Famously, when you play the Game of Thrones you win or you die – and apparently, that applies to spin-offs and prequels to the hit fantasy series as well.
Yes, despite years of build-up, a fully-filmed pilot (also partially reshot), a series full of scripts and an all-star cast, the originally-announced Game of Thrones prequel Bloodmoon/The Long Night – which was set to take place thousands of years before the events of Thrones, show the first attacks of the White Walkers and star Naomi Watts – has been scrapped entirely, a more brutal end for cast and crew than anything George RR Martin could have dreamed up.
Now, HBO has revealed that the other rumoured prequel following the earlier years of dragon-riding monarchs The Targaryens – now called House of the Dragon – will get a full series instead, uniting Thrones director Miguel Sapcohnick, writer Ryan Condal and book author George RR Martin in an attempt to tell the story of the Targaryen conquest and later downfall.
And frankly, in my mind this decision is for the best. While I have an incredible amount of sympathy for the cast and crew of the first prequel (and especially showrunner Jane Goldman) who have had the rug pulled out from under them, from the beginning the idea of this TV series perplexed me.
Even before the final series of Game of Thrones had aired, I found it bizarre that a prequel would depict the original attack of the White Walkers RIGHT AFTER we’d watched a series where their return was repelled. How could it avoid being similar, and seeming played out? And frankly, how much jeopardy could be wrung out of such a conflict when we knew how it turned out, and that the whole clash would be repeated centuries later in a series we’d just seen.
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As I wrote at the time, this seemed like the wrong story to tell. In fact, amid all the centuries of exciting Westerosi history Martin has created in his ancillary material, this seemed like one of the least interesting areas to explore – which is why I’m genuinely pleased to see House of the Dragon in the works instead.
I’ve thought for years that the struggles of the Targaryens would make for one of the most intriguing spin-offs, particularly the dragon-battling, brother-vs-brother civil war known as The Dance of the Dragons when different factions of the family grimly battled for control of the Iron Throne – and rumour has it, this may be the specific period of Targaryen history that House of the Dragon plans to explore.
Unlike many other spin-off ideas, this period actually has some source material to draw from – Martin’s fictional history tome Fire & Blood, published last year – features an all-new type of story that still feels very Thrones, and refocuses on new characters while still maintaining the crowd-pleasing elements (dragons!) that made the original series a success.
Of course, House of the Dragon may not be as good as its potential – it hasn’t even had a pilot made, unlike Bloodmoon/The Long Night, though the fact that it got a full series order on the strength of scripts alone seems hopeful – but when the news broke that the new series was officially confirmed, I found myself excited about Game of Thrones again in a way I never was by the earlier prequel.
Here’s hoping HBO can pull it off – because if they kill off another successor show now, it’ll really start to look like a Thrones-appropriate massacre.
House of the Dragon will air on HBO