HBO doesn’t normally do spinoffs. Apart from the Sex and the City movies and those persistent whispers of a Deadwood continuation, it doesn’t really do sequels either. Game of Thrones, though could be an exception, because Game of Thrones is a money monster that cannot be stopped.
HBO is developing ideas for four different Game of Thrones series set in author George R.R. Martin’s massive fantasy universe, according to Entertainment Weekly. That’s a huge effort, and they’ve drafted top talent to make sure it counts. Along with Martin himself, writers working on the various concepts include Jane Goldman (X-Men: First Class), Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential), Max Borenstein (Kng: Skull Island) and Carly Wray (Mad Men). HBO is “determined” to give Thrones life beyond Season 8, and if they succeed it will be the first instance of a sequel or prequel series in network history.
Here’s why: Nearly nine million people watched the last season finale of the fantasy juggernaut. That’s strong for any show, but it’s even stronger when you realize we’re talking about a show on a network that requires its own subscription. That’s not counting piracy (Game of Thrones remains the most pirated show on the web, but it’s so popular that HBO just flat-out doesn’t care much) or all of you (yes, you) watching it through your Mom’s HBOGo account. Throw in the vast merchandising reach and you’ve got dollar signs the likes of which Tony Soprano never even dreamed of seeing.
The Thrones hype machine has been going strong for six years. All signs point to the show continuing its epic run of popularity all the way through to its ending with next year’s eighth season. Game of Thrones doesn’t feel like the kind of show that will fade away into the sunset with its series finale. It doesn’t feel like Girls, a show we were happy to say goodbye to even as we mourned its loss. HBO does not see this golden dragon as something that will just stop laying eggs.
So HBO turns to spinoffs. Lots of spinoffs. And if done right, HBO could do more than just carry on Game of Thrones. They could top it. But what will the show (or shows) be about? The network is not saying, but the world of the show is so vast that the possibilities are almost endless.
The most obvious possibility is a show abut all the major players in Robert’s Rebellion, the great conflict that banished the infant Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) from Westeros and left the Baratheons (and ultimately the Lannisters) in charge. Many of the key characters would be younger versions of faces we already know (like Ned Stark and Jaime Lannister) and the main series has already dropped in plenty of flashbacks to that era. It’s got a ready-made connection to what viewers already know. It would be very easy to market because the same ruling houses are at the forefront.
Another easy option would be a prequel set in the somewhat-distant past based on the Tales of Dunk and Egg novellas written by Martin over the last two decdes. Those stories follow a knight (Dunk) and his squire (Egg) – who happen to be a future commander of the Kingsguard and a future Targaryen king of Westeros – about 90 years before the main series. The tales are rooted in familiar Westeros culture, they’re highly entertaining adventures and Martin’s already built up a backlog of material to dig into. It would be a more intimate story than the main series, though, and it’s possible HBO would like to go more epic.
For something on a grander scale, there’s another possibility Martin has expounded on in spinoff stories already: The Dance of the Dragons. That name refers to a civil war fought between two Targaryen factions in Westeros more than 150 years before Robert Baratheon’s rebellion. The whole thing is set off when a Targaryen king dies and his wife decides to proclaim her son his heir instead of her stepdaughter, who is the rightful heir. If crowned, the princess Rhaenyra Targaryen would be the first ruling Queen of Westeros, but her stepmother and half-brother oppose her. So a war ignites, and the skies are full of dragon battles.
You know what Game of Thrones fans love? Dragons. You know what else they love? A mighty woman fighting for a throne that rightfully belongs to her. A Dance of Dragons prequel series could be Daenerys’ quest for glory on steroids and it would keep focus on the powerful women of Westeros. It’s a bold move that could deliver epic action the likes of which even Season 6’s incredible battles didn’t give us. And hey, all of those pretty Targaryen t-shirts would keep flying off the shelvws.
Or maybe HBO won’t do any of that. Maybe we’ll get a prequel about the conquest of Westeros by the Targaryens in the first place. Maybe we’ll get a story of Old Valyria or a series set in Braavos or Dorne. Maybe we’ll get a Moonlighting-style spinoff starring Brienne of Tarth and Tormund Giantsbane (please make that). Whatever we get, it’s cear HBO is not letting this franchise go. We just have to hope their newfound spinoff instincts are strong.