The Game of Thrones prequel series being developed by showrunner Jane Goldman (Kingsman franchise) is dead, Deadline reported on Tuesday, the same day of a scheduled WarnerMedia press and investor presentation about HBO Max streaming service, where it was announced that a second prequel in the works written by Ryan Condal (Colony) would move forward.
Prequel House of the Dragon is in the works based on author George R.R. Martin‘s November 2018 release Fire & Blood, the first volume of a two-part history of the Targaryens in Westeros. With Martin as executive producer, the second prequel is set during the fight for the Iron Throne between Targaryen claimants, which guarantees that dragons will play significant roles in the story. (Read more here.)
The news of the Goldman prequel’s demise echos problems that occurred with the original Game of Thrones pilot, which was recast and reshot before that series moved forward; however, there is no indication that the Naomi Watts–starring prequel pilot will get a do-over as the David Benioff and D.B. Weiss effort did.
Martin responded to the news of Goldman’s project not moving forward on his blog.
“It goes without saying that I was saddened to hear the show would not be going to series. Jane Goldman is a terrific screenwriter, and I enjoyed brainstorming with her,” Martin wrote “I do not know why HBO decided not to go to series on this one, but I do not think it had to do with House of the Dragon. This was never an either/or situation. If television has room enough for multiple CSIs and Chicago shows… well, Westeros and Essos are a lot bigger, with thousands of years of history and enough tales and legends and characters for a dozen shows. Heartbreaking as it is to work for years on a pilot, to pour your blood and sweat and tears into it, and have it come to nought, it’s not at all uncommon. I’ve been there myself, more than once. I know Jane and her team are feeling the disappointment just now, and they have all my sympathy… with my thanks for all their hard work, and my good wishes for whatever they do next.”
Read on for our blow-by-blow account of details released on the now-deceased prequel. R.I.P., little prequel.
“I can confirm that HBO put several Game of Thrones successor shows in development at one point,” the author wrote. “There were four to start with. Then five. Then three. I’ve said all that before. Jane Goldman’s as-yet-untitled show, which I am still not supposed to call The Long Night, is one of those. The pilot on that one wrapped a month ago and has been in post-production. I am expecting to see her first cut soon. (Last month in Belfast, I got a behind-the-scenes look at some of her sets, and they were spectacular).”
Martin also took the opportunity to swat down some swirling rumors that, now in hindsight, seem to have had some basis in fact.
“Some websites are suggesting that the news about Ryan’s show moving forward means that Jane’s show won’t. If that’s so, no one has told me. I don’t think it’s so. I love what Ryan has done, but I’m excited about the possibilities for Jane’s series as well,” he wrote. “The world of Ice & Fire is a world, boys and girls. Huge continents, ten thousand years of history, cities, deserts, oceans, mysteries, triumphs and tragedies. If there were indeed eight million stories in The Naked City in the ’50s, surely there are eight billion stories to be told about Westeros, Essos, Sothoryos, and the lands beyond the Sunset Sea, south of Oz, and north of Shangri-La…
“And in these days of a hundred networks, channels, and streaming services,” he continued, “I think television has plenty of room for two shows set in Westeros… or hell, maybe three or four… I still want to do Spearcarriers, after all.”
The fantasy world of Westeros from Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series was to be divided into around 100 smaller kingdoms in the first prequel to Game of Thrones, in which there were famously seven. The author provided some details about the now-canceled series, set around 5,000 years before HBO’s hit show, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.
“If you go back further [than Aegon’s Conquest], then there are nine kingdoms, and 12 kingdoms, and eventually you get back to where there are a hundred kingdoms — petty kingdoms,” Martin said.
The author also said that fans could expect the Stark family, which goes back to the First Men, as well as White Walkers, direwolves, and mammoths.
Though the author didn’t confirm that infamous swindler Lann the Clever, founder of House Lannister (read more on him below), would appear, he did note that the Casterlys, for whom the Lannister home is named, would occupy the fortress.
He also revealed that the prequel would have began, as Game of Thrones did, as an ensemble story. The actors previously announced, including Oscar nominees Naomi Watts (The Impossible) and Miranda Richardson (Harry Potter franchise), would not have led the cast, but would have been the foundations of several stories in the prequel, not called “The Long Night.”
“I heard a suggestion that it could be called The Longest Night, which is a variant I wouldn’t mind,” he told EW.
The prequel pilot was shot in Northern Ireland, the Game of Thrones production hub, in summer 2019.
Though another of the Game of Thrones prequel series was reported dead earlier this year, Martin weighed in on the rumor mill in early May reassuring fans that three were, at the time, still kicking.
“Oh, and speaking of television, don’t believe everything you read,” Martin wrote. “Internet reports are notoriously unreliable. 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. 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.”
(Oh, we have. See below.)
Game of Thrones writer and co-executive producer Bryan Cogman, who has written 11 episodes of the series (including season 8’s “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”), told The Hollywood Reporter in April that his spin-off is no longer in the works.
“My prequel show is not happening and will not happen. HBO decided to go a different way,” Cogman told the publication. “It is a goodbye. I am done with Westeros. It’s wonderfully bittersweet … I’m eager to start the next chapter, but a part of my heart will always live with Game of Thrones.”
Back in late March, HBO announced the addition of five more series regulars to the Goldman project, which had been expected to debut in 2020.
The cast members announced included:
The actors join headlining stars Watts and Poldark‘s Josh Whitehouse.
On Monday, March 18, the network revealed that Richardson would join the pilot, as well. Richardson played nosy reporter Rita Skeeter in the Harry Potter films.
In January 2019, HBO announced the addition of eight new cast members (clockwise from top left above):
Ivanno Jeremiah (Humans)
Denise Gough (Monday)
Jamie Campbell Bower (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald)
Sheila Atim (Harlots)
Alex Sharp (How to Talk to Girls at Parties)
Naomi Ackie (Lady Macbeth)
Toby Regbo (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald)
Georgie Henley (The Chronicles of Narnia films)
HBO also announced that SJ Clarkson would direct the series premiere. Clarkson directed and executive-produced the pilots for The Defenders and Jessica Jones on Netflix, and the BBC/Netflix four-part limited series Collateral, starring Carey Mulligan and written by David Hare.
King Kong star Watts was the first star attached to the prequel series, HBO announced on November 1, 2018. The network followed up the next day with news that Josh Whitehouse (Poldark) has also been cast.
Not much is known about the new show yet, but Watts’ character is described as “a charismatic socialite hiding a dark secret.” Watts was nominated for best actress Oscars for The Impossible in 2013 and 21 Grams in 2004. HBO did not elaborate on Whitehouse’s role.
“I could not be more excited,” George R.R. Martin, author of the Song of Ice and Fire book series upon which Game of Thrones is based, wrote on his blog of Watts’ casting. “Welcome to Westeros, Naomi.”
“Jane Goldman scripted the Long Night pilot and will be running the show,” he continued. “She and her team are busy in London right now, neck deep in casting, and I expect some more names will be announced soon.”
HBO ordered the first of the four Game of Thrones prequel scripts in the works to pilot in June 2018. Goldman won the contest to develop the next series based on the A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy universe with her story set in the decline of the Age of Heroes.
Fans of Martin’s series of novels and companion works will recognize this period as the beginning of the legendary Long Night, a generation of winter that starved and froze the populace of Westeros and saw a fierce battle of the Others (White Walkers) and their army of dead (wights) against the living.
In an earlier blog post, Martin had suggested the number of viable scripts may have narrowed further and hinted at the subject of the prequel written by Condal: “There are still a couple of other possible prequels in active development. I can’t tell you the subject matter of those projects, no, sorry, wish I could. The readers among you might want to grab a copy of Fire & Blood when it is released on November 20, though.”
Fire & Blood: 300 Years Before A Game of Thrones (A Targaryen History) – Book 1 is the next A Song of Ice and Fire companion book and the first volume of a two-part history of the Targaryens. (The new book begins with Aegon the Conqueror, creator of the Iron Throne, and recounts generations of Targaryens who fought to hold the seat, up to the civil war that nearly destroyed their dynasty.)
The story line: “Taking place thousands of years before the events of Game of Thrones, the series chronicles the world’s descent from the golden Age of Heroes into its darkest hour. And only one thing is for sure: 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.”
The show was created by Martin and Goldman, who is known for her screenplays for Stardust, Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class, The Woman in Black, Kingsman: The Secret Service, and the upcoming live-action The Little Mermaid film. Her Tomatometer average on 10 films is 73%. Goldman was to serve as showrunner.
“I’ve consulted with all of the writers on all of the successor shows, and several of them have visited me in Santa Fe for long days of discussion,” Martin wrote on his blog, “and we’ve gone back and forth in email, text, and telephone, so I have definitely been involved… but really, the accolades here should go to Jane. She has been an absolute thrill to work with… and my god, what a talent.”
So what is it that “we think we know” about the time period of the first prequel?
The Age of Heroes: Around 10,000 years before Aegon’s Conquest (we’re going to go ahead and use “B.C.” for “before the Conquest”), the Children of the Forest and the First Men agreed to the Pact, a peace treaty that kicked off the Age of Heroes, a time that many of the major noble Houses, including the Starks, trace their lineage back to if not earlier.
For reference, the events of the seventh season of Game of Thrones occur roughly 300 years after the Conquest (or “A.C.”) of Aegon the Conqueror, the first Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, king on the Iron Throne, and founder of the Targaryen dynasty of rulers. We know, however, that the show took many liberties with the plots of the books; for one, to compress the series’ timeline.
In season 1 of the series, Old Nan tells young Brandon Stark tales of the Long Night, which began 8,000 or 6,000 years B.C. (apparently, even in fiction, accounts may differ).
Given the few details we have about the prequel, it would be fair to surmise that its events take place anywhere between 6,000 and 9,000 years before Jon Snow became King in the North and Daenerys returned to Dragonstone with her “children.”
That’s a hell of a long time, and it promises that the world the prequel takes place in will be in many ways more primitive than the one fans of the show are used to seeing.
The Pact: With around 1,000 or 2,000 years separating the Pact from the Long Night, the immediate events around the treaty won’t likely be seen (except perhaps in flashback like the Tower of Joy moments with young Ned and Lyanna Stark seen in Game of Thrones). The Pact was signed on the Isle of Faces in the center of the lake called Gods Eye.
The prequel is set at least 6,000 years B.C., and — just to remind us of the timing — construction on the monstrous castle Harrenhal, a ruin in Game of Thrones, will begin on the north shore of Gods Eye around 42 years B.C. by King Harren Hoare. But who’s to say how the new series will play with the timing of events?
The Long Night: A generation of the darkest, coldest winter in known history that saw the Others come down from Lands of Always Winter to devastate the world of men.
Battle for the Dawn: Is the final battle of the Long Night — the outcome, of course, is clear given that the events of Game of Thrones happen.
The Night’s King Rises: The thirteenth Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch breaks his vow and declares himself a king. The Starks of Winterfell and the King-Beyond-the-Wall, Joramun, join forces to take him down. The stories have it that his treachery began when he was seduced by a female Other, which — White Walker sex would be something we definitely haven’t seen.
The Andal Invasion: Accounts vary, but the Andals crossed the Narrow Sea from Essos anywhere from 2,000 to 6,000 years B.C., close enough for the prequel to potentially feature something of the Andal Invasion, which began at the Fingers (homeland of Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish in Game of Thrones).
In Essos, people discover dragons: If the sheepherders who would go on to become the Valyrians of the region were only just discovering their dragons when the First Men were recovering from the Long Night, that should give us some idea of how much time will have to pass before dragons become part of this story.
That said, the Asshai’i claimed the dragons of Valyria came from their Shadow Lands and that the Valyrians were taught to control their dragons by Eastern mystics visiting the region, so even if the prequel doesn’t show dragons in Valyria, if it spends any time in that magical Eastern part of the world, we may see dragons after all.
The histories also suggest that the Valyrians and their dragons may have bullied the Andals out of Essos, which would mean that the Andal Invasion happened later than 6,000 years B.C. — and by “later,” we mean closer to Aegon’s Conquest in the 2,000, 4,000, or 6,000 years between the Long Night and it (depending on when the events of the prequel is set).
But the potential overlap (at around 6,000 years B.C. for most of these major events) makes for intriguing possibilities: The prequel could show, for instance, the people of the Valyrian peninsula discovering the dragon nesting place and their first attempts to tame the beasts, while in Westeros the Long Night might be in full swing.
Given the timeline, we’ve already established that we’ll likely see the Children of the Forest and certainly the First Men (speakers of the Old Tongue and, after interacting with the Children of the Forest, worshipers of the Old Gods), but who are the notable people among and around them?
The Three-Eyed Raven (or Crow): Even though Martin himself has denied that any of the original series’ cast would appear, of all the characters in Game of Thrones, two who could reasonably make an appearance in a prequel (outside of flash-forwards) are the time-travelers: the original Three-Eyed Raven (Max von Sydow) and Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright).
When we asked Wright back in December 2017 if Bran might show up as the Three-Eyed Raven in a prequel, he said: “It would be fun. There’s so much in the history of Westeros I would love to be involved in, and I’ve got to be a small part of some of those bits and get to sort of observe some of those early things going on in the world. I would love, yeah love, to be able to be a part of any of it, any of the history. So if they offered me to come back for a day and sort of, pop by, and have a look at some scene back from King Aerys or whatever, I wouldn’t say no.”
Bran the Builder: Brandon Stark, the founder of House Stark, built the Wall and Winterfell. He is also credited with constructing or aiding the construction of other mighty projects like Storm’s End, seat of House Durrandon (and the later seat of House Baratheon).
Durran Godsgrief: The first Storm King, builder of Storm’s End (possibly with help of Bran the Builder and the Children of the Forest), and founder of House Durrandon, Durran married Elenei, supposedly the daughter of the sea god and the goddess of the wind, unleashing all sorts of chaos.
Dondarrions: The ancestral House of Game of Thrones’ Beric Dondarrion (leader of the Brotherhood Without Banners and the last head of his House).
House Casterly: The richest lords of Westeros had found gold in their rock and, in the process of digging it out, built the most impressive castle on the continent. In the Age of Heroes, they lost their home and the family disappeared.
Lann the Clever: Founder of House Lannister who infamously swindled Casterly Rock away from House Casterly.
House Reyne: Yes, those Reynes — of Castamere and Lannister fight-song infamy whose riches from mining surpassed even the Lannisters’. (The events that the song “The Rains of Castamere” refer to happen much later, however.)
House Dayne of Starfall: An ancient house of Dorne whose fiercest sons carry the family’s ancestral greatsword, Dawn, and are called “Sword of the Morning.” (In Game of Thrones flashbacks, Sword of the Morning Ser Arthur Dayne, is killed by young Ned Stark and Howland Reed.)
House Gardener: Founders of the Reach whose seat was at Highgarden (later the home of Queen Margaery and seat of House Tyrell, which is rendered extinct by Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones).
The last hero: The last surviving member of a party of First Men who braved the north to find the Children of the Forest to help destroy the Others. The last hero succeeded in bringing the Children to aid in the fight, resulting in the formation of the Night’s Watch and the Battle for the Dawn.
Joramun: A legendary King-Beyond-the-Wall, he blew the Horn of Winter and woke the giants.
Brandon the Breaker: The King of Winter was another “Brandon Stark.” He joined forces with Joramun to defeat the Night’s King and his corpse bride.
Greenseers: The wise men of the Children of the Forest had the greensight, were skinchangers and wargs, and could enter the minds of wolves or dogs. The greatest of them could enter the mind of any beast.
Giants: One-time harriers of the Children of the Forest, the giants are found north of the Wall in the events of Game of Thrones until Jon Snow brings the Wildlings south. Legend has it that Bran the Builder built the Wall with the help of giants.
Green Men: The protectors of the Isle of Faces, where the Pact was signed, may be Children of the Forest or possibly men.
Asshai’i: The witches, wizards, shadowbinders, and others of the mystical city of Asshai, where Melisandre of Game of Thrones hailed from.
Azor Ahai, Nissa Nissa & Lightbringer: The legendary hero from Asshai killed his wife Nissa Nissa to forge his greatsword of fire, Lightbringer. (Given that downer of a legend, he could be represented as something of an anti-hero.) He goes on to fight in the Long Night and is revered as the hero of the Essos god R’hllor, also known as the Lord of Light or the red god. As “the prince who was promised,” Azor Ahai’s reincarnation is the topic of much conversation and speculation in Game of Thrones.
Early Valyrians: The shepherds who discover dragons and go on to found the Freehold of Valyria could possibly be represented in the prequel. (But, again, no Targaryens).
Ghiscari: The people of the predominant culture in Essos at the time of the Age of Heroes were slavers.
The Others: “White Walkers” in Game of Thrones. The Night King and his court are other Game of Thrones characters who could turn up in prequels. Remember that in the series, Leaf is shown stabbing a human captive with dragonglass turning him into the Night King to help fight the invading First Men. Speaking of…
The Night’s King & the Night’s Watch: Portraying the treacherous Night’s King (not to be confused with the White Walker Night King — or maybe so), and his army of Night’s Watch would flip the heroics of the Night’s Watch in Game of Thrones on its head.
Urron Greyiron: The King of the Iron Islands from House Greyiron who stole the title by murdering the competition during the kingsmoot.
Andals: The first waves of the bloody Andal invasion could be compressed into the Long Night; though if the Andals were pushed out of Essos by the expanding Valyrians, then the largest part of the invasion would have occurred after the Long Night. The prequel is supposed to cover the decline of the Age of Heroes, however, and the Long Night lasted about a generation, so to truly show the Andal invasion, the prequel’s characters could be born and die of old age over its course.
The arrival of the Targaryens & the Doom of Valyria: The burning, smoking dead Valyrian Freehold – the Targaryen homeland – met with a great catastrophe. A series that clears up the mystery of exactly what happened would be most welcome. The Targaryens left Valyria with their dragons before the Doom, landing on Dragonstone and establishing their family.
Aegon’s Conquest: Aegon would later conquer six of the seven kingdoms. A prequel sequel could show the last of the Kings of the Isles and the Rivers, Harren the Black; the construction of Harrenhal; and the great castle’s destruction by Aegon’s fierce and fabulous dragon Balerion the Black Dread, whose enormous skull rests under the Red Keep in the time of Game of Thrones.
Want to read more about the ancient Houses of Westeros, the locations, and events of A Song of Ice and Fire history? In addition to the novel series, you can visit A Wiki of Ice and Fire, read through the Game of Thrones Viewers Guide, or pick up The World of Ice and Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones.