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According to an interview with Game of Thrones writers:

BENIOFF: HBO would have been happy for the show to keep going, to have more episodes in the final season. We always believed it was about 73 hours, and it will be roughly that. As much as they wanted more, they understood that this is where the story ends.

To me this seems bizarre, as normally one would expect that screenwriters are extremely easy to replace and would therefore have pretty much zero power to override a decision by TV executives. So why couldn't HBO executives ignore the opinion of the screenwriters and push for more GoT seasons, if they so wished? Was there perhaps a clause in their contract with George R. Martin that prevented this?

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    They are more than just screenwriters ... they are the showrunners, responsible for the entire hugely successful show. Replacing them and expecting it to go smoothly would not have been trivial. – iandotkelly May 20 at 21:00
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    Answer in answers (and support your claims with evidence), not in comments. – V2Blast May 21 at 10:35
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Napoleon Wilson May 23 at 15:37
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First of all, David Benioff and Daniel Weiss are not only the writers of the show - they are its creators and showrunners, meaning they have a lot more influence than mere writers.

Apart from this, the source material comes from the independent author George R. R. Martin (also co-executive producer of the show), who put his full trust in them, and seemed accepting of the outcome of their free reign:

George’s willingness to pull back his level of involvement is commendable for an author. The level of trust he puts in David and Dan is incredible, given his lack of a final say over the product. Many authors will want total and complete control over their work, but George, having worked in TV in the past, understands the limitations of adaptation.
source

As he has not yet written an end to his own storyline*, this has affected the plot and duration of the TV series:

  • The first four seasons of Game of Thrones were written in conjunction with Martin, after which he "stepped down from writing episodes of the series" (more on that here), because of two reasons:

    • Martin's storytelling would take longer than planned, as he decided that he didn't want the five years gap in his books he initially had planned on:

      After the first major plot arc resolved in the third book, A Storm of Swords (seasons 3 and 4), Martin planned to skip the story ahead five years. But he couldn't make the gap in action feel true to the characters or the world, so he eventually decided to write his way through those five years instead.
      Soon, [Martin's] garden was overgrown, the projected length of the series kept expanding, and the books stopped coming.
      source

    • All the while, the televised series started to catch up on the source material:

      So it wasn’t until 2014, ahead of that fourth season (covering the back half of book three), that concerns about Martin’s books being left in the dust began to really take root. “I’m hopeful that I can not let them catch up with me,” Martin said in an interview with Vanity Fair at the time, hoping the show would spend a fifth, sixth, and seventh season adapting books four and five, by which time he would have finished book six, for another season or two of breathing room. The idea was that he might get A Dream of Spring done before the show got its say.

      Martin’s mindset here is revealing: in his mind, the show was going to run far longer than it actually did, telling a story at the same level of detail as the previous seasons, and as his novels. After all, that’s how the first seasons worked, and he’d always had the time to progress at his own rate.

      Obviously, that wasn’t the case, and following season 4, Game of Thrones started to blitz through Martin’s remaining source material. Season 5 ate up most of the plot of A Feast for Crows and A Dance With Dragons, largely by sticking to the action and avoiding some of Martin’s more meandering plots. And while Martin tried to get The Winds of Winter out before the sixth season of the show surpassed the novels, he simply couldn’t hit the deadline.
      source

  • The final season had its own specific problems: Benioff, Weiss and Martin tried hard to keep the ending of the series distinct from that in the books, and had sketched the final season years beforehand:

    • The final season had been discussed with Martin in advance, to prevent similarities between the TV series and the as of yet unwritten books, so as to not spoil the books for future readers:

      How much of this season is from discussing the ending with George R.R. Martin?

      BENIOFF: [The concern] used to be that the books would spoil the show for people — and luckily it did not, for the most part. Now that the show is ahead of the books, it seems the show could ruin the books for people. So one thing we’ve talked to George about is that we’re not going to tell people what the differences are, so when those books come out people can experience them fresh.
      source

    • Those discussions concerning the final season had already taken place years beforehand, determining an overall structure:

      How long have you known the broad strokes of the final season storyline?

      BENIOFF: I remember the two of us talking in season 3.

      WEISS: We’ve known the major beats for at least five years. [..] The motivations behind each scene are something you’ve been thinking about for five years.
      source

  • All of that lead to Benioff and Weiss having to fill in the gaps of the rest of the series - manoeuvring between the source material and conversations with G. R. R. Martin, plausible story arcs between the two (semi-)fixed points at the beginning and the ending, and the demands a TV show and its fans had.
    This all

    left Benioff and Weiss in their own, uncharted waters. The show had to go on, and while they could work with Martin as much as they could, they were going to be the ones to pen the ending, especially after Martin stepped down from writing episodes of the series after season 4.

    Part of the problem was simply in what George R.R. Martin has given the showrunners. Per Martin’s own admission, Benioff and Weiss “know certain things. I’ve told them certain things. So they have some knowledge, but the devil is in the details. I can give them the broad strokes of what I intend to write, but the details aren’t there yet.” Simply put: Martin couldn’t help Game of Thrones stick the landing, because he himself wasn’t positive how he’d put the pieces together.
    source

    For the next couple seasons, showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss tried to take over management of Martin's sprawling garden, simplifying and combining character arcs with mixed results. Then, with the start of season 7, they shifted their focus from telling the unfolding story of an entire world to concluding a particular tale set within it. They gave themselves a fixed endpoint — 13 episodes to the finale, and no more.
    source

    Looked at through that lens, the inconsistency of the last few seasons — and season 8 in particular — makes a lot of sense. It’s practically a miracle that Benioff, Weiss, and the rest of the writers were able to give viewers anything resembling an ending at all, given their self-imposed time frame. Martin has been telling fans for years that good, rich drama takes time. And the show didn’t have enough of that time, given how it compressed the series’ conclusion.

    Game of Thrones still likely wouldn’t have run for a dozen seasons. Martin’s story is too complex and internal to fully fit on a screen. His dream of taking three seasons for books four and five was unrealistic. Compression was always coming for the story on Game of Thrones. The only question was whose story would be crammed into the time the show had left — Martin’s, or someone else’s.
    source

    Unlike Martin, Benioff & Weiss

    weren't trying to resolve every character arc or pay off every last bit of world-building. They knew the destination Martin had in mind, they understood the dots they had to connect to get there, and they wanted to maximize fan entertainment along the way. Then, presumably, they asked themselves questions. What big set pieces did they want to deliver? What surprises could rival the greatest twists of the show? Which of the remaining conflicts would yield the best drama, and which onscreen pairings would bring the most emotion? What did they think we, the audience, wanted to finally see before it was all over? It was a Game of Thrones bucket list. And once they had that list, they needed to maneuver the characters into place.
    source

So, ultimately, apart from being the showrunners and creators, David Benioff and Daniel Weiss had the most possible insight into the source material, had an idea of the ending based on that knowledge years ahead, and had discussed at length the ramifications and consequences of their show with George Martin.

As a side note, I can't find anything on contractual or other obligations towards Martin.


* Even though "Actor Ian McElhinney, who played Barristan Selmy on Game of Thrones, claimed (falsely, it appears) at a convention called Epic Con back in April that Martin has already completed the final two books, and he agreed to wait and publish them after the show finished". Martin reacted negatory.

2

One likely reason is that their (D&D's) hands are full. From Vulture.com:

As it stands today, the future of the show is apparently in the hands of Benioff and Weiss, whose hands are, as we mentioned, extremely full of Star Wars movies. “The delay has to do with [the fact] that they were offered three movies,” Bloys explained to TVLine. “It’s hard to say to someone, ‘You can’t go do Star Wars.’ They love it. It’s a childhood dream. They’ll go do that, remember why they love television and come back.”

Replacing them is no option as they seem to be part of HBO's long term strategy. Indeed, in an interview with tvline.com, HBO's network president Casey Bloys said:

“Dan and David are finishing up the final season [of Game of Thrones] and then they are going to go into the Star Wars universe,” Bloys told TVLine Friday. “When they come out of that, I assume they will come back to us.”

Also in the meantime, it seems D&D are running Confederate, from the same tvline article:

In July, Bloys said that the duo’s deal with Disney (which owns the Star Wars franchise) would mean “no change” for Confederate, the hour-long, sci-fi drama that caused controversy when it HBO greenlit it in July 2017.

  • "Replacing them is no option" - that's the part I'm confused about. Couldn't you just hire a different team of screenwriters and carry on? – JonathanReez Supports Monica May 31 at 21:11
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    @JonathanReez HBO seems to be very taken with them. They seem to want to have them on their team for other and future projects too, kicking them off probably won't be helpful in such a relationship. – JJJ May 31 at 21:16
  • @JonathanReez .... you seem very focused on the screenwriter part of their role. They are showrunners - a role with overall management and creative responsibility. They created the show. Possibly their contractual relationship with HBO give them essentially "ownership" of the creative direction of the show. The show until this last season or so has been hugely popular and successful in the realm of awards. – iandotkelly Jun 2 at 14:42

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