Game of Thrones prequel confirmed: What it’s about, when it’s coming, and why you should care about Westeros’ "darkest hour"

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 It’s finally official: a Game of Thrones prequel has been ordered by HBO and is on the way in the near-future. It was an extensive process, covering five writers working alongside George R. R. Martin to get the perfect pilot in order and, from it, one was chosen. Sure, it wasn’t quite trial by combat, but this was involved a lot less in the way of squished eyeballs (we hope). Say hello to Jane Goldman’s Game of Thrones prequel, and everything else you need to know about the upcoming spin-off.  

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.

The Doom

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. 

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 would 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 need to be commissioned. 2021, while a long way away, is the more realistic date.

Who is Jane Goldman, showrunner of the Game of Thrones prequel?

One of five candidates set up to produce a Game of Thrones prequel, Jane 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.

What happens to the other Game of Thrones prequels?

(Image: © HBO)

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.