One billion tuned in as the highly anticipated Game of Thrones kicked off its eighth and final season on HBO Sunday night with the season premiere, the first of a six-episode final season.
The anticipation for the premiere is at a fever pitch, with viewing parties set up in LA, New York and London among other cities for fans to watch this long-awaited episode together.
The Season 7 finale set the stage for an epic battle, as The Night King (with the help of the resurrected dragon Viserion) destroyed The Wall at Eastwatch, entering Westeros for the first time.
While the Season 8 premiere did not show The Night King and his army advancing further into Westeros, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) finally learned the truth about who he really is – the true heir to the Iron Throne, while his new queen, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) set foot in Winterfell for the first time.
The epic return: Game of Thrones season eight is underway with fans tuning in from around the globe to watch the premiere of season eight
The Season 8 premiere kicked off with a recap of Season 7, which ended with The Night King destroying the wall at Eastwatch and the White Walker army setting foot in Westeros.
The season begins with a young boy running through the wintrery landscape in Winterfell, rushing past a number of people before he gets to a crowd, as we see Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) as part of the crowd.
The young boy rushes to climb up a tree to see the commotion, scaling high enough for him to see the massive army of Unsullied soldiers entering Westeros, lead by Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and Jon Snow (Kit Harington), as Arya sees her adopted brother for the first time in several years.
Part of this convoy is The Hound (Rory McCann) and Gendry (Joe Dempsie), as we see inside one of the wagons where Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) tells a joke to the eunuch Varys (Conleth Hill) about having no balls.
Jon Snow tells Daenerys that Northerners don’t trust outsiders, as the Winterfell townsfolk react in shock to the dragons flying overhead, including Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner).
Dragons in winterfell: Jon Snow tells Daenerys that Northerners don’t trust outsiders, as the Winterfell townsfolk react in shock to the dragons flying overhead, including Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner).
Jon snow reunites with Bran, stating, Look at you. You’re a man,’ to which Bran replies, ‘Almost’
Jon hugs Sansa, who replies that Arya is ‘lurking somewhere.’
Jon introduces Dany to Sansa, as Dany says, ‘He north is as beautiful as your brother claimed, as are you,’ but Bran interjects with, ‘We dont’ have time for this.’
Lord Umber says they need more horses and wagons, with Sansa telling him they’ll have as many as they can spare, tells him to send his people here to Winterfell.
Dany and Jon: Jon Snow tells Daenerys that Northerners don’t trust outsiders, as the Winterfell townsfolk react in shock to the dragons flying overhead, including Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner)
Young Lyanna Stark (Aisling Franciosi) isn’t too thrilled Jon has returned with the Dragon queen.
‘You left a king and you came back, I don’t know what you are,’ but Jon interjects, ‘It’s not important.’
Lyanna adds, ‘It is important. We named you king in the north,’ but Tyrion interjects with a statement that isn’t too popular with the Northerners.
‘We have brought two full grown dragons and soon the Lannister army will join our cause but we must fight together now or die,’ the half-man says.
Sansa has more logistical concerns, asking how they plan to feed everyone, and asking what dragons eat, with Daenerys answering, ‘Whatever they want.’
Gendry passing out dragon glass, as Tyrion reunites with Sansa, since the last time they spoke was at the Purple Wedding.
‘We both survived,’ Sansa said, with Tyrion adding that he underestimated you.
Dany introduction: Jon introduces Dany to Sansa, as Dany says, ‘He north is as beautiful as your brother claimed, as are you’
Tyrion tells Sansa that she has every right to be worried about her sister and Sansa doesn’t believe that she will help them in their war, with Sansa adding, ‘I used to think you were the cleverest man alive.’
While the Night King has one dragon, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) still has two more – Drogon and Rhaegal – which she’ll take into battle against The Night King, alongside Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and his new weapons forged from Dragonglass, the one substance that can kill White Walkers.
Jon and Arya reunite, Arya asks how he survived a knife through the heart, he says he didn’t. Jon mentions she still has her sword, needle, which she says she’s used, ‘once or twice.’
Reunited: Jon and Arya reunite, Arya asks how he survived a knife through the heart, he says he didn’t. Jon mentions she still has her sword, needle, which she says she’s used, ‘once or twice’
Jon asks where she was before that he could use her help with Sansa, Arya says Sansa is defending her family, and he says he’s her family to, with Arya adding, ‘Don’t forget that.
Back at the Red Keep, Qyburn (Anton Lesser) tells Cersei some ‘terrible news’ that the dead have broken through the wall, which Cersei replies with, “Good,’ as the Golden Army’s ships are seen coming into the harbor.
On one of the ships, Yara (Gemma Whelan) is tied up to a ship, asking Euron (Pilou Asbaek) why he doesn’t kill her, but he responds that he’d have no one to talk to if he killed her.
Yara says Euron picked the losing side, with Euron saying he’ll just serve somewhere else, but first he wants to ‘f**k the queen.’
Cersei: Back at the Red Keep, Qyburn (Anton Lesser) tells Cersei some ‘terrible news’ that the dead have broken through the wall, which Cersei replies with, “Good,’ as the Golden Army’s ships are seen coming into the harbor
In the Throne Room, Cersei is disappointed to learn that the Golden Company did not bring any elephants, which they are known for, but he says they aren’t good for long sea journeys.
As the Golden Company leader Harry Strickland leaves, Euron wants to bed Cersei, but she reminds him that their deal was that would happen after the war.
When he persists, she says he’s executed men for less, but he tells her they were lesser men, and while she turns to leave, she stops, allowing him to join her.
Bronn (Jerome Flynn) is with a trio of whores, telling them he was the only man to kill a dragon, when he’s interrupted by Qyburn, who tells Bronn he’s needed by the Queen.
Qyburn says the Crown has wronged him and they want to right it, telling him there is a chest of gold in a wagon right outside.
Qyburn says the Queen’s brothers are unlikely to survive their adventures up north, but if they don’t, she wants Bronn to kill them… with the same crossbow Tyrion killed their father with.
Euron asks Cersei how he stacks up to both the late King Robert Baratheon and her brother, with Cersei saying he might be the most arrogant man she’s ever met, and while she likes that, now she wants to be alone, with Euron telling her before leaving that he’s going to put a prince in her belly.
Crown: Qyburn says the Queen’s brothers are unlikely to survive their adventures up north, but if they don’t, she wants Bronn to kill them… with the same crossbow Tyrion killed their father with
On the Iron Island’s ship, a number of guards are killed, with Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) coming to save his sister, who returns the favor by head-butting him, before picking him up as they leave together.
Yara says that Euron can’t defend the Iron Islands and they can take their home back, but Yara says he wants to go to Winterfell to fight for the Starks.
The Carstarks return to Winterfell, with Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) telling Tyrion that they need to earn the Northerner’s trust.
Davos proposes that Daenerys and Jon rule the Seven Kingdoms, a Varys (Conleth Hill) and Tyrion discuss the possibilities of their rule.
Daenerys mentions to Jon that his sister doesn’t like her, adding that she doesn’t have to be her friend, but she is her queen, before a group of Dothraki soldiers ride up, telling her that her dragons are ‘barely eating.
Daenerys and Jon head up to see the dragons, with Daenerys telling her that they don’t like the North, and when she gets on to ride one, she tells Jon to do the same, as he responds that he doesn’t know how to ride a dragon.
Ruler: Davos proposes that Daenerys and Jon rule the Seven Kingdoms, a Varys (Conleth Hill) and Tyrion discuss the possibilities of their rule
Jon ultimately mounts the dragon as it flies off, much to the delight of Daenerys, who takes off with her dragon as well as they fly around Winterfell as Tyrion, Varys and Davos look on in awe.
They fly through the snow-filled valleys of the north, as Daenerys looks on with surprise at Jon as they land, with Jon adding that she’s, ‘completely ruined horses for me.’
They find a secluded waterfall, as they start kissing, which the dragons take umbrage to, but Daenerys tells him not to be afraid, but he keeps eyeing the dragon.
Back in Winterfell, Gendry starts forging weapons made of dragon glass, as The Hound starts picking on him, but Arya arrives telling him to let him be.
The Hound says she left him to die, but she adds that she robbed him first, with The Hound smiling, adding that she’s a ‘cold little b***h,’ which is probably why she’s still alive.
She shows Gendry the drawing of a weapon she wants him to make, as she flirts a bit with Gendry.
Jon and Dany: Jon ultimately mounts the dragon as it flies off, much to the delight of Daenerys, who takes off with her dragon as well as they fly around Winterfell as Tyrion, Varys and Davos look on in awe
Jon comes to see Sansa, who tells him that one of their allies are not coming to join the fight, which leads to Jon and Sansa arguing about their new Targaryen ruler, with Jon stating she’s not her father.
Sansa asks if he bent the knee to save the North, or because he loves her, which he does not answer.
Daenerys Taragaryen comes to see Samwell Tarly, the man who saved her longtime friend Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen), who seeks to reward him for his service.
Samwell seeks a pardon, because he borrowed some books from The Citadel and he borrowed a sword from his family, which Daenerys realizes is Randyll Tarly, who he had burned alive in Season 7.
A distraught Samwell says that he will now be able to return home, now that his brother Dickon (Thomas Hopper) is the Lord, but she tells him that he stood with his father and he’s dead too.
Samwell runs out of the room, distraught, when he finds The Three Eyed Raven, asking him what he’s doing out here, and he responds by saying it’s time to tell Jon Snow the truth.
The Three Eyed Raven says Jon trusts Samwell more than anyone and now is the time.
Dany: Daenerys Taragaryen comes to see Samwell Tarly, the man who saved her longtime friend Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen), who seeks to reward him for his service
Jon Snow waits in the crypts below Winterfell, when Samwell comes to see him, but he can’t quite make out the words to tell him.
He tells Jon that Daenerys executed his father and brother, but Jon didn’t know, telling Sam he’s sorry but he needs to end this war.
An angry Sam asks if he’d do the same thing, and he says he’s not the King in the North anymore, he’s actually the King of the Seven Kingdoms, before telling him his mother is Lyanna Stark and his real father is Rhaegar Targaryen.
“You’ve never been a bastard. You’re Aegon Targaryen, the heir to the Iron Throne,’ Samwell tells him.
Jon says that his father Ned Stark was the most honorable man he’s ever met, asking if he lied to him his entire life, with Sam telling him that he did it all to protect him.
New king: An angry Sam asks if he’d do the same thing, and he says he’s not the King in the North anymore, he’s actually the King of the Seven Kingdoms, before telling him his mother is Lyanna Stark and his real father is Rhaegar Targaryen
Jon says she’s the queen but Sam says he’s not, stating that Jon gave up his throne to save his people, asking Jon if she would do the same thing.
Somewhere in The North, Beric Dondarion (Richard Dormer) and Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) are seen alive and well, their status unclear after the Season 7 finale when they were at Eastwatch as The Night King destroyed The Wall.
They’re seen at a dark castle as they run into Eddison Tollett (Ben Crompton), who shows them an undead boy spiked to a wall, which comes screaming back to life before they set it on fire.
Back at Winterfell, a hooded figure arrives on horseback, revealed to be Jaime Lannister, who sees Bran Stark, the boy he threw out of the Winterfell tower in the first episode of the entire series.
He has a shocked look on his face as the first episode of this final season of Game of Thrones has come to an end.
The final season continues with the second episode of Season 8 on Sunday, April 21 at 9 PM ET on HBO.
In the Season 7 finale, Targaryen, Snow and Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) journey’s to King’s Landing, in hopes they can convince Queen Cersei (Lena Headey) to help them fight The Night King and his army of White Walkers.
To help convince her, they brought an actual White Walker down from North of The Wall, which terrified the Queen and everyone else present at the meeting.
While the ending seemingly ended on a fruitful note, with Cersei promising to help fight the White Walkers in the impending war, she later revealed to her brother/lover Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) that was all a ruse.
Jon and Dany: While the Night King has one dragon, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) still has two more – Drogon and Rhaegal – which she’ll take into battle against The Night King, alongside Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and his new weapons forged from Dragonglass, the one substance that can kill White Walkers
Her ally Euron Greyjoy had made it clear that he was heading back to the Iron Islands so those creatures could never reach him, but Cersei later told Jaime that Euron was actually dispatched on a secret mission, to bring back The Golden Company.
The Golden Company have been referenced numerous times throughout the series, but have never been seen until this season, with the most recent trailer released in March showing these ‘sellswords’ ships coming into King’s Landing.
The Golden Company has developed a reputation throughout Westeros and Essos as being loyal only to the highest bidder, and no one else, and now that Cersei has paid for The Golden Company’s services, she will use them to reclaim the lands lost under her reign.
Golden Company: The Golden Company have been referenced numerous times throughout the series, but have never been seen until this season, with the most recent trailer released in March showing these ‘sellswords’ ships coming into King’s Landing
Cersei: While the ending seemingly ended on a fruitful note, with Cersei promising to help fight the White Walkers in the impending war, she later revealed to her brother/lover Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) that was all a ruse
Three-Eyed Raven: The only people who know the truth about Snow is The Three Eyed Raven, a.k.a. Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), through his Greensight abilities, and Samwell Tarly (John Bradley), who Bran told in the Season 7 finale
As for Jaime, after putting up with his sister’s treachery for all of these years, he was seen leaving King’s Landing in the Season 7 finale, though where he is heading is unknown, and will likely be a mystery solved in the premiere.
While fans have long known about Jon Snow’s actual heritage, as the true heir of the Iron Throne, the legitimate son of Lyanna Stark and Aegon Targaryen, and not the bastard son of Ned Stark.
The only people who know the truth about Snow is The Three Eyed Raven, a.k.a. Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), through his Greensight abilities, and Samwell Tarly (John Bradley), who Bran told in the Season 7 finale.
The final season will span six episodes, the first two of which will run roughly the normal episode length at 54 minutes and 58 minutes.
The third episode will be the longest in series history, spanning 82 minutes, with the fourth episode spanning 78 minutes and the fifth and sixth spanning 80 minutes apiece.
HBO has still not revealed any of the titles of the final six episodes of Game of Thrones.
Final season: The final season will span six episodes, the first two of which will run roughly the normal episode length at 54 minutes and 58 minutes
AS GAME OF THRONES SEASON 8 RETURNS, A RECAP OF THE STORY SO FAR…
Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke, has gathered an army (and dragons) and sailed to Westeros to reclaim the throne
The story so far… BY TOM LEONARD
How did it start?
The medieval realm of Westeros is governed by Robert Baratheon, who has seized the Iron Throne from the dragon-riding Targaryen dynasty after the then king went mad. Robert, a bombastic soldier with little interest in administration, recruits his old friend Ned Stark, Warden of the North, to advise him.
But King Robert is mysteriously killed, and Ned soon has his head chopped off after standing up to the scheming Lannister family, which includes King Robert’s widow Cersei, her twin and secret lover Jaime, and their dwarf brother Tyrion. At the moment, Cersei rules Westeros.
What happens to the Starks?
Over the seven seasons, the Stark family is split and many of them killed. But Ned’s daughters Sansa and Arya, as well as their adopted brother Jon Snow, are still alive. The sisters have finally joined together in their home of Winterfell after being separated for many years, and are awaiting their brother’s return.
Meanwhile, Daenerys Targaryen, who escaped the massacre of her family when Robert Baratheon seized power, has gathered an army (and dragons) and sailed to Westeros to reclaim the throne.
Is that likely to happen?
Not any time soon. Everyone has suddenly realised that while the Starks, Lannisters and Targaryens were jostling for power, another enemy was amassing beyond a colossal wall of ice in the North — an army of zombies led by terrifying White Walkers and their ruler, the Night King. And they are marching south.
Who will fight them off?
The Starks and their allies in the North are getting ready. But Cersei sees a chance to turn the threat to her advantage. As things stand, Daenerys has agreed to put her plans to seize the throne on hold and has teamed up with the Starks to fight off the undead.
So everyone is getting on now?
Perhaps a little too much. The leader of the Northern forces, Jon Snow, has fallen for Daenerys.
But last season it was revealed Jon — raised as Ned Stark’s illegitimate son — is actually the son of Ned’s sister, Lyanna, who had a dalliance with a Targaryen, meaning Jon and Daenerys are actually related…
Yet it doesn’t look like there will be much time for their romance to blossom. Thanks to the undead army, the last battle for mankind is on the horizon.
With dragons, magic and legions of the undead, Game Of Thrones (GoT) has much of the staple fantasy fare. But creator George RR Martin has also been inspired by the history of the British Isles — mainly the Wars of the Roses.
The powerful factions vying for the throne in Westeros after the last king went mad has parallels with the late 15th-century struggle that broke out after Henry VI similarly went insane.
Even the names of the two main opposing camps are similar: the conniving House Lannister (Lancaster) and the honourable House Stark (York).
Among many characters with Wars of the Roses parallels, Lannister’s Machiavellian leader Cersei is a dead ringer for the beautiful and ruthless Lancastrian Margaret of Anjou. Daenerys, returning from across the sea to claim her throne, smacks of Henry Tudor, sailing from France with an army to challenge Richard III.
Martin also modelled the Wall, the huge ice barrier separating the untamed northern lands from civilisation, on Hadrian’s Wall. The Red Wedding massacre — in which many Starks were murdered by their hosts — has parallels with the Scottish Glencoe Massacre of 1692, in which more than 30 members of Clan MacDonald were killed by government troops billeted with them.
Martin is also accused of pillaging ancient history, including Colosseum-like gladiator arenas and the Colossus of Rhodes, recreated in Westeros as the Titan of Braavos statue.
Robert Baratheon’s stream of successors echoes Ancient Rome’s Year of the Four Emperors in 69 AD — when four claimants vied for power.
Made in the UK
Not only was much of GoT filmed in Northern Ireland but the cast is predominantly from the UK. While some, such as Charles Dance, Diana Rigg, Iain Glen, Jerome Flynn and Lena Headey were already established stars, other unknowns have been catapulted to fame . . .
Richard Madden: He played ‘King in the North’ Robb Stark, Ned’s eldest son. His character is long dead, and the 32-year-old Scot has claimed he wasn’t paid much for the role, moaning that he received ‘f*** all’. But he hasn’t done badly out of it.
Game of Thrones in numbers
4 – Beheadings in the first episode alone.
11 – Weeks on location night-shooting the forthcoming Battle of Winterfell between the undead and the living. More than 750 cast and crew filmed it in Northern Ireland in a government-protected airspace to ensure secrecy.
14 – Percentage probability of a character dying within the first hour of appearing on screen.
15,000,000 – The minimum U.S. dollars spent per episode on the final season.
9 – Countries where Game of Thrones is filmed: Northern Ireland, Croatia, Iceland, Morocco, Spain, Malta, Scotland, Canada and the U.S.
186 – The number of ‘important’ characters who have so far died: a 56.4 per cent mortality rate.
174,373 – Total deaths so far, as totted up by a superfan. The deaths would take more than 20 minutes to watch.
47 – Emmy awards won by the series out of 132 nominations.
Since then, he has been Prince Charming in the 2015 live action Disney film Cinderella; played Romeo in a West End staging of Romeo and Juliet, directed by Kenneth Branagh; and, most recently, took the main role as the dour sergeant David Budd in the acclaimed BBC drama Bodyguard.
Emilia Clarke: The 32-year-old Londoner, who plays would-be queen Daenerys, hasn’t had a quiet moment professionally either. She starred in the romantic drama Me Before You, as Sarah Connor in the latest Terminator film and as Qi’ra, Han Solo’s first love, in the Stars Wars film Solo. With lucrative commercial sidelines, such as a Dolce & Gabbana ad campaign, in which she starred with fellow GoT star Kit Harington, she has an estimated worth of £9 million.
Kit Harington: The baronet’s son, 32, stars as Jon Snow, the show’s obvious hero. Last year, Harington married Rose Leslie (who played a Northern savage in GoT), another blue blood who is descended from Lord Lovat and Charles II. He has since played Gunpowder Plot conspirator Robert Catesby (his ancestor) in the BBC drama Gunpowder.
Sophie Turner: Sansa Stark was the 23-year-old’s first professional acting role. Turner, the fiancee of U.S. pop heartthrob Joe Jonas, has won starring roles in a string of films, including the mutant superhero Jean Grey in the X-Men film series.
Maisie Williams: After being cast as Arya aged 12, Williams admitted she ‘gave up’ life as a ‘normal teenager’. While her mother attracted some criticism for letting Williams leave school aged 14, the actress, now 21, has since starred in Doctor Who and will appear in the X-Men spin-off film, The New Mutants, due out this summer.
Name of thrones
Unfortunately for thousands of children, the bizarre names of characters have inspired expectant parents.
In England and Wales in 2017, 343 baby girls were named Arya — presumably after pint-sized assassin Arya Stark — and 76 were named Khaleesi, the title used by Emilia Clarke’s character. Three were called Daenerys, while 11 boys were named Tyrion after the wise Lannister.
Unlike Lord Of The Rings, Game Of Thrones stands out for the large number of women in powerful roles.
Two principal armies are led by women — the ruthless Cersei Lannister, played by Lena Headey, and the dragon-taming Daenerys Targaryen — and Arya Stark is possibly the single most lethal character in the series.
Off-camera, despite wider Hollywood complaints about equal pay, women are treated the same, too. Emilia Clarke and Lena Headey are two of five key cast members who get the top salary of $500,000 (£382,000) per episode. (The others are Kit Harington, Peter Dinklage — who plays Tyrion Lannister — and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, as Jaime Lannister).
Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams and Isaac Hempstead Wright (who plays another Stark family survivor, Bran) all receive $175,000 (£134,000) an episode.
Trial and error
For those who have followed this epic TV series since it first aired eight years ago, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing.
Full of violence and gratuitous nudity — the first episode had a raunchy incest scene — early episodes were widely condemned.
Some dialogue was too silly for words, some acting was painfully wooden, and the creator’s penchant for regularly slaughtering the goodies got a little wearing.
At points, many complained the brutality — particularly the vile rape scenes — had gone too far. But patient viewers were rewarded. As it became vastly popular, producers apparently felt less need to pack it with ratings-friendly sex and gore.
However, some deaths — such as the moment sadist Ramsay Bolton is beaten to a pulp and fed to his hungry hounds — have remained toe-curlingly grisly.
That said, he deserved it.
Bran Stark — who can see the future — is the favourite at 5/6 to end the series on the throne
Who will win?
Given that GoT has killed off major characters with abandon, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will end up on the Iron Throne.
Aware that Martin doesn’t like to do the obvious, the bookies currently give two lesser characters the shortest odds.
Ned’s disabled son Bran Stark — who can see the future — is the favourite at 5/6.
Next, at 4/1, comes his sister, Sansa Stark. Once pampered and naive, she’s been hardened by extreme adversity and has emerged as an astute leader.
The main ‘good’ leaders — dashing Jon Snow and dragon-riding Daenerys Targaryen —have to make do with 5/1 and 12/1 respectively.
It seems a little cruel after all the effort they’ve put in, but given the blood-spattered course of this series, they may count themselves lucky just to come through it alive.
GAME OF THRONES MAP: A guide to all the cities and ruling families in the realm
From Westros to Essos, a visual guide to the Game of Thrones realm
HBO’s hit fantasy series Game of Thrones is coming to a close with Season 8 (debuting April 14), which has truly become a global phenomenon in more ways than one.
The series, which is set in the magical world of Westeros and Essos, has filmed all around the globe, shooting in a whopping 10 countries – Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Morocco, Malta, Spain, Croatia, Iceland, United States, Canada and Scotland.
The main production hub is in Belfast, Northern Ireland, home of Titanic Studios, which has six shooting stages that houses the sets used for iconic Westeros locations such as Winterfell, Castle Black, High Hall of the Eyrie, Sky Cells in teh Eyrie, House of Black and White, the Great Sept of Baelor, the Great Pyramid of Meereen Throne Room and perhaps the most iconic set of all, the King’s Landing Throne Room.
Another primary location is Seville, Spain, which was used to film Sunspear in Dorne, the seat of House Martell’s power, and Highgarden, home of House Tyrell.
Several locations in Croatia were used for King’s Landing exteriors, primarily utilizing the city of Dubrovnik’s medieval walls, and for other locations in the Essos port city of Meereen, along with Gradac Park, the site of the Purple Wedding.
Malta was used as one of the primary locations in the first season, with portions of King’s Landing and the free city of Pentos filmed there, though the production did not return to Malta after Season 1.
The last primary location is Iceland, where they film a lot of locations set north of The Wall.
The eighth and final season filmed in Northern Ireland, Spain, Iceland and Canada.
GAME OF THRONES SEASON 8 BEHIND THE SCENES: Colossal budgets and more secrecy than ever before
Huge budget: The eighth run-out for Game of Thrones is understood to be the most expensive season of TV ever shot, with a budget of $15 million per episode
The eighth run-out for Game of Thrones is understood to be the most expensive season of TV ever shot, with a budget of $15 million (around £11 million) per episode, taking the overall season cost to $90 million.
Although much of this has gone on lavish locations and special effects, the final two episodes will be one hour 20 minutes long – almost the length of Hollywood movies.
HBO knows there is little danger of them not getting their money back, with the franchise so far earning them more than $1 billion, according to the New York Times.
The massive investment has also brought the series a record-breaking trove of 47 Emmy Awards from 128 nominations.
After the leak of four episodes of season five before it was broadcast, the producers massively overhauled their security.
To throw hackers and pirates off the scent, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have shot several versions of the final episode, a tactic already used for The Sopranos and Breaking Bad.
Actress Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa Stark, admitted that even she had been fooled into believing a red herring version of the denouement.
To make sure no one was snooping, the producers took measures to stop drones overflying their shoots.
First broadcast in 2011 on the US cable channel HBO, Game of Thrones – or GoT to its fans – was not an overnight phenomenon. But its audiences have never stopped growing and by 2014 it had overtaken HBO’s flagship hit, The Sopranos.
By its seventh season in 2017, viewing figures were stratospheric. Its final episode set an all-time US record for premium cable TV with 16.5 million people watching live or streaming on the day of transmission and 15 million more tuning in later.
Viewing records also tumbled in many of the 186 countries in which it was shown, with Britain’s Sky Atlantic and OCS in France showing episodes in the middle of the night in sync with their US premieres.
But the figures become truly mind-boggling when illegal downloading is taken into account, with more than one billion people watching pirated copies of the seventh season.