On Thursday, HBO revealed it’s developing four potential spinoffs for Game of Thrones, the wildly popular fantasy series which begins its penultimate season in July. The revelation that HBO is working with George R. R. Martin on further exploring the world of Westeros (and Essos, and Sothoryos, and who knows where else) sent a wave of excitement through the internet, which after all is mainly designed to discuss Game of Thrones. The possibilities for spinoffs are limitless, whether HBO chooses to dig into Martin’s own writing or just crack open the Westeros map and point to a Kingdom. Here are some ideas from Shirley Li, host of EW’s video series Game of Theories, and Darren Franich, co-host of the podcast EW’s Game of Thrones Weekly.
Brienne the Beauty: Let’s consider the Better Call Saul rule. If HBO wants to spin off a character from Game of Thrones, it makes sense to focus on a character who is popular with the fandom, but who isn’t directly tied to the larger saga of the show. Saul Goodman stole every scene he had in Breaking Bad, but he didn’t need to appear in the series finale – hell, we never even knew his real name. Likewise, Gwendolyn Christie’s Brienne of Tarth has justifiably become one of the most popular figures in the Game of Thrones tapestry, a questing ronin-knight serving various dead masters, pursuing Stark children and Baratheon justice through war and ruin.
But Brienne is tied to no grand destiny, has no interest in sitting the Iron Throne. And whether her friends or enemies emerge victorious at the end of season 8, it seems likely that Brienne will survive. I see her wandering through Westeros like Toshiro Mifune in Yojimbo or Caine in Kung Fu, exploring new corners of the country, becoming embroiled in localized disputes, solving ethically ambiguous problems, SWORDFIGHTS. By its nature, this would be a smaller-scale show – more Hobbit than Lord of the Rings – but that would give the show a same-but-different flavor, micro rather than macro. –Darren
Breaking Bear Island: Ser Jorah Mormont is dying of greyscale. As a way to prove his eternal devotion to the mother of dragons, he sets out on a criminal course to secure support for her. To do so, he’ll need Daario’s help. Think Golden Company, but with the two of them conquering Essos. –Shirley
Lyanna: She’s precocious now, but imagine her as an older ruler, maybe in her 20s. And then imagine her on a Tudors-style show as the Elizabeth I of Westeros, cycling through various suitors while grappling with how much reach she really wants in the realm. Bear Island may be small, but this could imagine a future in which it looms large over the North. Oh, and obviously she’ll be accompanied by the Onion Knight. –Shirley
The Princess and the Queen: I’m a big devotee of Martin’s extended-universe writing about Westeros history, and this three-year-old novella is a banger. Set a couple hundred years before Game of Thrones, it describes in great detail the “Dance of Dragons,” a Civil War that nearly tore the continent apart. If the intention of a Thrones spinoff is to go big, then the pitch on this show would be the chance to go Full Targaryen. Unlike the complicated inter-family jockeying of Thrones, this is fundamentally the story of a single, delightfully screwy royal family. It begins with some extremely Gossip Girl-y courtly intrigue between an heiress daughter and her ambitious stepmother – and ends with dragons fighting through the sky. If, as James Hibberd suggested on Thursday, some of the Thrones spinoffs will be limited series, The Princess and the Queen would make a great ten-episode saga, full of larger-than-life personalities and epic battle sequences. –Darren
Untitled Children of the Forest, Bran the Builder Prequel: Yes yes, it’s a prequel, but think of it as a Rome-type series about the rise and fall of a people through civil war over what to do about the First Men and the advent of the White Walkers. The hair and makeup budget will be off the Wall. (Sorry.) –Shirley
The Summer Isles: A question has haunted me for years, ever since I first saw the map of George R. R. Martin’s world. What the hell is going on in the Summer Isles? Located far southerly from Westeros, they’ve only ever been a distant setting in the books, with a deep history that seems to vaguely blend Polynesian mythology with African aesthetics. This is a roundabout way of saying that any show set in the Summer Isles could open up whole new mythic corners of the world – something Martin himself seems to love doing – while also featuring a more significantly multifaceted culture. We do know that the Summer Isles have their own intriguingly multifaceted culture, with multiple frenemy princes and princess occasionally engaging in a highly-ritualized form of warfare. A tantalizing possibility: The War Of Five Kings, with beaches. –Darren
Westerosi Crime (Working Title): An anthology crime drama that’ll attract a tiny viewership but draw awards attention for tackling major issues like race and gender politics throughout the Riverlands. The first season follows Hot Pie on trial after being involved in a murder of a Dornish woman at the inn. –Shirley
What A Girl Wants: Arya Stark is another character who follows the Saul Rule: Wildly popular, endlessly fun, yet so distantly connected to the main action of the show that she spent two seasons selling cockles outside the face museum. That might change – Arya is everyone’s favorite dark horse candidate to sit on the Iron Throne – but it seems equally likely that Arya won’t feel at home in Westeros, even if her allies are triumphant. Focusing on Arya would give the spinoff the chance to explore some of the deepweird supernatural ideas of the show. (Who are the Faceless Men???) Theoretically, the Arya spinoff could do a massive time jump forward from the Thrones finale, beginning after a long winter (and allowing Maisie Williams to once again play her own age.) Twist for season 2: The Arya and Brienne spinoffs merge into one show. Twist for season 3: Arya and Brienne become enemies. –Darren
Westerosi Gods: We’ve heard so much about the old gods and the new. Now, put ’em all on Skagos and make them fight for spiritual domination while surrounded by unicorns and cannibals. This show writes itself! –Shirley
NCIS: Braavos: There are, like, a million murder interns working for the House of Black and White, which means there will probably be a million bodies washing up onto the Braavosi shores for a highly skilled group of special agents to investigate. This show will go on to have 27 seasons, no movie, and four spinoffs of its own. —Shirley
Ode to Greyjoys: Hey guys, the Greyjoys are awesome. –Darren [EDITOR’S NOTE: This is not a view shared by any of Darren’s colleagues.]
Dances With Direwolves: It’s a David Attenborough nature program in which a grand total of zero direwolves die. Just go with it. –Shirley
The Land of Always Winter: Fargo with blue people. –Darren
Game of Thrones returns to HBO on July 16.