The mainline Game of Thrones show is over. Sunday night’s finale, “The Iron Throne,” wrapped up the story that began back in 2011. People were divided on the episode, but whatever the case, it was a huge ratings success with more than 19 million viewers to set a new series record.
While the main show is over, a two-hour documentary is coming next week. After that, HBO has multiple prequel spinoff programs–or “successor shows,” as George R.R. Martin calls them–in the works that are scheduled to debut at some point in the future.
Here is a brief breakdown of everything we know about the Game of Thrones spinoffs.
HBO initially announced that it was working on scripts for as many as five different Game of Thrones spinoffs, though the network never committed to actually producing that many. HBO announced in 2017 that it had commissioned pitch scripts for shows to be run by Jane Goldman, Max Borenstein, Brian Helgeland, and Carly Wray. Goldman’s show is being made (or at least a pilot; more on that later), but it’s unclear what the status is of the other projects.
The latest update from George R.R. Martin, who is involved with the spinoffs as a producer, is that three of the five shows are coming along well. The highest-profile show that we know about is the one starring Naomi Watts that is reportedly scheduled to begin shooting this year.
Martin wrote on his blog that the Naomi Watts Game of Thrones prequel is called The Long Night, though he later walked that back, so the name could change. Whatever the title is, the show is set thousands of years before the mainline HBO show and concerns legendary characters like Bran the Builder, founder of House Stark, and Lann the Clever, founder of House Lannister. None of the characters from HBO’s mainline Game of Thrones show are expected to appear in the prequels.
The title Martin mentioned, the Long Night, refers to a winter that lasted a generation–which also included the first war with the White Walkers. The program’s showrunner is Jane Goldman, who worked on Kingsman and the X-Men film series. The pilot episode will be directed by S.J. Clarkson who directed episodes of Jessica Jones and The Defenders
The other two shows are still working on scripts, but there is no word yet on the stories they’ll tell or who may star in them. Martin teased that at least one might concern the Targaryen dynasty, which is covered in the recently released companion book, “Fire & Blood.”
“We have had five different Game of Thrones successor shows in development (I mislike the term ‘spinoffs’) at HBO, and three of them are still moving forward nicely,” Martin said. “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. What are they about? I cannot say. But maybe some of you should pick up a copy of Fire & Blood and come up with your own theories.”
In terms of what the new show could cover for its story, the 300-year history of the Targaryens in Westeros make up a rich tapestry of storytelling opportunities. Aegon Targaryen’s original conquest of the Seven Kingdoms would be pretty intense, but there’s also the Dance of Dragons, when a Targaryen prince battled a princess over who would succeed their father on the Iron Throne, and the Blackfyre Rebellion, when a bunch of legitimized Targaryen bastards banded together to overthrow the trueborn Targaryens.
Before you get too excited, remember that HBO has only ordered a pilot for the Naomi Watts Game of Thrones successor show, so it remains to be seen if it will get picked up to series. As you may recall, the pilot episode of Game of Thrones was problematic and had to undergo reshoots. Not only that, but HBO recast Daenarys and Catelyn Stark after the original pilot, which never aired. Tamzin Merchant played Daenerys in the pilot, while Jennifer Ehle portrayed Catelyn Stark in roles that were later given to Emilia Clarke and Michelle Fairley respectively.
One of the Game of Thrones prequels that will not happen is the one from Game of Thrones series producer Bryan Cogman. He said recently that HBO has decided to not move forward with his idea. Cogman recently signed a deal with Amazon to work on their network of shows going forward.
It’s not immediately clear why HBO decided to pass on Cogman’s Game of Thrones prequel idea, but HBO programming boss Casey Bloys previously talked about why the network was commissioning so many. “The idea was, if we’re going to try it, let’s take a couple of shots and see,” he said. “My hope is at least one lives up to the level of quality [showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss] have set.”
Benioff and Weiss are apparently not involved in the new Game of Thrones prequels. They are currently working on a new trilogy of Star Wars movies, the first of which is scheduled to premiere in 2022.