Here’s what we know about the proposed ‘Game of Thrones’ prequel series.
HBO announced on June 8 that it has greenlit the pilot for a Game of Thrones prequel series written by Jane Goldman and George R.R. Martin. Goldman, who is also credited for the teleplay, will serve as showrunner.
HBO has provided a summary of the show, which confirms that this particular successor show will take place long before any of the heroes we’ve gotten to know on Game of Thrones walked Westeros:
“Taking place thousands of years before the events of Game of Thrones, the series chronicles the world’s descent from the olden Age of Heroes into its darkest hour. And only one thing is for sure: from the horrifying secrets of Westeros’s history to the true origin of the white walkers, the mysteries of the East, to the Starks of legend … it’s not the story we think we know.”
In A Song of Ice and Fire, the Age of Heroes takes place following the pact made between the children of the forest and the First Men. During this time, many of Westeros’ legends were formed, including that of Bran the Builder, who reportedly helped build the Wall, Winterfell, and is believed to have founded House Stark. The description, which expands beyond Westeros to include Essos and beyond, also alludes to the Night King‘s origins and his first reign of terror before he was defeated by a legendary figure known as the last hero (and is believed to be another name for Azor Ahai).
In a new blog post following HBO’s announcement, Martin offered some context as to when the Age of Heroes series would take place while confirming that we wouldn’t see any familiar Game of Thrones characters or actors.
“This one really puts the PRE in prequel, since it is set not ninety years before GAME OF THRONES (like Dunk & Egg), or a few hundred years, but rather ten thousand years (well, assuming the oral histories of the First Men are accurate, but there are maesters at the Citadel who insist it has only been half that long),” Martin wrote. “We’re very early in the process, of course, with the pilot order just in, so we don’t have a director yet, or a cast, or a location, or even a title. (My vote would be THE LONG NIGHT, which says it all, but I’d be surprised if that’s where we end up. More likely HBO will want to work the phrase “game of thrones” in there somewhere. We’ll know sooner or later).”
He also praised Goldman, who he says should be receiving the bulk of the credit (after several reports on the pilot pickup used his photo instead of hers) and called her “an absolute thrill to work with.”
That’s hardly the only Game of Thrones spin-off being developed.
In an unprecedented move months before Game of Thrones season 7 premiered, HBO announced that it hired four writers—Max Borenstein, Brian Helgeland, Carly Wray, and Goldman—to explore four potential Game of Thrones spin-offs. The revelation finally settled the varying but persistent rumor that HBO wanted to continue making Game of Thrones programming after the massively successful series drew to a close. Instead of a movie, HBO wanted to look at making at least one new show with George R.R. Martin’s involvement. Martin was named alongside two of the writers in an initial press release.
Martin was the first to announce that HBO hired a fifth writer after HBO’s announcement, noting that “aside from me and maybe [Westeros.org cofounders] Elio [Garcia] and Linda [Antonsson], I don’t know anyone who knows and loves Westeros as well as he does.” It took HBO several months to confirm a fifth writer, who was revealed as Game of Thrones writer and producer Bryan Cogman. None of the spin-off series will involve Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff or D.B. Weiss.
Speculation is rampant as to which series the writers are working on and how likely it is any of them will make it onto HBO. And unlike Game of Thrones season 8—which has wrapped filming—it’s a conversation that even more spoiler-averse fans can participate in.
Whatever happens, the creative teams on the projects can expect to have a huge budget. HBO’s Francesca Orsi told the Hollywood Reporter in March 2018, “$50 million [per season] would never fly for what we are trying to do. We are going big.”
Game of Thrones spin-off subjects
Though the conversation was quickly framed around the idea of a “Game of Thrones spin off” (including in initial reports), Martin clarified a few points: For one, the shows being worked take place in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire, but they won’t be a continuation of any stories that might be left to tell at the end of Game of Thrones. The shows being worked on are, time-wise at least, prequels to Game of Thrones.
For what it’s worth, I don’t especially like the term “spinoff,” and I don’t think it really applies to these new projects. What we’re talking about are new stories set in the “secondary universe” (to borrow Tolkien’s term) of Westeros and the world beyond, the world I created for A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE. It is a world, and a pretty big one, and if there were eight million stories in the naked city back in the 50s, just think how many more there are in an entire world, and one with thousands of years of recorded history.
None of these new shows will be ‘spinning off’ from GOT in the traditional sense. We are not talking Joey or AfterMASH or even Frazier or Lou Grant, where characters from one show continue on to another. So all of you who were hoping for the further adventures of Hot Pie are doomed to disappointment. Every one of the concepts under discussion is a prequel, rather than a sequel. Some may not even be set on Westeros. Rather than ‘spinoff’ or ‘prequel,’ however, I prefer the term ‘successor show.’ That’s what I’ve been calling them.
In the same blog post from May 2017, Martin confirmed that two popular ideas for Game of Thrones series wouldn’t happen, albeit for different reasons.
A Robert’s Rebellion series, according to Martin, would essentially rehash things covered by the novels of ASOIAF (of which the final two planned installments, The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring, are not yet published). He plans to reveal everything we need to know about the rebellion that ended the Targaryen dynasty.
As for a Dunk and Egg series, which follows Daenerys Targaryen’s great-grandfather from young squire to hedge knight, Martin is trying to avoid the same fate as Game of Thrones. He’s published three novellas so far and has more story to tell, so any series involving them would finish telling their tale before Martin could.
HBO confirmed that one of the Game of Thrones spinoff series will be set during the Age of Heroes, which takes place roughly 10,000 years before Game of Thrones. (Although Martin noted in a blog post that Maesters believe the events covered during that time took place thousands of years later.)
The only other hint we have about what any of the writers are working on is the series Martin is creating with Cogman, which Martin described as “an adaptation, and one that will thrill most fans of the books, I think, set during a very exciting period of Westerosi history.”
Martin has published several novellas that take place in the world of ASOIAF, notably taking place during the Targaryen reign. The Sons of the Dragon, published in The Book of Swords in October 2017, chronicles the reigns of Aegon the Conqueror’s two sons, Aenys I and Maegor I, decades after Aegon conquered Westeros (except for Dorne). The Rogue Prince and The Princess and the Queen both take place during the Dance of the Dragons, or the Targaryen Civil War.
And Martin has another book coming out fairly soon. He revealed in a July 2017 blog post that he’s publishing the first volume of Fire and Blood, which would chronicle more than 100 years of Targaryen family history spanning from Aegon’s Conquest to the Dance of the Dragons. He didn’t have a publication date but estimated that it would be out “in late 2018 or early 2019.”
Both Aegon’s Conquest and the Dance of the Dragons would offer Martin and Cogman the ability to tap into much of what Game of Thrones fans love. Aegon’s Conquest would feature Balerion the Dread (whose skull Cersei Lannister pierced with scorpion artillery in season 7) and at least one battle that would bring to mind Daenerys Targaryen and Drogon’s season 7 battle against the Lannister army. For some book fans, that battle was reminiscent of the Field of Fire, which saw Aegon, Visenya, and Rhaenys Targaryen’s three dragons take to the battlefield during his conquest of Westeros.
The Dance of the Dragons has dragons—both Targaryen and literal dragons, albeit none as big as Balerion or Drogon—as well as the political intrigue and backstabbing that encapsulated much of Game of Thrones’ early seasons. Two Targaryens, each with a claim to the throne, nearly tore Westeros apart in their ensuing war. With a publication date that will likely fall before Game of Thrones‘ final season, Martin can tell that story first.
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Game of Thrones spin-off series
Of the four original writers working on Game of Thrones prequel series announced in May 2017, two of them were reported as working on series with Martin. In the first blog post after the news broke, Martin wrote that he was actually working with all of the writers, albeit in different capacities (emphasis his).
It was stated in some of the reports that I am working with two of the four writers. That’s not quite right. I’ve actually been working with all four of the writers. Every one of the four has visited me here in Santa Fe, some of them more than once, and we’ve spent days together discussing their ideas, the history of Westeros and the world beyond, and sundry details found only in The World of Ice & Fire and The Lands of Ice & Fire… when we weren’t drinking margaritas and eating chile rellenos and visiting Meow Wolf. They are all amazing talents, and I am excited to be working with them. In between visits, I’ve been in touch with them by phone, text, and email, and I expect there will be a lot more back-and-forth as we move forward.
He is also working closely with Cogman, Martin confirmed in a September 2017 blog post.
However, Martin confirmed that HBO is no longer working on one of the Game of Thrones prequel series, something he previously hinted at in a March 2018 blog post. Martin did not say which writer’s show was no longer being developed, but he noted that HBO could film “at least one more pilot” out of the remaining three scripts.
“As for the other successor shows… if you have been following along, you know that we started with four, and eventually went to five,” he wrote. “One of those has been shelved, I am given to understand, and of course Jane’s pilot is now moving to film. But that does not mean the others are dead. Three more GAME OF THRONES prequels, set in different periods and featuring different characters and storylines, remain in active development. Everything I am told indicates that we could film at least one more pilot, and maybe more than one, in the years to come. We do have an entire world and tens of thousands of years of history to play with, after all. But this is television, so nothing is certain.”
Here’s what we know about what each writer is working on so far.
The scope of the script by Borenstein (Kong: Skull Island) is unknown, and Martin’s name is not attached to it.
Goldman (Kingsman: The Golden Circle) has written a pilot script with Martin that will take place during the Age of Heroes, HBO revealed when it announced that it ordered the pilot for her series. She will also serve as a showrunner.
She previously hinted that ASOIAF fans would recognize the story in her script during an August 2017 interview with IGN.
“Yeah, I think I can say if I was able to say what mine was—yeah, I think as a book reader or as someone who watched the series, you would say, ‘Oh, that! OK,’” she said. “Yeah, it would be recognizable as a past event, but I think that’s probably as far as I can go.”
Goldman’s Age of Heroes series does not yet have a title.
Not much is known about what Helgeland (A Knight’s Tale) is covering in his script, and Martin is not personally attached to it.
Wray (Mad Men) is working closely with Martin, and not much is known about the script they are working on.
When Martin first announced a fifth writer months before HBO went public with it, many fans presumed that Martin was talking about Cogman. And although Cogman is the most recent addition to the writers working on scripts for HBO, we know the most about his project thanks to Martin.
Shortly after Cogman’s involvement was revealed, Martin took to LiveJournal to congratulate Cogman and expand a bit on what he and Cogman are cooking up. In the process, Martin revealed a nugget about Cogman’s script: It’s an adaptation.
“I can say that, like the other pilots, it will be a prequel rather than sequel, a successor rather than a spinoff,” Martin wrote. “Bryan’s series will be an adaptation, and one that will thrill most fans of the books, I think, set during a very exciting period of Westerosi history. And I’ll be working with him every step of the way; we’re going to be co-creating the show.”
Game of Thrones spin-off news
HBO CEO Richard Plepler has seen a bit of what’s been cooked up so far.
“I think we will find with this embarrassment of [writing] riches an exciting property for us to moves forward with,” Plepler said in October 2017. “We are looking at some things, I have read a couple of early bibles, and I’m excited about what I’ve seen.”
In January 2018, HBO programming president Casey Bloys confirmed two bits of information to TVline. First, he revealed the first Game of Thrones spinoff wouldn’t premiere until a year after the Game of Thrones series finale. That means we won’t see anything until 2020 at the earliest. He also said that the spinoffs won’t feature familiar characters, but “there may be [familiar] bloodlines” in the potential series.”
That makes sense, considering the depth of Westerosi lore. George R.R. Martin has already outlined 300 years of Targaryen history, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
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Game of Thrones spin-off series timeline
One thing that guaranteed: As Bloys told the Hollywood Reporter in July 2017, we won’t see any of these shows until after Game of Thrones is over.
“No, absolutely not. No way,” Bloys said. “There’s not going to be anything—the only thing that will be Game of Thrones related on the air will be season seven and season eight, and then it will be a good long while if and before anything [new] gets on the air. Again, I say that only because I think when we confirmed the [prequels’] existence—that we were exploring this—that read to the general public that, ‘Wow, these are far along.’ We were just confirming it so people didn’t speculate.”
HBO is in no rush to bring a show to air; its timetable would be set on what its writers need. We might have to wait years for it, but if HBO can settle on the right series and everything plays out, we’ll return to Martin’s world.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.