At last, HBO has confirmed the long-speculated news that its flagship hit series Game of Thrones is taking a year off. The Emmy-winning sensation won’t be back for its final season until 2019.
“It’s official: @GameOfThrones will return for its six-episode, eighth and final season in 2019,” the network tweeted Thursday.
The revelation means fans will have a longer-than-ever wait for the fantasy drama which has grown its ratings year after year into one of the most popular shows in the world and HBO’s biggest hit of all time.
EW was first to report that GoT might skip 2018 last summer after the show’s showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss explained they planned to spend a year and a half crafting the show’s final episodes in an effort to make the final hours as spectacular and satisfying as possible (the eighth season, currently in production, is expected to film until this summer). Then HBO programming chief Casey Bloys confirmed to us that a 2019 date was indeed possible. Since then, star Sophie Turner let slip in a recent interview that she didn’t expect show to come back until next year either.
The delay makes sense for non-creative reasons, as well. As the biggest hit in HBO’s history, one that the subscription service hoped to continue for additional seasons, keeping the show around awhile long isn’t a bad thing. Also, with season 7 contending for Emmy awards in 2018 due to its summer launch last year, HBO can focus its GoT promotional efforts on its Emmy campaign rather than launching a new season. The move also clears a path for the network’s other lavishly produced and acclaimed genre hit, Westworld, which returns for its second season this year after taking its own two-year break.
WATCH: The Ultimate Game of Thrones Travel Guide
So now that we know what year GoT will return, the question becomes: Which month in 2019 will Game of Thrones air? After all, it makes a rather huge difference for fans if the show premieres on Jan. 1 vs. Dec. 31.
The next question is when, exactly, GoT will return — after all, a final season airing Jan. 1, 2019 is a rather different for fans than one airing Dec. 31, 2019. HBO is silent on that front. But given that the network opted to air GoT in the spring every year until a longer-than-usual production schedule pushed season 7 to last summer, a return to a spring launch seems logical.
The final season will also defintiely be only six episodes as previously reported. While some episodes may be longer than usual, once again we’re hearing not to expect feature-length episodes throughout the season.
The GoT pushback also gives author George R.R. Martin more runway to potentially release the next book in his A Song of Ice and Fire series, The Winds of Winter, which he teased last summer might be ready in 2018. Given that Martin plans one final book in the series, A Dream of Spring, the HBO series is still expected to reveal its ending of the series before Martin’s version hits bookstores.
As for the final season’s content, so far the GoT team has managed to keep a lid on spoilers with unprecedented behind-the-scenes security. Yet former Thrones actor Jason Momoa was recently visiting the set and teased to EW: “It’s going to be the greatest thing that’s ever aired on TV. It’s going to be unbelievable. It’s going to f— up a lot of people.”