Set thousands of years before the current Game of Thrones series (and Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novel series), according to HBO the new prequel will chronicle “the world’s descent from the golden Age of Heroes into its darkest hour.”
“From the horrifying secrets of Westeros’ 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,” they added.
Specifically, then, the series seems to be dealing with a very specific time in Game of Thrones history which Martin has both alluded to in his novels and explained in more depth for tie-in “history” books – The Age of Heroes, when the far-ago ancestors of the Lannisters, Starks and other houses were getting their start, and within that the Long Night, when the White Walkers first marched on the forces of men.
All in all, then, the project sounds like it’ll cover a truly epic story, and with both Martin and Goldman on board there’s some serious talent behind-the-scenes. So why aren’t I more excited about the series?
Well, it’s because for me there’s just one problem – the story HBO seem to want to tell is one we’ll have just seen the conclusion to. By the time the prequel series begins airing (assuming the pilot gets a full series order) we’ll have seen the end of Game of Thrones season 8, and have watched six episodes absolutely full of the final battle against the White Walkers.
With that storyline fresh in audiences’ minds, why on Earth (or at least Planetos) would you start a new series that basically shows that exact same struggle thousands of years earlier?
Game of Thrones will have just DONE the White Walkers (literally) to death, and hopefully brought all sorts of emotional and narrative conclusion to that arc. For me, the idea of kicking off a whole new series based on the last time the White Walkers were beaten back by the forces of men just sounds like a wearying proposition, especially when the conclusion – we know they’re defeated and sent away! – has been obvious ever since the first Game of Thrones book was released in the 1990s.
Do we really need to see a whole new group of characters surprised and disbelieving of the threat, discovering the power of dragonglass, locating the original Azor Ahai/Prince That Was Promised (the legendary figure who defeated the Walkers, suspected to be reincarnated as Jon Snow or Daenerys Targaryen in the main series) and finally triumphing over the supernatural monsters in a terrible struggle? Or would it be nice for a Game of Thrones spin-off to actually chart different threats and conflicts than the one that we’ll have been following for eight years already?
After all, there are so many other fascinating stories from fictionalised Game Of Thrones history that could be adapted for screen. As I’ve written elsewhere, TV series based on the Dance of the Dragons civil war, or the Blackfyre rebellion, or the Targaryen conquest of Westeros could make for epic, twist-filled and largely untold dramas that would be worthy successors to Thrones.
And while there are lots of other exciting things from the Age of Heroes that would be great to see onscreen – the original Lannister, Lann the Clever, tricking House Casterley out of their lands and fortune, Tyrion-style, and Bran the Builder raising the icy Wall in the first place – HBO’s statement including the White Walkers, and their inevitable centrality to this period of history makes me feel like we might be retreading old ground.
Of course, I could be completely wrong about this, and it could be that Goldman and Martin will have an exciting, different take on the White Walkers and this period of Westerosi history that will banish all similarities to what we’ve seen before. Maybe we’ll have years before they show up, and maybe they won’t figure in the story as much as we expect at all.
And of course, even if they do there are a lot of other spin-offs in the works, many of which may tackle the appealingly White Walker-free periods of Game of Thrones history that I so crave.
But for now, all I can see is that for the first Game of Thrones prequel, winter is coming all over again. And frankly, I wouldn’t mind something a bit different this time.
Game of Thrones returns to HBO and Sky Atlantic for its final series in 2019