If you’re a “Game of Thrones” fan, we’ve got good news and bad news.
The new season of the epic fantasy series will air on HBO this summer, and while producers aren’t giving many details, they’ve released some surprising info.
For starters, the bad news: While HBO typically produces 10 episodes of each Game of Thrones season, the new season will only have seven episodes. That’s not ideal if you’re hooked on dragons, ice zombies, and political intrigue.
However, two of those episodes will be the longest in the show’s history. HBO’s official runtimes for the new season:
Episode 1: 59 minutes
Episode 2: 59 minutes
Episode 3: 63 minutes
Episode 4: 50 minutes
Episode 5: 59 minutes
Episode 6: 71 minutes
Episode 7: 81 minutes
Yes, the last episode clocks in at an incredible 81 minutes, so it’s closer to a movie than a television episode. The longest episode of the previous season, titled “The Winds of Winter,” was 68 minutes long, and fans generally consider it to be one of the best episodes of the series (this is a good time to point out that the next section of this article contains spoilers for previous seasons).
Ultimately, the seventh season will be shorter than previous seasons.
On average, each Game of Thrones season is about nine hours long. The new season will last seven hours, 20 minutes. However, quality is more important than quantity; if we’re getting epic battle scenes, we can forgive the missing time.
That seems fairly likely, based on what’s been happening in the Game of Thrones universe. The “Winds of Winter” had one of the show’s most impressive battle sequences, and it set up a storyline that we’ve all been waiting for; Jon Snow took revenge on the Boltons and seems poised to mount a resistance against the White Walkers. That will almost inevitably involve Daenerys, who’s been gradually making her way to Westeros for what feels like a decade.
Indeed, the Mother of Dragons’ slow pace has been a point of contention with Game of Thrones book readers. However, the show split from the books—last year featured the first episodes not based on George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels, as the writer has been unable to produce a follow-up to 2011’s A Dance with Dragons.
HBO didn’t slow production; instead, they trusted their writers to continue Martin’s story.
That proved to be a sound decision, at least commercially, as the sixth season finale hit a new ratings high. HBO also hired several writers to explore possible spin-offs for Game of Thrones in early 2017, although those series probably won’t air until the show produces the final episode.
“We’ve talked about it. It’s something I’m not opposed to,” said HBO programming president Casey Bloys, referring to a possible spin-off. “But, of course, it has to make sense creatively.”
“I am not sure that [the Game of Thrones showrunners] can really wrap their heads around it when they’re just about to start production. It’s a pretty intense production. They’re about to start production soon, but I’m open to it. The guys weren’t opposed to it, but there is no concrete plans, or anything like that at this point.”
The seventh season of Game of Thrones will air on July 16, 2017.