If there’s one thing HBO has learned since first airing Game of Thrones, it’s that you can’t stop the spoilers. You can only hope to contain them.
The pay-TV titan has done a lot over the years to protect the secrecy of its crown jewel. HBO used to send screener DVDs of its shows, including Game of Thrones, to TV critics before they aired. It switched to a more secure online streaming portal last year after the first four Thrones episodes were leaked to torrent sites. Even with the more secure system, HBO isn’t taking any chances for the hit show’s infinitely hyped sixth season.
HBO programming president Michael Lombardo told Entertainment Weekly on Wednesday (March 2) that the network will not send out advanced copies of Game of Thrones episodes to critics at all. They’ll have to wait until Sunday nights to watch, just like the rest of us.
It’s a totally reasonable move, if unprecedented. Game of Thrones has been the most pirated show in the world for four years in a row. With the show as popular as it is, HBO loses little by not allowing critics to see episodes in advance. And this season, especially, is a big one for spoilerphobes—the show has now moved past the plot of George R.R. Martin’s books, upon which the series is based. That means there’s the potential to “spoil” certain plot lines that even those who have read the books don’t know about.
Despite HBO’s best efforts, the internet is still crawling with spoilers, many coming from an unlikely source—the show’s own cast.
Yesterday (March 3), actor Ian McShane revealed who his character is and something (potentially crucial) that his character will do. The definition of a spoiler is tenuous, and depending on whom you ask, perhaps neither of these things are that spoiler-y. But both revealed plot that HBO was intentionally keeping under wraps. McShane’s slip came less than a week after actress Sophie Turner dropped a spoiler on the Oscars Red Carpet.
HBO executives probably welcome a certain amount of spoilers, provided they aren’t too revealing. They generate buzz. They keep fans invested. In fact, HBO has done some spoiling of its own: In November, the network released a poster for the new season featuring Jon Snow—a character who, when we saw him last, was dead. Fans have theorized that he’s either not dead or he will be resurrected somehow; HBO is very clearly hinting that they’re right.
When it comes to TV spoilers, there’s no escape for anyone who spends time on the internet. Whether it’s an actor, a critic, a makeup artist, a curious person with a drone, or even the network itself—someone is always going to reveal information about a show or movie that you do not yet want to know, and then the internet and social media will ensure that you see that information.