When HBO look back on season 7 of Game Of Thrones they probably don't see a security failure or a show ruined by spoilers - they'll see the strange, alluring power that leaked episodes and spoiler-talk can have on a TV show. They're in a strong position, after all, having seen the leaks (both internal and from a malevolent third party) actually increase the show's popularity.
But the final season of the show will be different, if the makers manage to pull off their agenda of secrecy.
As one of their methods of controlling information around the final six episodes, HBO are planning on filming multiple endings to throw snoopers, paparazzi and over-zealous extras off the scent of the storylines. According to HBO president Casey Bloys - who appeared for a talk at Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA last week (via The Morning Call), they're filming four different versions of the final episode.
“I know in Game of Thrones, the ending, they’re going to shoot multiple versions so that nobody really knows what happens. You have to do that on a long show. Because when you’re shooting something, people know. So they’re going to shoot multiple versions so that there’s no real definitive answer until the end.”
So that's why we only get 6 episodes. Because four extra fake ones are being made.
This isn't unprecedented in Thrones history: Kit Harington has previously revealed that he had filmed more than 15 hours of additional scenes that never made it to the light of day to combat online spoilers. And since it's worked before (even with LOTS of legitimate spoilers hitting the net), it makes sense that they'd do it again.
Hopefully, they'll also try and amp up their security and internal processes a little better too, to stop the final six episodes leaking or being stolen ahead of release. Because if there's one thing this show deserves in its final run, it's the ceremony of the community watching together live.
And if we're all REALLY lucky, hopefully HBO might release all four final episodes as part of the home release? PLEASE?!