Those who have stuck with Game of Thrones for seven seasons will know that it is unlikely to end happily.

With the eighth – and final – season beginning next year, the fantasy world's brutal winter has truly started and the White Walkers are on the march to the devastation of most of Westeros.

But even after seven years of grisly harbingers of death, even the most pessimistic viewers might not have expected an ending like that potentially revealed by HBO executive Francesca Orsi.

Speaking at the INTV conference in Israel Tuesday, the US network's senior vice-president of drama described the moment the cast read their scripts for the show's final episode for the first time. And it doesn't sound redemptive:

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None of the cast had received the scripts prior, and one by one they started to fall down to their deaths. By the end, the last few words on the final script, the tears just started falling down. Then there was applause that lasted 15 minutes.

Given that actors such as Kit Harington, Emilia Clarke and Maisie Williams are all still very much alive, Orsi is probably talking about the actors' characters – suggesting nobody ends up sitting on the sought-after Iron Throne after all.

Orsi described the reading as "a really powerful moment in our lives and our career". She's not the first person to discuss it: even the notoriously stringent gag clauses around Thrones' plot and scripts haven't stopped actors such as Williams from letting on clues. In January she said of the final episode "I don't know if it's gonna surprise people, but it's just different to what you think it's gonna be."

Clarke, meanwhile, said of reading the script: "About three hours later I arrived back home and I still hadn't taken it all in. I don't know if anyone's ready. I don't know if TV's ready." Harrington added that he "cried".

Orsi did, however, reveal grand plans for the numerous Thrones spin-off shows that HBO are planning – mainly, that they are not going to be sparing any expense.

She said: "$50 million (per season) would never fly for what we are trying to do. We are going big.

"It feels like corporate malfeasance to not continue it," Orsi added, saying that HBO is planning: "three, four, five spin-offs".

Game of Thrones series eight is expected to arrive in 2019.