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'Game of Thrones' to end (maybe) in 2017

Sean Bean portrays Lord Eddard "Ned" Stark in

Sean Bean portrays Lord Eddard "Ned" Stark in a scene from the HBO series "Game of Thrones." Credit: AP

"Game of Thrones," a TV classic even midway through its run, will likely end at seven seasons, the showrunners told Vanity Fair in the April cover story. That would mean -- maybe -- a 2017 wrap.

Unless ... HBO plays what now seems to be a favored game of splitting final seasons in two, all the better to stretch them out (my dear...).

At least that's been AMC's modus ... it's not exactly an HBO one.

David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, series showrunners, told Vanity Fair contributing writer Jim Windolf that they also now know from master of the "GoT" universe, George R. R. Martin, how the saga ends. Martin says the same thing to Jim.

Here are key quotes provided by Vanity Fair:

“It doesn’t just keep on going because it can,” Weiss says. “I think the desire to milk more out of it is what would eventually kill it, if we gave in to that.”

“Last year we went out to Santa Fe for a week to sit down with him [Martin] and just talk through where things are going, because we don’t know if we are going to catch up and where exactly that would be. If you know the ending, then you can lay the groundwork for it. And so we want to know how everything ends. We want to be able to set things up. So we just sat down with him and literally went through every character.” Martin tells Windolf, “I can give them the broad strokes of what I intend to write, but the details aren’t there yet. I’m hopeful that I can not let them catch up with me.”

By the way, seven often is a magic number for series because that's often the length of contracts that key actors sign. It's effectively a security blanket for both network and show, kinowing that the headliners are attached if the series is a success. Of course, many shows bite the dust long before they ever reach seven -- and "GoT" isn't necessarily a book or TV series predicated on the health and longevity of key protagonists, is it? Will Peter Dinklage -- Tyrion Lannister -- be here for the long haul? If King George deems that he be, sure. (And remember that death is not always forever in Westeros.)

It should also be noted here that these are just words -- HBO and showrunners could also decide to opt for an eighth season if they reasonably feel like there's more story to tell and strrretching it one more year wouldn't be a travesty to either fans or Martin's opus (Martin is an executive producer, by the way.)

So theoretically, "GoT" could even end in 2018 (or '19!).

No reason, in other words, to begin planning your finale viewing parties right now.

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