When Will ‘Game of Thrones’ Come Back? It Might Return Later Than Expected

Arya and Sansa Winterfell Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones | HBO

Winter is coming…next summer.

No official premiere date has yet been announced for the highly-anticipated final season of Game of Thrones, but fans had widely assumed it would be released around April or earlier. However, we’re now receiving word that the wait might be even longer than we thought.

Recently, Game of Thrones‘ visual effects supervisor, Joe Bauer, spoke with The Huffington Post about the final season, giving away more than he probably was supposed to. While talking about the Emmys, Bauer teased that Game of Thrones Season 8 would not be eligible until 2020’s ceremony.

Any show that airs the majority of its episodes prior to May 31st, 2019 will be eligible at the 2019 Emmys. So if Game of Thrones won’t be eligible until 2020, that means the majority of the final season’s episodes will air after May 31st.

Considering Season 8 will consist of six episodes, based on what Bauer said, the absolute earliest possible premiere date for Game of Thrones‘ final season would be Sunday, May 12th. If it came back any earlier, that would mean the majority of the episodes would air prior to May 31st and the show would, therefore, be eligible at the 2019 Emmys. But Bauer also said that the visual effects artists would be “toiling away on Season 8 until May of 2019,” making it more likely that the season won’t start until the end of May or the beginning of June.

However, we shouldn’t necessarily take Bauer’s word for it. Strangely, Entertainment Weekly is now reporting the complete opposite of what Bauer said: that all of the Season 8 episodes will air prior to the May 31st cutoff.

“There have been reports over the weekend claiming the show’s return has been ‘delayed’ to mid-2019 making it not eligible for Emmys until 2020,” EW reported today. “Rest assured, ‘first half of 2019’ means exactly that, and HBO expects the show will air all its episodes in time for the 2019 Emmy eligibility cut off.”

Game of Thrones Jon Snow walks with Gendry and others

Game of Thrones | HBO

When that article references the first half of 2019, it’s talking about HBO Programming President Casey Bloys’ comment last month that the final season would be airing sometime in the first half of next year. It sounds like that will still be the case no matter what, but we’re now receiving some mixed information about how close to the end of that first half of the year Season 8 will begin airing.

Whatever the premiere date is, it’s not as if HBO is just holding on to the completed episodes as a way of milking the show’s popularity as long as possible. This is an extremely visual effects-centric show, and the final season is likely going to be particularly heavy on the massive battles and dragon CGI. In fact, there’s even the possibility that the episodes could be feature-length. So when you consider the fact that the Game of Thrones crew has to essentially complete the visual effects for six movies, nine more months doesn’t seem like a very long wait at all.

This schedule does also work out for HBO, as the network has a lot to offer in 2019 and would certainly want to spread out the releases to keep subscribers with them for the full year. We just learned that True Detective will return for its third season in January, and sometime after that, Big Little Lies will return for its second season. Some footage from those new seasons was shown off in a recent HBO promo, and in fact, a few seconds of footage from Game of Thrones Season 8 was slipped in there, although it was nothing major: just a quick shot of Jon hugging Sansa that could have easily been taken from an earlier episode.