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Winter may be coming to Westeros but it was a beautiful day for the arts in Austin, TX. The third day of the SXSW Festival and Conference featured a much anticipated panel with Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss that also featured the talents of leading ladies Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) and Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark). In lieu of screenings or flat out spoilers, the four gave fans the kind of insight they desire into a show that has long held viewers in its thrall. Among the topics discussed were the final season’s episode count, guest cameos, and favorite character deaths of the cast and crew.
For starters, Season 8 will be comprised of six episodes. That may seem a bit anticlimactic to fans expecting the final season to be a sprawling epic but, according to Entertainment Weekly, Benioff explained the reasoning behind the decision. “From the beginning we’ve wanted to tell a 70-hour movie. It will turn out to be a 73-hour movie, but it’s stayed relatively the same of having the beginning, middle and now we’re coming to the end. It would have been really tough if we lost any core cast members along the way, I’m very happy we’ve kept everyone and we get to finish it the way we want to.”
When it came time for fan questions, most of the inquiries revolved around one of Game of Thrones’ most prominent themes: characters dying. The only character that stuck around longer than expected? Noah Taylor’s Locke, a bannerman for House Bolton, surprisingly enough. As for the panel’s favorite death scenes, the results were widely divisive. Williams favored Viserys Targaryen’s grisly coronation, Weiss went for the popular opinion of Joffrey’s offing, Benioff cast his vote for Ramsay Bolton’s ironic conclusion, and Sophie Turner broke millions of hearts by reminding them of the Red Viper of Dorne’s errors of pride. Goodnight, sweet prince. Another panel question revealed that Benioff’s good taste extends to Cartoon Network’s Rick and Morty, if anyone was wondering.
Perhaps the most revealing piece of information about Season 7 from the panel was that of a very special guest appearance by none other than Castle on the Hill singer Ed Sheeran. Entertainment Weekly reports that the big get was partially a treat for breakout star Williams. “For years we were trying to get Ed Sheeran on the show to surprise Maisie and this year we finally did it,” said Benioff.
Other newsworthy information regarded future Game of Thrones projects from HBO. Benioff and Weiss have confirmed that they will not be involved in any prequels or spinoffs. Benioff clarified the decision, saying “I think HBO might well do [another series] and I look forward to watching it and I think it be great, but I think they should get new blood in.” Nothing is clear on whether or not the network will in fact pursue such projects, but the sheer amount of series success and possible material is practically a gold mine unto itself. Let’s not forget how fantastic Robert Aramayo was as a young Eddard Stark.
Stay tuned with mxdwn Television for more information regarding Game of Thrones Season 7 and the SXSW Festival in Austin, TX. Winter is coming July 16.