In an announcement that comes as a surprise to absolutely no one, Entertainment Weekly has revealed that HBO will not be sending out advance episodes of Game of Thrones season 7 for critics to review. Color us beige.
The network used to send out advance episodes all the time, but that changed after season 5, when HBO gave the first four episodes to critics and they somehow made their way onto the internet. To keep that from happening again, it didn’t give out anything for season 6, so it’s no surprise that its following suit for season 7.
As EW points out, it’s pretty rare for dramas not to send out screener episodes. (Just recently, HBO sent critics six of the seven episodes in The Leftovers’ final season.) But if any show can get away with it, it’s Game of Thrones. What are critics going to do? Not cover the most popular show on the planet because they can’t see it before everyone else?
Sometimes, movie studios won’t let critics see films ahead of time because they know the movies are terrible and don’t want there to be bad reviews on opening weekend. I wouldn’t worry about that happening to Game of Thrones. After all, season 6 was a pretty rollicking success, and HBO has good reasons to be wary of potential leaks. Hell, even without screeners, the fifth episode of season 6 still leaked out beforehand. We’ll all take the plunge together on July 16.