Game of Thrones in Vanity Fair, by Annie Leibovitz

Vanity Fair

Not by us, but by someone. And we mean someone beyond the people living inside the mind of A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin. In a sprawling feature in the upcoming issue of Vanity Fair, both Martin and the Game of Thrones executive producer team of David Benioff and D.B. Weiss talk at length about one of the most prevalent threads that plagues all of Westeros: endings.

Usually the “endings” of note are those of characters we love, meeting their untimely deaths in service of honor or the quest for power. This time around, the creative team behind the books and the beloved show are talking about where and when the story itself may come to an end. The simple answer: seven or eight seasons.

The how and why of it are a bit more complicated.

One issue Game of Thrones will have going forward — something that’s been a known issue since the beginning — is the age of some of the young actors, notably fan favorite Maisie Williams, who plays Arya Stark. If we chart out what seven or eight seasons would look like, that puts the show’s final season in 2018, assuming they do one season per year and don’t pull a split, a la Breaking Bad or Mad Men. Williams is currently 16, going on 17 in April, and would be creeping toward 21 by the time the final season came around. Based on what we know of the books thus far, that’s not even close to the shorter amount of time that will pass in the books. Unless George R.R. Martin flashes forward many years in the still-unfinished sixth and seventh books. That’s not likely. The age of these young actors is a problem for the show.

Another age is also important: 65. That’s the age of author George R.R. Martin. Not to be morbid about it, but Martin’s fans have expressed previously their concern about him finishing the books before he gets to advanced in age. For Martin himself, it seems to be a different issue: the show is catching up. “Last year we went out to Santa Fe for a week to sit down with him [Martin] and just talk through where things are going,” explains co-creator David Benioff. “Because we don’t know if we are going to catch up and where exactly that would be. If you know the ending, then you can lay the groundwork for it. And so we want to know how everything ends. We want to be able to set things up. So we just sat down with him and literally went through every character.” Though for Martin, the thought of them catching up is something he’d rather not deal with, “I can give them the broad strokes of what I intend to write, but the details aren’t there yet. I’m hopeful that I can not let them catch up with me.”

Viewers of the show alone may not see it, but the “catching up” issue is one that should be taken very seriously. Without spoiling anything, it’s clear to book readers that elements of books four and five (“A Feast for Crows” and “A Dance with Dragons,” respectively) have already begun to creep into the show as early as season three.

The other challenge is that HBO brass may want to milk Game of Thrones as long as possible. That shouldn’t be much of a problem according to the show’s co-creators. “It doesn’t just keep on going because it can,” Weiss told Vanity Fair‘s Jim Windolf. “I think the desire to milk more out of it is what would eventually kill it, if we gave in to that.”

As much as we’d love to see Game of Thrones go on forever, seven or eight seasons does feel just right. For much more from the recent interviews, head over to Vanity Fair. There is also a new trailer out this week called “Secrets,” which can be seen below.

“All that time I was gone… the world’s fallen apart.”

Images courtesy of Vanity Fair, photos by Annie Leibovitz.


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