HBO is already planning out the future of Game of Thrones with the Age of Heroes prequel set thousands of years before Game of Thrones, but it’s setting another claim on Westeros with a show that will cover much more familiar territory.
First revealed on Thursday by Deadline, the report indicated that HBO was set to order a pilot for a prequel series that focuses on House Targaryen from George R.R. Martin and Ryan Condel (Colony). Set 300 years before Game of Thrones but leading all the way to the Dance of the Dragons, it’ll be based on Martin’s Fire and Blood, a Targaryen history book that chronicles the house’s reign in Westeros from Aegon’s Conquest to the civil war that nearly destroyed a dynasty that published in November 2018. According to Deadline, Martin and Condel’s show is a new version of what Game of Thrones writer-producer Bryan Cogman originally worked on.
We have no indication of a timeline for the Targaryen prequel pilot and HBO has yet to officially greenlight the pilot; HBO also has yet to indicate if it’s moving forward with the Age of Heroes series, although HBO programming president Casey Bloys said back in July that he was pleased with what he’d seen so far. But greenlighting another pilot before the first one is ordered to series doesn’t necessarily spell doom for Goldman’s series, either: it will be a long time before we see anything of the Targaryen series on a TV screen.
“[W]e’re having conversations about how do we smartly continue the Game of Thrones universe, but we have to be really thoughtful about not killing the golden goose and not putting on shows that aren’t up to that quality level, and how many is too many,” WarnerMedia Chairman Bob Greenblatt told Deadline in May. “We’re having all those conversations. I don’t know yet what will come of all this material, but I think they’ve been smartly developing things that were really good ideas in this universe, and George Martin is involved.”
As far as the content of the show goes, it’s about as far as you can get from Jane Goldman’s Age of Heroes series, which filmed its pilot over the summer. Instead of the fantastical elements of the White Walkers or the children of the forest, the Targaryen series will have plenty of political intrigues, backstabbing, dragons, and civil war. (Plus more than a century’s worth of canonical incest, so yay?)
And while the Age of Heroes offers very little in terms of book canon to explore beforehand, we have several books of Targaryen family history (which spans about 150 years) to draw from if the show were to make it on the air.
Aegon the Conquerer and his sister-wives Visenya and Rhaenys
We have very little concrete information about the Targaryen Game of Thrones prequel aside from a rough timeline, but if there was any guarantees as to who we’d see in the show, it’d be these three. Although House Targaryen existed long before Aegon set to unite the Seven Kingdoms under one banner in Old Valyria, it all started with Aegon, Visenya, Rhaenys, and their three dragons, one of whom was at least Drogon’s size by the end of Game of Thrones. Aegon also may have known something about that impending White Walker threat to Westeros in about 300 years.
Aegon’s conquest and subsequent reign capture bits and pieces of what drew Game of Thrones to the show in the first place: a Targaryen looking to claim his supposed right as king, battles galore, dragons, and—once Aegon takes the throne—a look at how a simple conquering doesn’t solve all of your problems. Even after Aegon gained control of Westeros, he still faced adversary, particularly from Dorne, which Aegon failed to conquer. And, if nothing else, it’ll be an excuse for the show’s eventual visual effects team to top themselves with all of those dragons.
Aegon II, Rhaenyra, and the Dance of the Dragons
The other near surefire subject for a Targaryen TV show would be the Dance of the Dragons, the Targaryen civil war that drove a wedge into the family, something that led to the eventual extinction of dragons in Westeros—at least until Dany hatched three dragon eggs in a pyre—and a fracturing of the house from which it would never fully recover.
Like most Targaryen-centric spats-turned-wars, it was over a matter of succession. King Viserys I Targaryen named Rhaenyra, his daughter with his first wife, as his heir and kept it even after his second wife gave him several children including a son named Aegon. After Viserys’ death, the king’s council put Aegon on the throne instead, and when Rhaenyra found out, she didn’t take to it lightly. It’s a war unlike anything we’ve seen on Game of Thrones, given the sheer amount of dragons that took part in it and died, but it’s also a story that has a set ending: one steeped in tragedy. As Ramsay Bolton once mused, “If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.”
Jaehaerys I and Alysanne Targaryen
A semi-stable Targaryen union? In this economy? Although the beginning of Jaehaerys’ marriage to his younger sister Alysanne was initially met with disapproval from their mother (who tried to break up the marriage), the two persevered and had 13 children, although most of them would die before their father. Alysanne had a particular charm about her, but she managed to win over a particularly cold Lord of Winterfell along the way.
Jaehaerys had the longest reign of any Targaryen ruler at 55 years, a reign that was largely peaceful, but the years-long journey of the couple’s travels around Westeros could open up Martin’s world and provide plenty of fodder.
Aenys I and Maegor the Cruel
Aenys (Aegon’s son by Rhaenys) was in the unenviable position of having to follow Aegon’s footsteps, and his brief reign was rife with rebellion, a fight against the Faith of the Seven after his half-brother Maegor (Aegon’s son by Visenya) took a second wife and Aenys married his son and daughter together.
But Maegor’s reign would be one with even more violence, much of it directed toward the Faith of the Seven; at times, he made the Mad King’s cruelty look like child’s play. It’s an interpersonal and violent family drama, and it could easily test the patience of viewers. But as anyone who’s watched Game of Thrones knows, if the story is compelling, they’ll tolerate a lot of violence on their TV show.