GAME OF THRONES

It's 'Game of Thrones' final Season 8: What do we know? Not much, deities be thanked

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In the end, the Night King will reign supreme over Westeros, and all of the humans who tried to resist him will be converted into those proto-zombies known as White Walkers, sad trombone. 

Sorry, no, that's wrong. When it is all over, when the epic battle of battles has been fought, Sansa Stark will be left occupying the Iron Throne, saddened over the loss of so many friends, family members and even worthy enemies but nonetheless determined to rule what remains of humankind with compassion and resolve, moderately triumphal bugle cry.

Or, wait: It's the Clegane brothers, the Hound and the Mountain, once mortal enemies, who will emerge from the coming test of tactical mettle as survivors and co-sovereigns on this side of the Narrow Sea. Their champion at tournaments — and commercial sponsor — will, of course, be the Bud Knight, no trumpet notes necessary.

What I'm trying to say here is that A) everything sounds better with a horn section and B) almost anything could happen when "Game of Thrones," HBO's sprawling epic about dragons, monarchy and the gratuitous nudity they inspire, comes back to our screens April 14 and then, five weeks and six episodes later, goes away again forever.

Like Jon Snow back in the early years of "GoT," when he was but a handsome illegitimate lad on a frosty inter-tribal carnal lark, I know nothing. And I can give away nothing in these coming paragraphs that will taint your viewing of the wrap-up of this eight-year sword opera splayed across an imaginary Middle Ages.

But like any decent "GoT" follower, I suspect things. I hope for things. But I do not know.

And not knowing, to my way of thinking, is a good thing. You can go deep into the corners of the internet to find wildly entertaining fan theories: Ned Stark is really alive thanks to a body switch engineered by the faceless men. This whole story we have witnessed is actually from the writings of Samwell Tarly, and he is, by the way, yet another secret Targaryen. Speaking of Targaryens, Daenerys is a Mad King-in-waiting.

Or you can sit back and revel in the ride, experience, perhaps for the last time, television the way television has historically been presented: one episode at a time, over time. This way, anticipation can build, characters (and actors) can grow and change, and a great number of us can afterward stand around water coolers of the thirst-quenching or metaphorical kind and enjoy this broadly shared storytelling experience, one of the few cultural commonalities that remains to us. Oh, and without the temptation to binge watch, we can all report to work the next day without telltale eye bags.

There are a few important things that we cannot help but know about this season. For one thing, the show is building toward a super-mega-battle that will make even Season 6's "Battle of the Bastards" look modest. The 11-week filming of this battle and the endurance it required of cast and crew is one of the few plot facts that HBO has allowed the actors to talk about, and it is "expected to be the longest consecutive battle sequence ever committed to film," Entertainment Weekly said in an exclusive report from the set.

This will be, to one degree or another, the "Winter Is Coming" battle that the whole series has been pointing toward, the one where the Night King's frozen undead armies from the North plus his newly undead zombie dragon try to take over from those petty, perpetually feuding humans situated south of them. Given their documented venality over seven seasons, many of these particular bipedal persons may not particularly deserve survival, but viewers should have a rooting interest in it, nonetheless, grounded in basic Darwinian theory and unapologetic speciesism. Also, I think we all root for the Starks, not counting Bran, who is the Dorne of the Starks.

This battle will most likely come in Episode 5 of this season's six, partly because "GoT" has a history of doing big things in penultimate episodes, partly because we have been told that episode was directed by Miguel Sapochnik, who was so masterful with the Battle of the Bastards (which aired in a penultimate episode). Sapochnik also directs the season's third episode, but that just seems too soon for the show's equivalent of the World Series, Wrestlemania and Waterloo wrapped into one. Both episodes, incidentally are about 80 minutes long, like the other two of the final four episodes.

We know that a top HBO executive has said the showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff delivered an ending that will be "dramatically satisfying and emotionally satisfying" to fans.

"Satisfying" probably means a human being and his or her kind will emerge victorious, in one way or another, again for unabashedly speciesist reasons. But given the "Thrones" history of tinkering with main-character lifelines and audience expectations, "satisfying" could very well mean we'll end up with a big surprise on the throne. Rather than the expected Jon Snow and/or his lover/aunt Daenerys, it could well be a Tyrion Lannister in the big knifey chair. Perhaps his sister Cersei will be ensconced in a revolutionary co-monarchy with her perpetual glass of wine. 

Or just maybe the good people who remain will get together and decide the traditional system of hereditary feudal rule is inherently unfair to the peasant classes and antithetical to the idea of a meritocracy and now is the time to give agrarian socialism a true chance. 

We don’t know what to expect from some of the show's wild cards — figures who have receded into the background but just may return in the final season. What of Melisandre, ageless and red, off to some foreign isle, ostensibly to recruit allies? And Brandon Stark, whose forays back into time would seem to allow him to maybe, possibly, alter current events? And what about the direwolves? I miss the direwolves.

We do know a few things from the Season 8 trailer. We learned Arya has apparently continued on her assassinary ways rather than, say, going off to study the classics at university. Jaime Lannister, last seen finally abandoning his treacherous sister/lover to join the fight for humanity up by Winterfell, has enough of a beard that he looks like an investment banker just starting in his new career at the microbrewery he funded. 

We didn't learn much about Tyrion or Sansa, except that they are, at some point, still alive in the season. Ditto for time-traveling mystic and wet blanket-to-drama Bran; the answer, he always seems to be trying to tell us, lies right where I am looking, in the middle distance. 

We also learned that Dany and Jon are seemingly still an item. They hold hands together. They approach the two living dragons together. Apparently nobody has told them what Bran and Samwell and viewers now know, that Jon is really a Targaryen and rightful heir to the throne and that Dany is really his aunt. Oh, and that Jon is not illegitimate, but rather the product of a secret marriage. Even if they had been told, it may not have mattered, because in the lore of the series, Targaryens marry Targaryens. 

But, really, it's not necessary to know any more. I came across a new promotional teaser, just out this week, showing a certain important place in the series in seeming ruins. You can look it up if you want, but it is a thing I really wish I did not know as I prepare to watch. 

At its best, "Game of Thrones" has been rollicking storytelling that you can enjoy without thinking about it as a climate-change allegory, without wondering which character derives from which historical monarch, and without having or wanting to work hard to stay ahead of the plot. 

It is enough to know that winter is here, and the battle shall be joined, and maybe spring is coming? 

The new season starts this Sunday, April 14, at 8 p.m. Central.

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