Game of Thrones will return to HBO for its seventh and penultimate season on July 16, 2017, it was announced on Thursday.
The big reveal came on Facebook Live via some sort of metaphorical song of ice and fire. Fans were asked to comment with phrases like "Fire" and "DRACARYS!" while watching a giant block of ice being melted by blowtorches as ominous GoT music played in the background. The glitchy, painfully long stream was interrupted by technical difficulties not once, but twice, leaving the entire process to clock in at just over an hour. In the end, fans were rewarded with soundbites from a handful of their favorite characters -- including the late Ned and Catelyn Stark!
"I know what my father was, what he did," Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) is heard saying. "I know the mad king earned his name."
At one point, Cersai Lannister (Lena Headey) is proclaimed the Protector of the Seven Kingdoms, while Daenerys continues: "Lannister, Targaryan, Barathean, Stark, Tyrell -- they're all just spokes on a wheel. This one's on top, that one's on top, and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground."
Among the other poignent moments comes from Jon Snow (Kit Harington).
"There's only one war that matters," he says, "the great war. And it is here."
When it returns, GoT
's seventh season will consist of just seven episodes
instead of the usual 10.
"Now that winter has arrived on Game of Thrones, executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss felt that the storylines of the next season would be better served by starting production a little later than usual, when the weather is changing,” Casey Bloys, president of HBO programming, explained last year. "Instead of the show's traditional spring debut, we're moving the debut to summer to accommodate the shooting schedule."
"[Weiss and Benioff] have a very specific plan about the number of seasons they want to do," Bloys explained to a room full of reporters at the summer Television Critics Association press tour in 2016. "Believe me, being the new guy, if I could get them to do more, I would take 10 more seasons. I take their lead on what they think they can do the best version of the show."
Although it's official that Game of Thrones will end after the next two seasons, that doesn't mean that we'll have to leave some of our favorite Westeros characters behind. Bloys also revealed that conversations about a GoT spinoff have been ongoing between the creators and the premium cable network, although specific details have not been locked down.
"We’ve talked about it. It’s something I’m not opposed to, but of course, it has to make sense creatively," Bloys said.
Meanwhile, Maisie Williams recently told ET that she's prepared to bid farewell to her character, Arya.
"It has been my security blanket and it's been a safety net," Williams, 19, said at the 2017 SAG Awards. "If I haven't worked, or if I haven't landed a role, I never beat myself up too much, because I've always got Game of Thrones."
"To not have that around is going to be really strange, but it's also really exciting," she added. "It means I can now shape my career and I'm not tied down to anything, and I can really make bold decisions."
See the rest of the interview below.