It’s the season that millions of people were waiting for, and what it delivered has led to a polarization of fans that we haven’t seen since The Last Jedi. Game of Thrones‘ attempt to wrap up the story led to seemingly equal measures of praise and scorn as fans voiced their opinions with the release of every new episode.
So what went into making this last season? What are some things you might not have known? What helped make it so unique? If you don’t mind spoilers, keep reading to find out more!
1. Against All Odds
Of the many characters who fill out the huge cast of this series, only six manage to appear in and also survive all eight seasons of Game of Thrones. They are Sansa Stark, Tyrion Lannister, Jon Snow, Samwell Tarly, Arya Stark, and Bronn.
2. Hazy Direction
George R.R. Martin has yet to finish the series A Song of Ice and Fire, which inspired the TV series Game of Thrones. While the showrunners have consequently made up a lot of the TV series, they were following a vague outline of how the books will conclude.
3. Nearly Two Years
The eighth season’s premiere was aired on HBO 585 days after the finale of the seventh season. Fans of Game of Thrones will confirm that it was a long wait.
4. Everybody Lives! Just This Once!
“A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms,” the second episode of the eighth season, holds a unique distinction within Game of Thrones. It is one of just three episodes in the entire series where absolutely nobody and nothing dies. The only other episodes to achieve this are two episodes from early on in the series: “Lord Snow” and “The Bear and the Maiden Fair.”
And all the extras breathe a sigh of relief.
5. Limited Scope
While the filming locations of Game of Thrones have consisted of multiple countries, the majority of the eighth season was filmed in either Northern Ireland or Croatia.
6. Wait a Minute…
Thanks to the actions of Daenerys Targaryen, House Baratheon of the Stormlands is resurrected after their extinction with the death of Stannis Baratheon at the end of the fifth season. Because of his efforts to stop the Night King, Gendry is legitimized as a Baratheon (he was born out of wedlock and fathered by Robert Baratheon).
This is rather ironic on Daenerys’s part, given that House Baratheon led the war effort that resulted in the very overthrow of Daenerys’s family before the series begins!
7. Location of Birth Unclear
Speaking of Gendry Baratheon, the episode where he is legitimized features a rather bizarre error. During a conversation, Gendry points out that his name used to be “Gendry Rivers.” However, this would imply that he was born in the Riverlands, which is actually a pretty big continuity error in the television series.
Given that he has said he grew up in King’s Landing, he would technically be called Gendry “Waters,” which is the surname for bastard children born in the Crownlands.
8. Two Thirds of a Year
The eighth season of Game of Thrones began filming on the 23rd of October, 2017, and didn’t wrap the production until the 6th of July, 2018. That’s around eight months of filming.
9. Fiery Vengeance
After Drogon realized that Daenerys was dead in the final episode, it looked like he might take fiery vengeance on Jon Snow for his transgression. But, in a move that surprised many fans—and Jon himself—Drogon instead burned the Iron Throne until it was just a pile of scrap metal. There’s been a lot of speculation why Drogon made this choice.
While many speculated that it’s because the dragon recognized that Jon is a true Targaryen, which could even possibly mean he might also be somewhat fireproof, one theory is that he recognized that it was Dany’s desire for the throne that killed her. And so, he melted the symbol of power that had driven her to madness and a vengeful massacre.
10. What a Coincidence
By the time of the eighth season, two of the main figures in the cast are Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke). These two are mortal enemies, and compete furiously with each other for the Iron Throne. Interestingly, both these women have played Sarah Connor, the iconic heroine from the Terminator franchise.
Headey portrayed her in The Sarah Connor Chronicles, while Clarke played her in Terminator Genisys.
Though the sequence of the Night King’s attack on Winterfell in “The Long Night” was thrilling (and very dim), it could have also featured a rather chilling image. In the books by George R.R. Martin, it’s mentioned that the Others (or White Walkers in the show) rode giant ice spiders. While these spiders are mentioned in the episode “Hardhome,” we never got to see them.
Now we feel like Cersei when she didn’t get her elephants.
12. Just Under an Hour and a Half
The longest episode of the eighth season was its third episode, “The Long Night.” Depicting the battle to stop the Night King, the episode lasted 82 minutes.
13. Oh No You Didn’t
Many fans of Daenerys Targaryen were naturally upset by the conclusion of the show. But few were quite as public about their rage as Jason Momoa, who portrayed her first love interest, Khal Drogo, in the first season. Because Momoa is a generous man to the rest of us, he live-streamed himself watching the final episode on his Instagram account.
Understandably, Momoa was (humorously) livid when Daenerys was killed by Jon Snow. Upon Snow’s sentencing to the Night’s Watch, Momoa exclaimed that he should have been killed by Drogon (conveniently named after Momoa’s character).
14. Always Comes in Threes
“The Bells,” the penultimate episode of the eighth season, famously addressed three of the biggest fan theories connected to the show and books by George R.R. Martin. Firstly, it featured the event popularly known as “Cleganebowl,” where Sandor and Gregor Clegane had an epic battle to the death. Secondly, Daenerys is revealed to be the “younger, more beautiful queen” who was prophesied to take all that Cersei held dear.
Thirdly, Daenerys succumbs to the Targaryen madness during this episode and becomes the Mad Queen, just as her father went cuckoo in the past.
15. Not So Surprising
When it aired, “The Long Night,” became the most tweeted-about scripted television episode of all time.
16. It’s a Hand’s Life
In the final episode of the eighth season, Tyrion Lannister resigns his title of the Queen’s Hand when he cannot persuade Daenerys to cease her murderous vengeance. This is an interesting callback to the first season, where Ned Stark does a similar thing when he cannot persuade King Robert Baratheon to stop an assassination plot against Daenerys.
Full circle, people.
17. Unfulfilled Goals
One of the most famous traits associated with Arya Stark across the seasons was her desire to fulfill her “death list” in revenge for all the crimes committed against her and her family. However, for reasons of either forgiving those who hurt her or being unable to kill certain targets, Arya only personally kills four people on her death list (Meryn Trant, Walder Frey, Rorge, and Polliver).
Moreover, none of these deaths happen in the eighth season. At least she got to kill the Night King, we guess.
18. Someone Just Couldn’t Wait
Worldwide, more than 55 million illegal downloads were made of the eighth season’s debut. In addition to that, reports came out in April 2019 that the second episode was leaked online several hours before it was meant to air.
19. If Only…
In the aftermath of the show’s conclusion, Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) gave her one regret about how the show ended. It turns out that she (along with quite a few of the show’s fans) was hoping for Arya to kill Cersei Lannister, finally taking revenge for the death of her father, Ned Stark, in the first season. It would certainly be justice served.
However, Williams clarified that she wasn’t just hoping for that because it would provide a good arc for Arya. It was also because she was hoping for a chance to work with Lena Headey again.
20. A C+ Season
As far as ratings go, the eighth season of Game of Thrones has overall been the lowest-rated season of the show. Rotten Tomatoes reports an average rating of around 67%, while fans have been highly polarized about the conclusion to this epic series.
21. That Bad, Huh?
Speaking of lower-than-average ratings, Game of Thrones’ eighth season featured the lowest-rated episode in the history of the show. That episode was “The Bells,” the penultimate episode of the series. It was given an average rating of 47%.
22. Welcome Back
Two supporting actors from the series who hadn’t been seen since season six were brought back for the show’s finale: Lino Facioli (Robin Arryn) and Tobias Menzies (Edmure Tully).
23. One Last Song
Arguably one of the most memorable aspects of season eight was the double rendition of “Jenny’s Song.” The song is sung by Podrick Payne in the second episode of the season as the characters bond while waiting for the Night King and his army to arrive. A second version of the song appears in the end credits of the same episode, sung by none other than the band Florence + The Machine.
24. Join Us
It turns out that getting Florence + The Machine to participate in the soundtrack of Game of Thrones was a long-time goal of the showrunners. Ever since the second season, D.B. Weiss and David Benioff had sought the band to musically cameo in the show (much like other musicians have done over the years). In fact, they even wanted the band to sing one of the series’ most iconic songs.
They had previously asked the band to do a cover of “The Rains of Castamere” At that point, however, lead singer Florence Welch hadn’t seen the show, and turned the opportunity down.
In a moment that has become one of the most discussed parts of the eighth season, a scene in the fourth episode featured a Starbucks coffee cup sitting out in the open next to Daenerys. As you can imagine, the internet went wild over this incredibly obvious blooper, but this just makes us wonder how much a barista makes in Westeros.
26. Double Whoops!
As if the coffee cup anachronism wasn’t enough, the season’s finale tried to one-up that situation by having a water bottle in the council scene, tucked under the chairs of Samwell Tarly and Davos Seaworth. Ironically, that might be one of the few implications in the whole show that people in Westeros drink something other than wine or ale.
27. Dear Sweet Jenny
Fans of Game of Thrones might be wondering whether “Jenny’s Song” was an invention of the books or the show. It turns out that the answer is “a bit of both.” The concept of “Jenny’s Song” exists in the books as a haunting song that a few characters sing during the events of the books. The song is about Jenny of Oldstones, a common woman who wins the heart of the Targaryen Crown Prince, who then abdicates the throne just to marry Jenny.
However, the books never released a complete version of the lyrics (apart from the first lines), so the showrunners had to complete the song’s lyrics themselves.
28. This Seems Familiar
Speaking of Podrick Payne singing “Jenny’s Song” prior to the Night King’s attack on Winterfell, fans have noticed a strong parallel to another famous fantasy cinema franchise. In Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, the character of Pippin Took sings a mournful tune just as battle is joined between forces of Gondor and Mordor.
29. May the Force Be With You
During the filming of the eighth season’s first episode, the set of Winterfell was visited by none other than Star Wars creator George Lucas. He had long been interested in a visit, and finally got his chance. Coincidentally, it’s since been announced that the showrunners of Game of Thrones will be writing films for the Star Wars universe.
Apparently when he was on set, Lucas went around complimenting the actors on their takes, though he refrained from offering directing tips.
30. The Death to End All Deaths
The final character to die in the season, and thus the entire series, is Daenerys Targaryen at the hands of Jon Snow, her lover and reluctant rival for the throne.
31. Parallels With Life
Cersei Lannister, the pregnant queen who sits on the Iron Throne, famously dies at the end of the penultimate episode of the eighth season. In a macabre coincidence (or was it?), this episode aired on Mother’s Day. This was after Cersei’s father, Tywin Lannister, was murdered by his own son in an episode that aired on Father’s Day.
32. Main Character Powers
Near the end of the season’s finale, there is a grand council involving the surviving great lords of Westeros. However, two of those people sitting in attendance are Samwell Tarly and Brienne of Tarth. It’s been argued that they represent their houses at this council, but from what we know, neither one is in any position to do so.
Brienne’s father was last known to be alive and well, while Samwell isn’t allowed to inherit titles or lands due to his oaths to the Night’s Watch and the Citadel. Therefore, his sister should technically be representing House Tarly.
33. Who Forgot the Name Tags?
Speaking of that great council, several of the people present are unnamed and very mysterious as a result. For one thing, it appears that there is a new member of House Martell ruling Dorne (despite no mention of this character ever appearing before). There are also several nobles from undetermined regions of Westeros who aren’t given any names by the production.
Fans are free to fill in their names from here.
34. They That Live by the Dragon…
At the end of the eighth season, the massive black dragon Drogon infamously melts down and destroys the Iron Throne. This is a rather poetic end for the throne, since it was first forged with the assistance of Balerion, also a massive black dragon.
35. She Rose Very Far
It isn’t officially stated in the season’s finale, but it’s nonetheless heavily implied that Brienne of Tarth became the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. Not only is she present at the Small Council held near the end of the final episode, she is also filling in Jaime Lannister’s entry into the White Book, which was always a responsibility for the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard to do.
36. Very Funny, Showrunners! Wait…
Arguably nobody was more shocked about Bran Stark becoming King than Bran’s actor himself. Isaac Hempstead Wright admitted that when he first received his script for the last episode, he thought it was a dummy script being sent out to keep the real ending under wraps. As he said, “I genuinely thought it was a joke script.“
He continued, “(I thought that showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss) sent everyone a script where their character ends up on the Iron Throne.”
37. So, You Didn’t Like It?
It’s safe to say that the show’s controversial eighth season has garnered its detractors. Many have been so infuriated by the flaws identified amongst the fans that a petition has been formed online demanding that the eighth season is remade with “competent writers.” As of this date of writing, more than 1 million people have signed this petition.
38. How Dare You
Naturally, a petition to redo the whole eighth season of Game of Thrones would cause some umbrage from the people who actually worked on the show. The most prominent person to speak out against these outraged fans is arguably Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark). Turner’s choice word for the online movement is “disrespectful.”
As she pointed out, this kind of reaction is deeply insulting to the cast and crew who spent so much time working on the show.
39. But… Why??
For people who thought the eighth season was a bit short at just six episodes when most seasons were 10, you might be interested to know that it was actually the showrunners’ decision to limit themselves rather than any network interference. According to David Benioff, HBO was eager to provide any resources necessary to keep the show going for as long as possible.
However, Benioff and D.B. Weiss insisted on the shorter season to cap the series at around 73 hours. We’re not really sure why that specific number was necessary, but for now that secret is locked in the vault.
40. The End Is Coming
Inevitably, with the end of the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin was asked if the ending of the show matches the ending that he has in mind for the books. In true Martin style, he refused to give a straight answer and said that the books’ ending would be similar, but also different from the show’s ending.
As he said, “How will it all end? I hear people asking. The same ending as the show? Different? Well… yes. And no. And yes. And no. And yes. And no. And yes.”
41. What We Lost
While the episode “The Long Night” was an incredibly long episode even by Game of Thrones standards, a lot of footage still had to be cut. This included a sequence where Sansa Stark and Tyrion Lannister kill wights in the crypts of Winterfell with dragonglass daggers. But there was an even more drastic cut to a scene they filmed: we never got to see Beric Dondarrion’s last words uttered just before his heroic death.
Those words, as Beric barricades the hallway from the wights, are to Arya Stark. He turns to her and says a simple, heartbreaking command: “Live!”
42. Laid to Rest
After burning the Iron Throne, Drogon takes Daenerys’ body and flies off to an undisclosed location, leading many to wonder where exactly they went, and what happened to her? Well, a few scenes later, it’s mentioned that Drogon was seen flying east. This would likely mean that he was returning to his birthplace, where Khal Drogo died.
Many will recall that Drogon, Rhaegal, and Viserion were all born from Drogo’s funeral pyre. It seems like a likely thing for a heartbroken dragon to do, but only Bran the Broken/the Three-Eyed Raven will ever know for sure.
43. Tell Me Something Good
In the aftermath of the GoT series finale, legions of fans have reacted strongly to the final moments of the show, and so have many cast members. Recently, Emilia Clarke revealed her thoughts on Daenerys’ fate. Clarke said she would’ve loved for Dany to have more scenes with Missandei and Cersei. And as for that last scene with Jon Snow?
Despite the events that preceded it, she hoped that fans could see the naivete and innocence in her eyes as she enjoyed her final embrace with the man she loved.
44. Regrets, I’ve Had a Few
After Varys’s death in the penultimate episode of season eight, his actor Conleth Hill admitted that he was “frustrated” with his character’s arc, and that he had been disappointed for multiple seasons. In particular, Hill wished that we could have seen Varys react to Littlefinger’s death, since he felt that the two men were integral to so many of the show’s plots and violent ends.
He also lamented Varys’s dark fate at the hands of Daenerys. As he said, “I took it as a person, not as an actor or an artist. You can’t help feeling that you failed in some way…that you haven’t lived up to some expectation that you didn’t know about.”