It's all over! We can safely say Game of Thrones Season 6 ended spectacularly for fans and HBO. The finale, Winds of Winter, was the highest rated show in its history; notching 8.9 million viewers. Combined with On Demand services, the network expects 23.3 million viewers in total. Those are staggering numbers, especially when you factor in that Game of Thrones is the most pirated show on the internet. The backslapping ends on this last metric, Winds of Winter scored a perfect 10 on IMDB. It was certainly epic, setting up the chess pieces for the coming endgame.

The season began with Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) murdered by Ser Alliser (Owen Teale) and traitors in the Night Watch. Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) held prisoner by the Dothraki horde. The High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) and his Faith Militant in control of King's Landing, with Cersei (Lena Headey) a prisoner in the Red Keep. Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) escaped the clutches of Ramsey Bolton (Iwan Rheon). Arya Stark (Maisie) was blinded by the Many Faced God during her training in Braavos. It was a bleak start for all of the primary characters.

If there's one lesson to learn in this show, death is by no means permanent. Melisandre (Carice van Houten) resurrected Jon Snow through the Lord of Light. His awakening coincided with Sansa's arrival at Castle Black. At long last the Starks were united. They rallied the wildlings and House Mormont to retake Winterfell from the Bolton's. Daenerys, after being rescued by Daario (Michael Huisman) and Ser Jorah (Ian Glenn), burned the Dothraki Khals to death. She becomes their Queen and returned to Mereen in force.

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The penultimate episode, Battle of the Bastards, unleashed the greatest action scenes yet. Daenerys and her dragons decimate the Masters and the Harpy rebellion in Mereen. Jon, with Sansa's recruitment of the Knights of the Vale, defeated Ramsey Bolton. The Starks reclaim Winterfell with an epic victory. Few characters get their just end, but there was tremendous satisfaction watching Sansa feed a bloodied Ramsey Bolton to his starving dogs. Arya completed her assassin diploma by dispatching the hateful Waif (Faye Marsay). Cersei got the last laugh in King's Landing by blowing up her enemies in a spectacular explosion.

Battle of the Bastards and The Winds of Winter brought the season to a fantastic close. There had been a worrisome lull during the middle. Season 6 was whole new territory having surpassed the books. I had some trepidation that the unpredictable nature of the story was in doubt. Thankfully that was not the case. The death toll alone surpassed anything done previously. The game is indeed still afoot.

Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss told Variety there are thirteen episodes left. Season 7 will have seven episodes, the six remaining for the final season. The loose ends have been snipped away. The remaining players are the three major families and the looming White Walker invasion. The Starks, Lannisters, and Daenerys Targaryen have all put themselves in positions of strength. Several new alliances are sure to be instrumental in the battles ahead. We'll recap the characters by region and their importance in the game.

When is Game of Thrones Season 7 release date?

<strong><em>Game of Thrones</em></strong> Season 7 Release Date

Over the past six seasons, there have been three things Game of Thrones fans have come to depend on. Each season will debut in either late March or sometime in April, each season will be 10 episodes long, and, in Westeros, "winter is coming." Those three aspects will change in Season 7, all because winter is finally here. Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss confirmed this week that Game of Thrones Season 7 will be delayed, because the production now demands "grim, grey weather, even in the sunnier places we shoot." Filming is believed to begin sometime this month, which could mean the show may debut in May for the first time ever. As for the 10 episode seasons, that leads us into our next item.

Game of Thrones Season 7 will be only be 7 episodes long

<strong><em>Game of Thrones</em></strong> season 7

It wasn't a surprise when, just before Season 6 debuted, HBO issued a renewal for Season 7. Surprisingly, though, the network didn't confirm how many episodes this season will feature. As Season 6 was winding down, director Jack Bender revealed in an interview that Season 7 will only be seven episodes long, when asked if he would return to direct an episode next season. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have since confirmed that both Season 7, and the final installment, Season 8, will be shorter, although they wouldn't confirm how long each season will be. The running theory is that Season 7 will be seven episodes long, with the final season clocking in at just six episodes to close out the series, which may or may not be confirmed during the show's Comic-Con panel in just a few weeks.

How many seasons has Game Of Thrones been renewed for?

Daenerys from the East

Officially, the answer is seven, but David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have since confirmed multiple times that the show will end with Season 8. As we mentioned before, both Season 7 and Season 8 will be much shorter than the standard 10-episode seasons, but aside from the network's Season 7 renewal, the network hasn't confirmed any further details, including each season's episode count and possible premiere dates. With that being said, there has also been talk of prequel series' as well, with George R.R. Martin himself hinting in the past that the network has expressed interest in developing his prequel novellas, which follow Westeros characters named Dunk and Egg, set roughly 100 years before the events of the flagship books and series.

Julian Roman