With only 13 episodes left until Game of Thrones leaves our screens forever (or at least until the spinoffs arrive), you can’t blame us for wanting to savor every bloody minute in Westeros we have left.
Which is why everyone is currently freaking out over the Telegraph‘s eagle-eyed observation that the Season 7 premiere will be 59 minutes in length, at least according to a listing on HBO’s online schedule.
Because this is 2017 on the internet, the headline is unabashedly hyperbolic while 59 minutes is on the longer end of the scale for a season opener, it’s not the show’s longest premiere ever. Thrones‘ very first episode is still its lengthiest season premiere clocking in at 62 minutes, according to HBO’s listings while the Season 4 premiere, “Two Swords,” is also listed at 59 minutes.
Of course, we don’t know if the cut of episode 701 is still being edited ahead of its July 16 premiere it’s not unusual for installments to be tweaked even days before they air but given that this season is only seven episodes instead of the usual 10, it wouldn’t be out of the question for showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss to give fans a little extra bang for their buck. In previous seasons, episode lengths have varied from 50 minutes to almost 70, averaging around 55.
There’s some evidence to support the idea that we might get more supersized episodes in Season 7. As WinterIsComing.net pointed out a few months ago, some cast members have hinted that despite Season 7 being shorter than previous seasons, they still filmed for the same length of time that production usually takes to film 10 episodes, with Maisie Williams noting, “We only have seven episodes this time. But were shooting for just as long, so theres just as much content.”
Does that really mean the producers have 10 episodes’ worth of material to cram into only seven installments? Unlikely perhaps the production is simply more complicated because of the epic battle scenes that were teased in the Season 7 trailer, which promise to be every bit as elaborate as the show’s previous skirmishes in “Battle of the Bastards” and “Hardhome.”
But it’s a safe bet that the Season 7 finale will be the longest of the season every finale since the Season 1 closer (which was a svelte 53 minutes) has been over an hour long, with the most recent Season 6 finale, “Winds of Winter,” standing as the show’s longest episode to date at 68 minutes, closely followed by the Season 4 finale, “The Children” (66 minutes).
And a lot of shows have been utilizing supersized episodes of late AMC’s The Walking Dead regularly pushed past its hourlong timeslot for extended episodes in Season 7, as did FX’s Legion during its freshman run. On basic and premium cable networks when primetime shows don’t have to throw to local newscasts airing at 11, there’s more flexibility for showrunners to experiment with longer run times.
But why all the fuss about a couple of extra minutes? Because they add up, and some of Thrones‘ most spectacular moments have come during an episode’s final minutes.
Usually, TV fans aren’t too concerned with an episode’s length, but when it comes to Game of Thrones, which encourages obsessive speculation into the vague reflections that can be glimpsed in a White Walker’s eye and mathematical equations about a dragon’s wingspan, every second counts.
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