Yes, the prequel. If you’re following the show you already know that Game of Thrones season 7 and the long distant season 8 are all that remains of the main story, and they’re shortened runs. However, Thrones has never been more popular, and the people demand more blood, sex, and plotting. Author George RR Martin is well up for it, telling Entertainment Weekly: “There are eight million stories in Westeros as well and even more in Essos and the lands beyond. A whole world full of stories… if indeed HBO is interested.”
HBO is indeed interested. Speaking to EW, HBO’s President of Network Programming, Casey Bloys, said: “I would say it’s still kind of preliminary on-going talks. There are areas we are exploring, but I wouldn’t point to any one and say, ‘This is what we’re going to do’.” Martin himself has already suggested that his novella series ‘The tale of Dunk and Egg’ would be perfect for a made-for-TV movie series, but I think HBO can do much better and bigger things. Here are some ideas…
Robert Baratheon's rebellion
This story would be more of the same high-action, high-drama stuff that simply explains the events leading up to the start of Game of Thrones season 1. It would likely follow the story of how the Baratheons teamed up with the Starks and the Arryns to overthrow the Mad King Aerys Targaryen. Jaime Lannister stabbing him in the back? Check. A bit more Ser Arthur Dayne, and a look at the Battle of the Trident? Yup. More young Ned Stark, and a bit of Rhaegar Targaryen + Lyanna Stark = Jon Snow? Why the hell not.
This piece of Thrones lore is already quite developed, so it’d make excellent material for several seasons of prequel. The only slight downside here is that some of these stories may be told in the coming season 7, as Bran continues to delve into the past using his abilities.
The Long Night
We know from a Bran sequence in Game of Thrones season 6 that the White Walkers were first created when the Children of the Forest stabbed Dragonglass into a man’s heart to help them win a war against the First Men. But details on this part of the history are otherwise scant. If HBO decides it wants to go for a full, totally new prequel (but still within the warm, cosy confines of the Game of Thrones universe) then this would be a good option.
The downside? Well, the Children of the Forest are a bit ‘Jar Jar’, so I’m not sure I’d want to see them getting regular airings on TV. Also, it’s so far back that more casual Thrones fans simply wouldn’t be able to relate to it. Still, it’d be great to see The Wall being built…
Let’s go a little further back in time. The Valyrian civilisation is - according to the books - the most magnificent and advanced period of Game of Thrones’ history. At some point, however, something called The Doom happens and it’s wiped out so extensively and aggressively that the entire freehold of Valyria becomes inhospitable and dangerous to humans. That’s why Valyrian steel swords are so precious in the show. The Targaryens trace back their lineage to the Valyrians (they were the first civilisation to tame and ride dragons to war), and in the books Euron Greyjoy claims to have retrieved a horn that controls dragons from the ashes of post-Doom Valyria. Aside from that, the civilisation is shrouded in mystery.
Sounds like a great opportunity to tell some cool Thrones stories to me, interspersed with a handful of nods to the ‘modern’ GoT universe. The drawback again is that this all happened 5000 years ago, so this may be too much change for all but the most dedicated fans.
Dunk and Egg
This is George RR Martin’s suggestion, and it probably takes in much of the same themes of Robert’s rebellion. The novellas follow the exploits of a Hedge knight Ser Duncan the Tall and his Squire Egg, who end up joining the Kingsguard and later serve Aegon Targaryen. It’s all set 90 years before the events of Thrones S1, so none of the same characters would overlap (unless someone like Melissandre has a cameo).
King’s Landing has plenty of stories to tell, so this would be a safe enough choice. It’s GRRM’s preference too, and can - apparently - be turned into movie-length shows, rather than whole seasons. It’d be lower-risk for HBO, but is unlikely to sate the appetite for more Thrones. I, er, assume we’ll want to see more once this main set of stories have been concluded.
The rise of [insert House here]
No, that isn’t an editing mistake - honestly, you could probably create a whole season based on any of the main houses in Westeros. Want to see Ned’s parents and brothers ruling the North? What about the rise to power of the Lannisters, as spearheaded by Tywin? Maybe you could go further afield and show more of the Greyjoys, or House Martell. There’s so much rich history to be explored.
The potential downside? If the characters and stories aren’t compelling enough it could a real drag. And different Houses have different fans, so you’d always be upsetting someone by exclusively focusing on a single dynasty.
On the road with Euron Greyjoy
What Thrones S6 needed was more Euron Greyjoy. An insane ‘pirate’ with a horrific dark side and an unpredictable nature, he’s criminally underused to date. During his Kingsmoot speech he claims to have seen more of the world than all the Ironborn combined… sounds like fertile ground for a multi-location, single character epic. Potentially a mini-series, potentially a movie - kinda like the anti-Pirates of the Caribbean.
Likely to happen? Not really. Euron is an unsavoury character (a rapist and murderer according to the books), so I’m not sure he’d play well with focus groups. Still, HBO isn’t afraid of taking risks, so this is an outside bet.