The seventh season of Game of Thrones (coming July 16th) was pushed back several months due to a production schedule that needed to revolve around winter, but the eighth season may be pushed back even further, for vaguer reasons.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, HBO programming chief Casey Bloys hinted that the eighth season (only six episodes long) might not air until 2019. Discussing why showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss aren’t going to be involved in any spinoff series in a major way, Bloys said, “By the time the final season airs, Dan and David will have been at this for 12 years.” Though Weiss and Benioff first met Martin in 2006, HBO didn’t order the pilot of Game of Thrones until November 2008, and production didn’t begin until October 2009. It’s not clear where Bloys is measuring from, but to me the math looks a little depressing.
The interviewer then asked, more explicitly, “So as of now, the final season could air in 2018 and / or in 2019 depending on their needs?” To which Bloys responded, “Yeah. They have to write the episodes and figure out the production schedule. We’ll have a better sense of that once they get further into the writing.” It’s pretty vague, but it certainly implies that HBO has given Benioff and Weiss permission to take their time.
Though a Westeros-free 2018 would obviously disappoint Game of Thrones fans who can no longer fathom a summer without the show (me, too!), it’s possible that it’s... a good thing. Bloys hinted that the network still hasn’t determined how many Game of Thrones spinoffs it’s going to make (there are five in the very early stages of development), or when they would air, but they aren’t concerned about moving quickly: “Making Game of Thrones as good as possible is the No. 1 goal, and then we’ll see about these scripts. You’re not going to see a situation where the next show in the Thrones universe launches off the back of this one.”
He frames this pacing as an act of deference to Game of Thrones, making sure it gets “the sendoff” it deserves. But pushing the final season back would also give HBO more time to get its ducks in a row there, avoiding having to rush something new to screen. As they learned the first time around, a fiercely devoted fan base is also an incredibly critical one.
There are obvious questions to ask about how George R.R. Martin’s still-unfinished A Song of Ice and Fire series plays into this decision as well. The showrunners have known the major story beats and the gist of the ending for years, and Martin has often made a point of saying that the show and the books are two separate works, meant to be enjoyed on their own merits — but would he really want HBO to get the first stab at presenting the most anxiously awaited conclusion of a fantasy series in recent memory?
Though many fans believed the penultimate, sixth book in the series Winds of Winter would be released before HBO got to air season 6, it didn’t happen. They then revised that estimate to a release date preceding season 7, but it’s obvious that’s not going to happen either, and Martin has confirmed it several times on his personal blog. But some fans have speculated that Martin is working on the sixth and seventh books simultaneously, so that the gap between their release dates might be significantly narrower than those between previous installments. (It’s been nearly six years since volume five, A Dance with Dragons.) Pushing season 8 to 2019 could allow at least one of the books come out before the show drops all its end-game bombshells. There’s absolutely no way to know, Martin hasn’t so much as hinted at it, but I’m just trying to offer you a small comfort here.
Anyway, you may be waiting until 2019 for the end of Game of Thrones. I’m sorry.