The first Game of Thrones prequel to film a pilot has come face to face with the Stranger. The show’s creator, Jane Goldman, has contacted the cast and crew to inform them the series, set thousands of years ago during Westeros’ mysterious Age of Heroes, is not being picked up. But what is dead may never die, and while this news might be disappointing to some, it’s not totally surprising. More importantly it doesn’t mean the end of HBO’s time with George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. It just means that when the network returns to the Seven Kingdoms it’s more likely to do so with a different storyline.. And that’s good news if you really love dragons.
For the last year it certainly seemed likely Goldman’s series, which George R.R. Martin also worked on and kept referring to as “The Long Night,” would be the first Game of Thrones prequel ordered to a full series. Out of the five ideas originally developed by HBO in 2017, it was the only one to get a full pilot order, which it finished shooting over the summer. However, in September a new report said a second prequel idea, this one based on the era of Targaryen rule in Westeros, was also going to shoot a pilot. It wasn’t impossible both could be ultimately be produced, especially in such a competitive TV/streaming site landscape, but it definitely wasn’t a great sign for Goldman’s show.
If HBO was fully committed to “The Long Night” and expected to pick it up, would they have been putting major resources into yet another idea so soon? After the sour reaction to Game of Thrones‘ final season, that would have been a lot of money and resources invested in a franchise that might not have a large built-in audience anymore. HBO might have Lannister money, but even Tywin’s goldmines ran dry eventually. Now it appears that second pilot order really was as ominous as it appeared.
We don’t know yet why HBO passed on a story set thousands of years earlier during a very different time in the Realm’s history. It could simply be the pilot was bad (though a disastrous first pilot didn’t stop Game of Thrones from being produced), or maybe executives decided the story itself wasn’t compelling enough (even if there were lots of reasons to think it would). What we do know is the second pilot has a lot more in common with the worldwide phenomenon that ended this year.
Though the specifics remain unclear, the prequel idea in development now is based on part one of George R.R. Martin’s Fire and Blood history of House Targaryen. Instead of being set millennia ago, before either dragons or Targaryens existed, it will only date back at most 300 years before the events of Game of Thrones. And if it ends up being an anthology series (please please please), it could eventually end with the Mad King’s death, connecting it to the original series.
The story of the Targaryen kings is a three century long tale of betrayal, families, war, love, and the true cost of power. It’s Game of Thrones without the Night King. Ultimately that could be why it has more appeal to HBO than “The Long Night” did. Set during the first White Walker invasion which lasted much longer than the second, it would have had far more fantasy elements, and maybe even evil Starks to root against. It was an idea with a lot of intriguing elements to explore, but this could be a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and a story about powerful people fighting over the Iron Throne definitely worked.
And everyone likes dragons. Well, maybe not everyone. King’s Landing probably doesn’t.
Featured Image: HBO