighth and final season… and we have another four months to go before HBO’s drama about backstabbing (and front-stabbing) aristocratic families warring over a medieval-esque kingdom finally returns.

Thrones immediately grabbed audiences when it debuted in 2011, and the shocker-filled Season 7 finale drew a record 16.5 million viewers, with the feuding clans facing extinction if they didn’t team up to win the looming war with the Army of the Dead. Unbelievably, everything we’ve seen so far was only a warm-up. “The scope of this [final] season definitely exceeds anything we’ve attempted before,” says executive producer David Benioff, who, with fellow executive producer D.B. Weiss, adapted the series based on the bestselling novels by George R.R. Martin.

Exceeds anything?! Take that in for a moment (and keep the phrases “Red Wedding” and “Battle of the Bastards” in mind). Among the big developments in the Season 7 capper, the Army of the Dead — numbering at least 100,000 — broke through the massive ice wall at the northern border with a bolt of blue fire from dead dragon Viserion. Led by the Night King, they’re marching south into Westeros.

Now allied to destroy the ghoulish invading army are ever-ethical King in the North Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and self-proclaimed Queen Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke). The two hooked up — romantically as well as strategically — but unbeknownst to the pair, Jon is not the bastard son of the late Ned Stark but the legitimate offspring of Dany’s older brother, Prince Rhaegar Targaryen. (Slain in a rebellion, his death began the current era of instability.) Jon’s true name is Aegon, and he is next in line for the throne, not Dany. He’s also her nephew.

“From a dramatic standpoint, it makes things interesting, because the story is no longer about who Jon’s parents are. It’s about what happens when Jon finds out,” says Weiss.

When that truth is revealed, Jon will need to keep his head in the game — and because this is Thrones, also on his body. The future of the kingdom depends on it. A united Jon and Dany have smarts, soldiers and a stockpile of dragonglass, one of the few weapons that can kill the dead. Divided, they have… two stubborn leaders at odds. With the skeleton soldiers heading their way, there’s no time for them to quarrel. But when Jon gets the unavoidable news, will he react as the cool, calculating fighter who in Season 4 defended the Wall from the army of Wildlings (complete with giants and mammoths!), or as the hothead whose temper nearly got him killed as he charged into the Battle of the Bastards too soon in Season 6? “Jon is someone who plays by the book. He cannot lie,” Harington says. “Finding out about Dany would be very hard for him.”

And let’s remember who’s on top with this power couple. Jon has bent the knee to Daenerys, who thinks she’s the last Targaryen and claims the throne is hers by blood. “Daenerys’s lifelong dream has been to avenge her family and claim her rightful seat on the Iron Throne,” Clarke says. “She truly loves Jon. Were she to find out about his title, it would cut deep.”

No matter what happens, Jon has a deep bench of Starks to fall back on. In the finale, Jon and Dany were on their way to the Stark family’s ancestral home, Winterfell. Waiting there is a dream team: former sweet girl and current savvy leader Sansa (Sophie Turner), now Lady of Winterfell; her younger sister, aspiring knight turned assassin Arya (Maisie Williams); and their little brother Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright). Bran, of course, isn’t really “Bran” anymore. He’s the Three-Eyed Raven, who can see into the past and future, as well as present-day events happening elsewhere. What army wouldn’t want a legit magical visionary in their ranks?

This is an abbreviated version of TV Guide Magazine’s latest cover story. For more from our conversation with Harington, Clarke, and Game of Thrones producers, pick up the latest issue, on newsstands now.

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