Seven episodes. That’s all fans of HBO’s Game of Thrones get in 2017. The song of ice and fire is building to a crescendo, and without George R.R. Martin’s volumes of guidance, showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss are barreling through the outline given to them by the author. But fewer episodes doesn’t have to mean less storytelling, if you just extend each episode.
Now The Telegraph is reporting the season premiere of Game of Thrones will be its longest opening episode since the pilot. Clocking in at 59 minutes, the yet unnamed episode is longer than the average episode by four minutes. That might not sound like much until you realize most of the most memorable scenes throughout the series take place in those extra minutes. So far, nine episodes have run over an hour: ‘Winter is Coming’ (Season 1, Episode 1), ‘Valar Morghulis’ (Season 2, Episode 10), ‘Mhysa’ (Season 3, Episode 10), ‘The Children’ (Season 4, Episode 10), ‘High Sparrow’ (Season 5, Episode 3), ‘Hardhome’ (Season 5, Episode 8), ‘Mother’s Mercy’ (Season 5, Episode 10), ‘Battle of the Bastards’ (Season 6, Episode 9), and ‘The Winds of Winter’ (Season 6, Episode 10). With a few exceptions, these episodes happen latter in their respective seasons.
What does this mean? Possibly nothing. But humans are creatures of habit, and if habit says HBO tends to increase episode length as a season wears on, it’s easy to guess later installments this year will rival ‘The Winds of Winter’ in length. The longest episode to date, the season 6 finale had a runtime of 69 minutes. With only two years left to finish telling their version of Martin’s tale, it wouldn’t shock me if we end up with 75-80 minute runtimes before everything is said and done.