Why 'Game of Thrones' Won't Return Until 2019

The final six episodes of the award-winning juggernaut are still more than a year away. Here's why.
Courtesy of HBO
'Game of Thrones'

Three full months have passed since the most recent episode of HBO's Game of Thrones, and the excruciating wait isn't going to get any easier.

At least one more full winter will pass until the winter of Westeros arrives one last time, as the final season of Thrones will not arrive until 2019. Production on the eighth and final season began in October and will reportedly run through August 2018 — a full year following the season seven finale, all but dashing any prospects for Thrones' arrival in the next calendar year.

"Our production people are trying to figure out a timeline for the shoot and how much time the special effects take," HBO programming president Casey Bloys told The Hollywood Reporter over the summer about the long wait between seasons of Thrones. "The shooting is complicated enough — on different continents, with all the technical aspects — and the special effects are a whole other production period that we're trying to figure out. That is a big factor in all of this."

He added, "As shows get bigger and more complicated, I have to follow the producers' lead and let go of, 'It'd be nice to have it every year.' They have to do the best show they can do. With bigger shows like Westworld or Game of Thrones, sometimes, if you want the big show and the big scope, it takes longer."

Of course, fans of George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire novels on which Game of Thrones is based are already well-versed in long waits between the adventures of Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and the rest of the Seven Kingdoms' inhabitants. Indeed, the book-reading portion of the fandom is still awaiting official confirmation on Martin's side of the story as to whether or not Lord Snow even survived his seemingly fatal stabbing at the hands of the Night's Watch — a plot twist that occurred near the end of book five, A Dance With Dragons, which was released in 2011 mere weeks after the first season finale of Thrones. By comparison, the wait between seasons seven and eight feels as significant as the Dorne storyline — which is to say, not very significant at all.

With that said, as the wait between seasons seven and eight stands to last longer than the year between the season six finale and season seven premiere, the episode count for the final season will be shorter than ever: only six episodes remain, with the veteran director lineup consisting of "Battle of the Bastards" helmer Miguel Sapochnik, Red Wedding mastermind David Nutter, and series creators David Benioff and Dan Weiss.

For his part, one of the show's actors already knows a thing or two about long waits between seasons of the show: Isaac Hempstead Wright, who plays Bran Stark, currently operating as the all-seeing mystic known as the Three-Eyed Raven. Bran reached the cave of the original Three-Eyed Raven at the end of season four, and was not seen again until season six. For his part, Hempstead Wright told THR this week that he doesn't feel his personal hiatus during season five gives him any special insight into what it must be like to wait for the next season of Thrones, nor does it prepare him for what it will feel like once the final six episodes have come and gone.

"When it actually finishes, it's going to hit hard," said the actor, speaking with THR in support of season seven's upcoming Blu-Ray release, which arrives Tuesday. "We won't experience it for a while, because we still have a lot of filming to do, and then there will be the whole whirlwind of the press, which will happen for a long time. I think it will be when we get to this time in 2019, when we're usually expecting the phone call organizing flights for the next season, that it will be very sad and it will be very real: This doesn't exist anymore. That's going to be an interesting transitional period. There will be so many glamorous [events] and all of these fireworks as we celebrate the ending of the show — and then all of the sudden, it will be nothing. And it will be sad."

As for when exactly in 2019 fans should expect the sad occasion of the final episodes of Game of Thrones, it's hard to imagine HBO missing out on the opportunity for a winter release, what with the easy "winter is here" branding victory — but as of now, there's no word, and there likely won't be until a live burst of dragon fire melts away an official release date, or some other similarly fiery affair. 

Follow THR.com/GameOfThrones for all coverage of the HBO fantasy series, including the "Winter Was Here" rewatch podcast hosted by Post Show Recaps.