Appropriately, raising the show about fantasy espionage and murder to this seemingly untouchable position can only mean that it's about to get cut down in its prime, thanks to a series of inescapable problems looming on the horizon like a shambling horde of White Walkers that both George R.R. Martin and HBO seem as content to ignore as the people of King's Landing.
#4. They're Running Out of Books
Seasons 3 and 4 of Game of Thrones were primarily a split-up version of A Storm of Swords, Martin's third book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. (Seasons 1 and 2 knocked out the first two books.) The end of Season 4 also covered some material from the fourth book, A Feast for Crows. Now, although A Song of Ice and Fire is projected to eventually be seven books long, only five of those books have been written, and the show has already covered four of them. That means we have roughly one and a half more books of story left (two stretched-out seasons at most) before all of America unanimously turns to Martin and politely coughs. When questioned about this in interviews, both Martin and the show's producers have been breezily optimistic, because two seasons of show should be plenty of time for Martin to fart out a sixth book, right?
Actually, it took Martin six goddamn years to write the last one, and that came out in 2011. He spent five years apiece on each previous novel in the series, meaning that at best the sixth book will be out sometime in 2016, and at worst it will be out sometime in "Who the hell knows?" which was literally the projected release date Martin gave back in 2011. Even he doesn't know when the fuck that book is going to come out.
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He was 19 when the first book was released.
Even if by some miracle (granted by the enchanted amulet he no doubt keeps hidden beneath his longshoreman's cap) Martin manages to heave out the sixth book in time for a 2016 photo finish, that still doesn't factor in the yearlong production schedule that each season of Game of Thrones requires. That means the soonest we'd see Season 6 would be 2018, and then we'd have to wait another five fucking years for Martin to put out the seventh book, putting the series finale somewhere in the realm of 2023.
So what exactly is going to happen? Not only does no one seem to have any idea, but no one involved in the production seems to be overly concerned, as the possibilities range everywhere from taking a really long hiatus to George R.R. Martin's suggestion of creating a totally unrelated mid-series to shift to some of his other books and novellas in the Game of Thrones universe, because what every Game of Thrones fan absolutely wants is another 1,000 character names to futilely try to memorize.
"If The Walking Dead can get a season and a half out of the prison, we can get 10 episodes out of Arya on a boat."
#3. It's in Danger of Collapsing Under Its Own Production Costs
This may seem hard to believe, but a fantastical story about lavishly dressed warriors battling mythological creatures across impossible landscapes of imagination costs a shrieking amount of money to produce. Game of Thrones carried a $60 million price tag for its first season alone, an amount that increased 15 percent in the second season after it became clear that cutting away from sprawling battle sequences and just having the characters discuss how epic they were in the aftermath only serves to piss your audience off. As fans demanded more, so did the show's production, which spans from Belfast to Croatia to Iceland to accommodate the story's numerous exotic locations.
Take the Battle of Blackwater, an epic $8 million sea-and-land explosion-laden battle sequence so expensive and elaborate that they almost didn't film it (which would've resulted in Tyrion and Bronn standing around a table and saying, "Gosh, that Battle of Blackwater sure was crazy, as anyone who failed to witness it for themselves will surely be able to glean from both our current conversation and the many references we will make to it in the future").
"I can't believe Thor, Sauron, Conan, and Jack Sparrow all showed up. No one's ever going to see something that incredible again."
And before they could take a breath, the giant-size budget of the recent "Watchers on the Wall" episode managed to ramp up the game of financial chicken by implementing elaborate battle sets surrounded by Europe's largest green screen backdrop. It's a gamble that will continue to pay off so long as the fans keep watching.
So what happens if they stop watching? Just look to HBO's other series about ancient incest and violence, Rome, which was cancelled shortly after clocking in at an impressive $100 million for 12 episodes, or roughly $3 million per naked boob (which is right around what a season of Game of Thrones currently costs). When Rome was cancelled in its second season, budget was the number one reason given, meaning that the moment we see a ratings dip in Game of Thrones is the moment we'll see either an immediate cancellation or people in dragon costumes making fireballs out of Bic lighters and mouthfuls of whiskey. And when do you think that ratings dip might happen? Probably right around the time they go on hiatus or start adapting George R.R. Martin's other stories to kill time until Book 6 comes out.
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"We're introducing the characters of House Pancake next season to get some of that sweet endorsement money."