The whole Game of Thrones prequel situation is admittedly pretty confusing — and perhaps became even more so after EW’s exclusive update on a fifth series last week. Below, a definitive FAQ for understanding HBO’s plan for GoT‘s final season and a successor series.
When do we get more Game of Thrones?
Well, see, straight away you’re asking something we can’t definitively answer. Normally GoT returns every year. Production starts in October. There is no announced air date. But Thrones will either return in the second half of 2018 or in 2019. The eighth and final season will definitely air before any prequel series.
Okay, but if you had to bet which year it returns?
Umm … I’d guess 2019. But again, until HBO announces a date, that’s just speculation.
How many episodes are in the final season?
You’re sure there’s only six?
Yes. And there are some very cool Emmy-winning directors involved — Miguel Sapochnik (who did “Hardhome” and “Battles of the Bastards”) and David Nutter (who directed six previous episodes including The Red Wedding episode “The Rains of Castamere) are directing multiple episodes. Plus, showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss are directing the finale.
Will the episodes be super-sized then?
Given that the last two seasons broke records for Longest GoT Episodes Ever, it’s probably safe to assume season 8 will have some rather lengthy episodes as well. There are rumors this is the case. Nothing has been confirmed yet though.
Why do we have to wait long if the show is making fewer episodes?
Fewer episodes, but they’re likely to be among the most challenging the show has ever produced. Showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss have said they plan to spend a year and a half making the final season and previously stated that they’re committed to Thrones concluding on a very high note. The Great War between humanity and the Army of the Dead has been teased since the show’s very first scene. So the GoT team wants to spend time on the season to get it right and deliver an epic finish (and will spend an estimated $15 million per episode in the process). Beyond that, many other factors go into scheduling TV shows — for instance, since the recently aired season 7 will compete in next year’s Emmys, HBO would never air GoT‘s final season until the eligibility period begins for the following year’s Emmys.
Okay, so Game of Thrones is getting a bunch of spin-offs?
A “spin-off” is when a character from an existing show is spun off into their own series after the original series ends — like, say, Sellsword: The Further Adventures of Bronn. Which might be rad. But HBO isn’t doing that. The network is developing five prequel series and all of them are set before the events in Thrones.
Five? Really five?
Really! And that is indeed strange. I’ve never seen a strategy like this in television before. But it also makes sense in this case. HBO’s programming president Casey Bloys has explained that GoT is such a unique property, and such an enormous success, that the network wants to maximize its chances of finding a series worthy of continuing the most popular, award-winning and lucrative show they’ve ever had. Basically, just as the GoT showrunners are spending a lot of time on the final season, HBO likewise doesn’t want to blow the show’s legacy by having a successor series that’s considered a step-down. Also, fun fact: HBO has never made a follow-up series to one of their hits before — GoT would be the first.
So all five will air?
Almost certainly not. “Developing” only means a script is being written. Once those are turned in, maybe one or two might become a pilot. Then they show that show to the people who pick shows and — look, do we need to quote Pulp Fiction here? You know how this works. It’s a process. Bloys says they’ll be happy to ultimately find just one prequel worthy of continuing the GoT legacy.
What are the prequels about?
So little is known that it’s easier to say what they’re not about. There are no current cast members in the stories. They take place during the prior history of Westeros and Essos. Robert’s Rebellion is not one of them. Author George R.R. Martin’s Dunk & Egg tales are not one of them either, since those stories are still being written (Martin’s not about to get into another “books vs. TV version” publication race). Beyond that, there’s only speculation. I mean, you gotta figure one of the projects has to involve the Targaryens, because how could it not? They ruled Westeros for 300 years.
No Robert’s Rebellion? But that would be great!
Martin says that by the time his books are written fans will already have their biggest questions answered about that period of Westeros history. So much of GoT‘s drama — and serialized dramas in general — come from not knowing what’s going to happen next. A Robert’s Rebellion story would mostly rehash what we already know (like, have you watched Attack of the Clones lately?).
Is Martin involved in the prequels?
Yes! Very much so. All the prequel writers are working with him to varying degrees. Benioff and Weiss, however, have declined to be involved and are instead focused exclusively on the final season.
Who are these new writers then?
A really exciting mix of voices with impressive credits. One name fans will recognize is Bryan Cogman, who has written some of the show’s best episodes (like “Kissed by Fire” and “The Laws of Gods and Men”). There’s also Max Borenstein (Kong: Skull Island, Fox’s Minority Report); Jane Goldman (Kingsman: The Secret Service, X-Men: First Class); Brian Helgeland (A Knight’s Tale, L.A. Confidential); and Carly Wray (Mad Men).
But in the end, there can be only one?
Quite possibly, yeah. It’s like a screenwriting version of Highlander.
So when will a prequel air?
Not until after Game of Thrones concludes. Likely not until a year later, Bloys says. So maybe 2020?
That’s a long time, and it sounds like there’s a lot of things that need to happen before any of this becomes a reality.
Now you’re getting it. Any other questions?
How will Jon Snow react to learning his parentage?
Dude, that’s a totally different conversation! There’s a whole other post for our season 8 predictions.