The Game of Thrones Final Seasons Almost Went in a Very Different Direction

HBO's former parent company AT&T apparently had some unusual plans for the Game of Thrones ending.

Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) stands over her army in Game of Thrones season 8
Photo: HBO

The Game of Thrones finale, and really the entire final season, are still incredibly divisive among fans. From controversial character arcs to the infamous dark episode, there has been plenty for people to complain about for the last five years. However, according to a Wall Street Journal profile (via Variety) of series creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the ending of Game of Thrones could have been much, much worse.

Originally, Benioff and Weiss wanted to film the finale as a film trilogy rather than spread it out over the 13 episodes that comprise the seventh and eighth seasons, but HBO’s owners at the time, AT&T, weren’t too crazy about that idea. Apparently, these executives had other ideas for how to best get the epic ending to this years’ long story to viewers. 

One such idea was filming the show “vertically so it would fit on your phone.” The other concept that was “openly discussed” by AT&T (who purchased then HBO owner Time Warner in late 2016) was “the idea of snackable mini-episodes of the series.”

For those of us who are chronically online, these ideas likely feel eerily reminiscent of the short-lived streaming service Quibi, whose entire premise was creating “quick bites” of video content, including TV shows, that were specifically meant to be viewed on a phone. Surprisingly, this streaming service brought in a number of talented actors to its projects like Maika Monroe (It Follows), Dane DeHaan (Chronicle), Liam Hemsworth, and Will Forte. 

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But despite having so many familiar faces and some mildly promising concepts for shows, Quibi shut down only six months after it launched. It’s almost as if people want to watch TV shows on a television, or at least have the option to.

Whether you enjoy the final seasons or not, imagining the epic finale of Game of Thrones confined to the dimensions of a smartphone and/or cut down into “snackable” episodes is wild to think about. But using food metaphors to talk about television is unfortunately the kind of thing that happens when you have corporations and multi-conglomerates trying to commodify an artform.

According to Benioff, the corporate turnover and “dysfunction” they experienced with HBO is one reason why they sought out other studios once their contract was up. In the WSJ profile, he says “When you sign a five-year deal with a company, you want that company to be stable so you can be left alone to do your work and not have to worry about it being bought by the phone company. Finding the smoothest ride in the ocean was key.”

Thankfully, HBO has avoided becoming Quibi (at least for now) and the version of Game of Thrones that AT&T envisioned never saw the light of day. For everything that Benioff and Weiss may have missed the mark on with Game of Thrones, according to fans, they at least pushed back against this. They may not have gotten the film trilogy they hoped for, but had AT&T gotten their way, the epic finale could have aired as 150 or so five-minute videos.