Hopefully the next series won’t be too much of a fill-in-the-blanks type of prequel.
A pilot for the first spinoff of Game of Thrones has been greenlit by HBO, according to Entertainment Weekly. After much speculation about what these new shows would be about, we now know that the first of them will depict “the world’s descent from the golden Age of Heroes into its darkest hour.” The description also teases fans with promises of seeing “the Starks of legend” and “the true origin of the White Walkers,” all while ensuring that this is “not the story we think we know.”
Also in this announcement is the news that writer Jane Goldman (X-Men: First Class, Kick-Ass) will serve as showrunner, while she and “A Song of Ice and Fire” author George R.R. Martin are co-writing the script for the pilot episode.
Perhaps the most confusing part of this news is the “origin of the White Walkers,” which we already saw back in the Season 6 episode “The Door.” There it was revealed that the White Walkers were created by the Children of the Forest to be used as a weapon against the First Men. Many considered this to be an adequate origin for the icy nightmares, while others understandably felt that it was something that never needed explaining in the first place.
This raises plenty of questions about what exactly is meant by that line in the description, in terms of what could possibly be added and whether further exploration of their origins is even necessary. On the other hand, this could be an indication that this new show will explore the Long Night, a significant event in the Age of Heroes involving a long conflict with the White Walkers.
The second piece of information that the description mentions is the “the mysteries of the East,” which is… quite vague. The eastern continent of Essos is home to many previously seen locations in Game of Thrones, including the Dothraki Sea, Braavos, and Meereen. The fan- favorite Faceless Men also originate from this part of the world, so perhaps we could be seeing more of their history. Or the new show might choose to avoid this type of fan-servicing storytelling and instead look to explore the largely unknown lands of the far east. At this time, it is difficult to speculate.
The final detail in the description is that the spinoff will be looking back to “the Starks of legend.” Fans have already begun to speculate that this refers to Bran the Builde, the founder of House Stark and the man believed to be responsible for building both Winterfell and the Wall. Martin himself has said that Bran “might be a mythical character,” due to him being “as far removed from the timeframe of the books as Noah or Gilgamesh is from ours in the real world.” The possibility of Martin having a hand in writing new stories about the character opens up a lot of new doors and should give the spinoff room to explore new territory that was previously only heard about in legends.
However, the fact that the show sounds as though it’ll show viewers something they’ve already heard about and know the outcome of, does raise some concerns. Rarely do these types of fill in the blanks prequels work, where we already know the end result and that the more interesting story takes place later. That’s not to say it can never work. Better Call Saul is an example where the journey to a foregone conclusion is what makes it so compelling. Viewers have actively rooted for Jimmy McGill to stay on the right path, even though they already know where he ends up.
What the Game of Thrones spinoff does have in its favor, though, is that it’s set so far away from the time period of the current series — around 10,000 years earlier — that it can’t just fall back on pre-established characters (at least ones we’ve seen) and has room to take bigger risks. Time will tell how Goldman will approach the show, but there is certainly potential for it to be a worthy successor.
Which brings us to the final piece of information here, the hiring of Goldman as showrunner. Game of Thrones has a history of controversy, much of which has to do with its treatment of female characters. The show has had an unfortunate amount of ill-advised rape scenes in its sevens seasons, which has understandably turned viewers off. Too often has the series used rape as a lazy plot device or as the starting point of a character’s journey to being more active in the ongoing game. The idea then, of bringing a female perspective to this first spinoff is certainly refreshing, as is Goldman’s strong screenwriting resume.
And while he’s not expected to have a particularly large role in the new show, Martin co-writing the pilot is also notable, since his last script for Game of Thrones was for the Season 4 episode “The Lion and the Rose,” all the way back in 2014. While his commitment to the apparently eventually upcoming book “The Winds of Winter” will likely prevent him from being too involved in this spinoff, it’s at least reassuring that he’ll have a hand in setting the tone of the show.
As previously noted, only time will tell how this and the other planned spinoffs turn out, or how relevant this early speculation is. What we can say for sure is that fans won’t have to wait too long after next year’s series finale for their next trip to Westeros.