The first photo of Game of Thrones Season 8 has been released, courtsey of Entertainment Weekly.
“The first official photo from #GameOfThrones’ final season is here!” reads an Entertainment Weekly Instagram post. “How do you end the biggest show on TV? Blood, sweat, and lots of tears.”
The photo depicts Game of Thrones’ Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) embracing Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) on the cover of the forthcoming Nov. 2 issue of Entertainment Weekly.
Some spoilers for Game of Thrones: Season 7, and potentially Season 8, follow.
In Season 7’s finale, Jon and Daenerys became romantically involved while the pair continued maneuvering to stop the coming of the White Walkers and their Army of the Dead, a coming threat that Game of Thrones has foreshadowed since its first episode.
HBO has kept a tight lid on Game of Thrones’ final season. So tight, in fact, that Entertainment Weekly reports the scripts were protected by multiple security layers when they were emailed to the actors in October 2017. Clarke left friends to run home and read the script when it arrived, while Harrington didn’t even look at it until a table read with the other actors. As the read commenced, Harrington was overcome with emotion, crying not once but twice.
Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss had been thinking about the final season since they first pitched Thrones to HBO, according to EW. To achieve their vision, their original idea was to release three two-hour movies in theaters. HBO shot that idea down, instead greenlighting a six-episode finale at a cost of $15 million per episode instead of the show’s standard $5 million per episode.
When it debuts, Season 8 will open at Winterfell and contain a number of references back to Thrones’ pilot. Daenerys and her army arrive, and some characters meet for the very first time while others are reunited with characters they have “messy histories” with.
“It’s about all of these disparate characters coming together to face a common enemy, dealing with their own past, and defining the person they want to be in the face of certain death,” Co-Executive Producer Bryan Cogman explained. “It’s an incredibly emotional, haunting, bittersweet final season, and I think it honors very much what [Author George R. R. Martin] set out to do — which is flipping this kind of story on its head.”
As for that common enemy, the battle with the Army of the Dead is expected to be the most sustained action sequence in the history of both TV and film. One episode will be nonstop action directed by Miguel Sapochnik, who helmed Thrones’ famous Season 6 episode, Battle of the Bastards. The Season 8 episode is so ambitious that Sapochnik spent at least two-and-a-half months filming it (possibly more), even longer than the 55 nights that were originally reported in April.
But Weiss and Benioff’s aim wasn’t to create the biggest battle ever filmed. Instead, the episode will intercut between a series of smaller skirmishes between multiple characters fighting for survival.
“Having the largest battle doesn’t sound very exciting — it actually sounds pretty boring,” Benioff said. “Part of our challenge, and really, [Sapochnik’s] challenge, is how to keep that compelling… we’ve been building toward this since the very beginning, it’s the living against the dead, and you can’t do that in a 12-minute sequence.”
Peter Dinklage, who plays Tyrion Lannister on Thrones, said earlier this month that the finale “ends beautifully” for Tyrion. In September, Sansa Stark actress Sophie Turner predicted that the finale will leave fans divided.
Nick Santangelo is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia. He loves video games and sports, but not sports video games. Follow him on Twitter.