Game of Thrones fans: There's good news and bad news. The good news is that HBO has finally confirmed when the final six episodes of Season 8 will return. The bad news is that it's not until next year. As rumored, suspected, and then accidentally leaked by Sophie Turner last month, Game of Thrones Season 8 will air in 2019.
A lovely irony that this announcement arrived today, when most of the US is currently experiencing a massive cold snap that's been going on since New Year's Day. The Polar Vortex has meant that even places that don't usually see snow and ice, like Florida and Texas, have been shoveling their way out. (Or on Facebook frantically asking the northerners what in heavens name one does when this stuff falls from the sky.)
Add to that the hilariously named "Bomb Cyclone" that's currently pounding the east coast, causing temperatures to shatter previous records for the coldest day ever, and we truly are in the midst of winter's arrival. With many huddled at home, with cars refusing to start, public transportation crippled from the frozen tracks and streets, and the heating bill rising ever higher, and what better thing to think of than Winter and the Army of the Dead taking Westeros by storm.
Of course, they're also announcing it now to give all their actors something to talk about on the Golden Globes red carpet this coming Sunday. Congrats, cast, you all have exactly one talking point. Everything else is off limits. And....go!
So when will Game of Thrones arrive in 2019? Well, we don't have that answer yet. Personally I'm still banking on the return being as soon as 2019 starts. After all, with six seasons running every spring, and Winter arriving in Summer last year, the only thing that HBO hasn't done is take advantage of the seasons and actually bring man's final stand against Winter and the Night King's Army to time with Winter's arrival here.
Besides, HBO wants to air Game of Thrones where there is as little competition as possible. That might seem strange to fans. Game of Thrones is the most popular show there is, when you're that giant of a show, you can sit anywhere on the schedule, right? Well yes, but Game of Thrones also currently holds a record that HBO is fiercely proud of: Audience Viewership has risen every single year for seven years running. No show in history of the medium has done that.
Moreover, viewership has risen every single year at a time when most returning shows lose audience share year to year, simply due to the changing landscape of how we consume media. HBO would like very much for Season 8 to finish off that trend.
Therefore, logic dictates that the best place to put the premiere is someplace with zero competition: the dead of January. There's literally nothing to compete against on Sunday night for the first two weeks. Around mid-January, PBS kicks in with its Sunday night Masterpiece Theater offering, which currently is ITV's Victoria, but the audience overlap for that isn't that large.
The only competition Game of Thrones would face if they went with a Jan. 6, 2019 debut would come five weeks in, on Feb. 3, when the Superbowl happens. But that's actually easy to get around. If HBO waits a week, they then have a clear two week space to air the final episodes of the series, with the Oscars coming the weekend after. It's perfect.
Of course, this is all speculation. HBO could be terrible and make us wait all the way until mid-May to start airing the last six episodes. But no one could be that cruel, right?
Game of Thrones returns to HBO in 2019. Until then, settle in with your hot cocoa and keep warm by the fire. It's going to be a long winter.