Cue the "It's happening!" gifs right now. A Game of Thrones prequel show has officially been given the green light from HBO, meaning its not the end of our time with Westeros on the small screen, despite next year's Game of Thrones season 8 confirmed as the final season for the mainline series as we know it.
Details about the prequel are scarce and it's still early days, but HBO has already revealed drops of tantalising information about where and when it'll take place in the Game of Thrones universe, and why you should be excited about a story without Jon, Dany, and all the rest. Below, you'll find everything you need to know about the Game of Thrones prequel, which we'll continue to update as more info arrives over the coming weeks, months, and years.
When is the Game of Thrones prequel release date?
With Game of Thrones season 8 not with us until 2019, don’t expect a Game of Thrones prequel release date until 2020 at the absolute earliest. Even then, a pilot will take a long time to set up – just read up on the Game of Thrones pilot you never saw for yourself to see how hard it can be – and a full series would still need to be commissioned. 2021, while a long way away, is the more realistic Game of Thrones prequel release date.
Geeks Worldwide, however, did recently report that production on the show is scheduled to begin as early as February 2019. That's next year, and HBO apparently plans to use the same stage location studio in Northern Ireland that has been the home of the mainline show for so many years, while also filming on location in several parts of the world. That makes a 2020 release date slightly more plausible, if not completely guaranteed.
Who is the Game of Thrones prequel showrunner?
Jane Goldman will be heading up the Game of Thrones prequel as showrunner. As one of five candidates set up to produce a Westeros prequel, Goldman has a knack for writing action adventures with character and charm: Kick-Ass, Kingsman: The Secret Service and X-Men: First Class are all part of her resume. Goldman will oversee the pilot and act as series showrunner. Fun fact: she's married to British late night host (and mega Game of Thrones fan) Jonathan Ross.
What is the Game of Thrones prequel story?
As confirmed by EW, Jane Goldman, co-writer of Stardust and the first two Kingsman movies, will serve as showrunner, working alongside George R. R. Martin to bring the Game of Thrones prequel to pilot. From there, a series may be greenlight if the opening episodes impresses enough – but what’s the prequel premise?
HBO has released the first story synopsis: “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.”
This synopsis rules out some previous Game of Thrones prequel plot suggestions, such as Robert’s Rebellion. We know it’s set thousands of years in the past, but other than that, we’re not too sure what age of Westeros we’ll be dealing with. It’s a tantalising blank slate - but here are a few ideas.
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…
Interestingly, this is George RR Martin's first pick for a show title. That's despite the fact he think HBO will try and shoehorn a 'Game of Thrones' in there somewhere for brand identity. Say hello to Game of Thrones: The Long Night? That's looking like a very real, distinct possibility.
Of course, that also tips us off as to what we might expect. If the prequel isn't about the Long Night, a period in Westerosi history that saw the White Walkers (yep, them again) make their way south to try and plunge the entire region into an eternal winter, then I'll be pretty shocked. George RR Martin wouldn't have mentioned it otherwise, that's for certain.
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.
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 ancestors ruling the North? What about the rise to power of the Lannisters? 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.
What happens to the other Game of Thrones prequels?
Once upon a time, HBO commissioned five writers to have a crack at their own Game of Thrones prequel, with some of the finest talent around ready to present their vision of Westeros. Inevitably, only one was chosen.
So, what about the other four? George RR Martin has actually been kind enough to update us all with a blog post clueing us in on all things Game of Thrones prequels. In it, he says that, of the five prequels (minus the Jane Goldman show, of course), one has been shelved, with three more in "active development." In fact, Martin hopes that "we could film at least one more pilot, and maybe more than one, in the years to come." This isn't the last of the Game of Thrones prequels, that's for sure.
For more Game of Thrones goodies, check out the biggest Game of Thrones theories you need to know about heading into the final season.