After Game of Thrones, what happens next?

The smash-hit fantasy TV series is ending for good – but it’s far from the last time we’ll visit Westeros

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones season 8 (HBO)

After 73 episodes, thousands of grisly deaths, an awful lot of ice and a not-inconsiderable amount of fire, Game of Thrones finally concludes on Sunday 19th May. It’s had over eight years as the biggest TV show on the planet, and now it all comes down to this.

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Or does it? You see, while Thrones is finally heading off into the dimly-lit sunset, it’s far from the end of Westeros and the story author George RR Martin created. In some ways, the end of Game of Thrones is only its beginning.

For one thing, Martin’s source novels aren’t even finished, with two books still promised from the famously slow author that will wrap up his Song of Ice and Fire saga – The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring respectively – while also offering wildly diverging plots from the TV series.

In the books Stannis is still alive and campaigning in the North, Sansa was never wed to Ramsay Bolton, Catelyn Stark is now resurrected and enacting vigilante justice across the Riverlands, all as ANOTHER Aegon Targaryen – this one claiming to be the first son of Prince Rhaegar, who was believed to have been killed by the Mountain years before but may have been spirited away – arrives in Westeros.

Of course, Game of Thrones’ conclusion will have spoiled some of Martin’s revelations (if Dany starts to get a bit narky in book seven, we may be a little less surprised than we once would have), but given how much the author’s story usually evolves and changes during the writing process and also just how many extra plotlines he was following outside of those covered by the TV show, it seems likely that there will be some pretty major divergences.

Who knows? Maybe the Dorne plotline will REALLY play out this time. Stranger things have happened.

The counterpoint to all this, of course, is the oft-cited fear from fans that Martin will never actually complete his saga, with the gaps between books lengthening with every release. And who can blame them? A Game of Thrones was released in 1996, followed by A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords in 1998 and 2000, making for a respectable two-year gap each time.

By the time of A Feast for Crows’ release in 2005, however, fans had had to wait considerably longer, and the gap before the release of A Dance with Dragons (in 2011) was a full six years. Since then it’s been eight years with no book, and Martin claims to have two more to release. Who knows when we’ll see them, if we even will?

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If that is the case, all eyes turn to the Game of Thrones “successor shows” (never spin-offs!) – because even the TV life of Westeros doesn’t end with season eight.

Currently, HBO’s great hope for a post-Game of Thrones world is the series currently filming, which is created by Jane Goldman and is set to explore the first coming of the White Walkers thousands of years before the events of the main series.

Martin originally suggested the series could be called The Long Night (which he later backtracked on) but apparently it’s now filming under the working title of “Bloodmoon,” and may involve the elf-like Children of the Forest who last appeared in Game of Thrones season six as part of Bran’s storyline.

Officially, HBO have described the series as following “the world’s descent from the golden Age of Heroes into its darkest hour.”

They added: “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.”

“Westeros is a very different place,” Martin also told EW. “There’s no King’s Landing. There’s no Iron Throne. There are no Targaryens.

“We’re dealing with a different and older world and hopefully that will be part of the fun of the series.”

Naomi Watts and Josh Whitehouse (Getty)
Naomi Watts and Josh Whitehouse (Getty)

The cast of the series includes John Simm, Naomi Watts, Jamie Campbell Bower, Josh Whitehouse and Miranda Richardson among many, many others, and while we don’t know exactly who they’ll play yet, fans are already speculating that mythological figures mentioned in the books like Bran the Builder (one of the first Starks), Lann the Clever (who founded House Lannister) and Garth Greenhand could all be key figures.

But perhaps even THIS series won’t be the future for the empire Thrones has built. Bloodmoon is only currently ordered to pilot rather than a full series, after all, and George RR Martin recently confirmed that two other spin-offs are still in the works from other parties.

“We have had five different Game of Thrones successor shows in development (I mislike the term ‘spin-offs’) at HBO, and three of them are still moving forward nicely,” he wrote.

“The one I am not supposed to call The Long Night will be shooting later this year, and two other shows remain in the script stage, but are edging closer.”

One of the White Walkers in Game of Thrones (HBO, HF)
One of the White Walkers in Game of Thrones (HBO, HF)

Exactly what these other two shows could be about is a mystery, but the history Martin has created for Westeros in ancillary materials – including a dragon-battling Targaryen civil war and a battle between the indigenous First Men and the invading Andals – definitely has some scope for more dramas depending on how the first spin-off is received.

And spin-off material isn’t limited to the screen, of course. Last year Martin released Fire & Blood, an historical account of the Targaryen kings, and it seems likely that more faux-history books like this will still crop up from time to time. The author has also suggested he’ll write more in his fan-favourite series of Dunk & Egg short stories, which follow a poor hedge Knight and the disguised young prince Aegon Targaryen around 100 years before the events of A Game of Thrones.

In other words, official Game of Thrones narratives will continue long after the main series has finished, whether that’s onscreen or on the page.

No, it’ll never be the same as when the world was united, together as one, desperate to find out what was next for Jon Snow and Daenerys – but when it comes to Westeros, it’s as close to a happy ending (or, well, future) as we were ever likely to expect.

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Game of Thrones concludes on NOWTV and Sky Atlantic on Monday 20th May at 2am and 9pm