Sophie Turner, Aidan Gillen

Unlike most of its characters, Game Of Thrones will live to see at least seven seasons, and potentially more if HBO’s president of programming Michael Lombardo has his druthers. In HBO’s executive session at the Television Critics Association Press Tour, Lombardo said the widely circulated seven-season lifespan was never a conversation at HBO, where they’re happy to let creators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff sew direwolf heads onto human bodies for pretty much as long as they damn well please.

“Seven seasons and out has never been the conversation,” said Lombardo, though he conceded Weiss and Benioff have imagined concluding the series after a sixth and seventh season. “It’s just a question about how much more after seven they want to do. We’d love to have them change their minds, but I think [two more seasons is] what we’re looking at right now.” Lombardo said a prequel series is also on the table, depending on interest from Weiss, Benioff, and George R.R. Martin, though no conversations have taken place.

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Rival premium network Showtime has repeatedly shown the dangers of extending a hit series beyond its natural lifespan, but Lombardo is rightfully bullish about Game Of Thrones, which Lombardo said peaked at 20 million viewers per episode in season five, up a million viewers over season four.

[SEASON FIVE SPOILERS AHOY]

Lombardo also responded to the backlash over the show’s brutality, and specifically its depictions of violence against women. The cultural conversation around that issue peaked in season five following the horrific events of “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken,” the second time Weiss and Benioff elected to shoehorn in a rape scene that is absent from Martin’s A Song Of Ice And Fire novels. Even Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill jumped into the fray, vowing to swear off the show following the controversial episode. Lombardo defended the show and its creators with a similar argument to the one made in about 700 backlash-to-the-backlash think pieces.

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“I certainly have seen some articles with respect to Sansa, but from the beginning of this show, we saw a 7-year-old boy pushed from a tower,” Lombardo said. “There are no two showrunners who are more careful about not stepping over what they think the line is. I support them fully artistically.”

Lombardo’s unqualified creative support of Weiss and Benioff presumably extends to the death of Jon Snow (Kit Harington). When asked if Jon could have possibly survived the team stabbing, Lombardo missed the opportunity to say “I know nothing about Jon Snow” and instead answered the question directly. “From everything I’ve seen heard and read, Jon Snow is indeed dead,” Lombardo said, though he’d probably be open to seeing the character return in season 11.