This marks the first time that a member of the current Game of Thrones writing staff has publicly become involved in the franchise’s future (showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss have stated they won’t be sticking around after Thrones finishes), with the new Cogman/Martin spin-off project joining others in the works from Kick-Ass’ Jane Goldman, Mad Men’s Carly Wray, LA Confidential’s Brian Helgeland and Kong: Skull Island’s Max Borenstein. It’s likely only one of these five projects will actually make it to TV, as HBO is spreading its dragon eggs between a few baskets.
Anyway, so far the spin-offs (or “successor shows” as Martin prefers to call them) remain shrouded in secrecy – but we do know that they’re all set prior to the main series, don’t focus on Robert’s Rebellion (the conflict occurring directly before Game of Thrones) or Martin’s second Westeros-set series, Tales of Dunk and Egg, and that at least some of them deal with historical events familiar to readers of Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.
“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,” Martin said of the latest appointment, with Goldman previously hinting that her own project also dealt with a “past event” familiar to readers.
So with that in mind, we thought it was high time we took a look back through the pages of our dusty Westerosi history books to ponder which “past events” could make the cut for these spin-off series – and which would actually be the best contenders for such a treatment.
Please note we have no insider information here, and these are just our best guesses as fans of the books and series. Ok go!
This is probably the most obvious choice for a successor series, with the story of how Daenerys’ (Emilia Clarke) ancestor Aegon I conquered Westeros referenced repeatedly throughout Game of Thrones.
Escaping the apocalyptic Doom of Valyria that destroyed a continent, Aegon and his sister-wives Visenya and Rhaenys (yep, incest was big even back then) rode their dragons into battle, wiped out or defeated the minor kings who ruled the different areas of Westeros and united the realm (well, except Dorne – that came later through a marriage treaty), establishing a dynasty that would last for centuries.
Full of stirring battles and epic dragon attacks (Daenerys’ routing of the Lannister forces in season seven is NOTHING on the original Field of Fire), it would certainly be a real blockbuster successor to Thrones – even if audience familiarity with how it all turned out (spoiler alert! The Targaryens won) might limit some of the potential for high stakes.
The Dance of the Dragons
By contrast, this later conflict within the Targaryen family itself has plenty of twists and turns to keep audiences guessing.
Taking place about 130 years after Aegon’s conquest, the Dance of the Dragons was a civil war that tore Westeros apart as Aegon II and his half-sister Rhaenyra fought over who should succeed their father Viserys I following his death.
Without going into the nitty-gritty detail, trust us when we say this conflict went on to become INCREDIBLY complicated, full of double-crosses, broken alliances and both sides (nicknamed the Blacks and the Greens) triumphing and failing in equal measure as the war raged on, with all sorts of colourful characters to love and loathe on both sides.
The civil war is also known for wiping out the majority of the Targaryens’ dragons (as they viciously fought each other at the behest of their masters), lending an elegiac quality to proceedings that would also tie in nicely with Daenerys’ later revival of the species in Game of Thrones.
As you might be able to tell, this is probably our favourite pick for a spin-off to Game of Thrones. Complex, morally dubious (even the Starks aren’t the squeaky-clean heroes we know and love in this narrative) and little-known enough to surprise both die-hard fans and newcomers, we’d say HBO could be onto a winner if this is one of the ideas in development.
The Blackfyre Rebellion/The War of the Ninepenny Kings
Still, it’s not the only Targaryen civil war in Westerosi history to pick from, with this later clash (taking place about 60 years after the Dance of the Dragons) also offering some exciting potential for a new series.
This souped-up family feud came about when the King at the time (Aegon IV) knighted and legitimised his bastard son Daemon Waters, also gifting him the hereditary Targaryen sword Blackfyre which was traditionally passed from king to king.
Daemon took the name Blackfyre for his own, designing an inverted banner of a black dragon on a red field (as opposed to the Targaryen’s red dragon on a black background) and founding House Blackfyre.
Meanwhile. Daemon’s scholarly legitimate half-brother Daeron had ascended the Iron Throne after Aegon IV’s death, and finally brought the rebellious Dorne into the Seven Kingdoms (as noted above, the original Aegon had failed to conquer it) through a marriage pact. While this was a great achievement, the arrival of former Dornish enemies at court (as well as Daeron’s decision to get rid of his father’s corrupt allies) made many nobles unhappy, and when his son Prince Baelor was born with Dornish features many wondered whether the more warrior-like, traditionally Targaryen Daemon would be a better fit for for the throne.
After some years, Daemon did declare for the throne, largely based on the assumption that by passing the King’s sword to him Aegon IV had implicitly intended him for his successor, and the following war split the realm in two. Many declared for the red dragon of Daeron while others took up arms for the black dragon of Daemon, and without giving too much away it was the first of many Blackfyre rebellions that sparked up over the next few decades.
Around 60 years after the first rising the conflict was still raging on, with the fifth Blackfyre Rebellion (nicknamed the War of the Ninepenny Kings) featuring a few characters from Game of Thrones in their younger years including Ser Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinney), Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) and Ser Bryden “The Blackfish” Tully (Clive Russell).
Overall, then, this is another complex, morally grey conflict that also has the benefit of featuring some familiar characters from the main series – and who wouldn’t want to see a young, innocent Tywin before he became the fearsome figure we knew in Thrones?
The Doom of Valyria
Of course, it could be that HBO fancy a cleaner break from the Game of Thrones world in whichever successor series they pick, in which case we could head across the narrow sea to revisit an even earlier period of series lore.
Long before Aegon conquered the Seven Kingdoms, the Targaryens were one of many noble houses from Valyria, a near-mythical city that was the centre of a large empire (called the Freehold of Valyria) advanced in magic, technology and dragontaming,
Battling other nations including the Old Empire of Ghis and the Rhoynar civilisation, Valyria becamethe dominant military and cultural power of the world at the time – until an unknown catastrophe, possibly a volcanic eruption, wiped the entire civilisation from the map (the Targaryens having already left after one family member had a vision of the destruction).
Now, the age of Valyrian dominance has only been touched on in the series (mainly in terms of their peerless weapons, which can kill White Walkers, though the ruins were also sailed through by Tyrion and Jorah), meaning there’d be a lot of scope to create new characters and storylines in a Valyria spin-off, while its inevitable doom could give interesting pathos to the infighting in a similar way to how the conflict between the White Walkers and the Seven Kingdoms has been portrayed in the main series.
Plus, the Valyrians were BIG on dragons – they were the first humans to tame them – so there’d certainly be the opportunity for more crowd-pleasing fire battles.
The Age of Heroes
Think leaving Westeros would be a mistake? Well, another spin-off set thousands of years pre-Game of Thrones could actually take place in the usual setting, during the so-called “Age of Heroes” that saw the founding of House Stark, the building of the Wall and the appearance of several notable Thrones characters’ distant ancestors including Lann the Clever (the precursor of the Lannisters) and The Grey King of the Iron Islands.
This period also features legendary figures like the blind knight Symeon Star-Eyes, Garth Greenhand and the original Prince That Was Promised Azhor Ahai, who battled the White Walkers during their original attack on Westeros eight thousand years prior to Aegon’s conquest.
All in all, there’s plenty of scope for interesting, epic stories far enough removed from the Game of Thrones narrative to invite surprises – even if we might be a little bored of men-vs-White Walkers narratives by then.
The Andal invasion
Ever wondered why one of Daenerys’ (many) titles is Queen of the Andals AND the First Men? Well, that’s because a few thousand years before the events of Game of Thrones the indigenous people of Westeros were invaded by a foreign force – the Andals of Essos.
Over the next few hundred years the petty kingdoms of the First Men were defeated and taken over by the Andal forces, in a reflection of the real-life Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain. Soon the Andals’ culture and religion (the Faith of the Seven) was the dominant one in Westeros, though even by the time of Game of Thrones the Old Gods and descendants of the First Men (most notably House Stark and other northern families) still live on.
As a spin-off idea, this long and bitter war has some potential (BBC/Netflix series The Last Kingdom has dealt with similar themes to some success), so we wouldn’t be entirely surprised if this was one of the pitches in the offing.
Hey, stranger things have happened right? Given the rich storytelling potential of Westeros, it’s entirely possible some of these spin-off ideas will deal with characters and events not even chronicled by George RR Martin in his established Westerosi history, visiting new realms and conflicts and creating a series even further removed from Game of Thrones than the other ideas we’ve discussed above.
Still, we reckon it’s probably more likely that the spin-off projects are mostly delving into established Westeros canon – it’s Martin’s ideas that made Game of Thrones the biggest show in the world, after all, so why fix what isn’t broken?
But whatever the truth, we have a long, long wait to find out which historical events these Game of Thrones successors will be plundering for their new stories. Time to settle in with a season one boxset and dream of (metaphorical) spring, gang.