Fans of George R.R Martin’s work were elated when news broke about the creation of a new HBO series titled: Game of Thrones. Since then the fan base commanded by Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels has exploded into a genuine cultural phenomenon. With references on network television sitcoms and celebrity endorsements there seems to be no stopping HBO’s first-of-its-kind fantasy series.
While Martin meticulously pieces together the final chapters of his magnum opus (a process that usually takes him 3+ years per installment) newly-forged fans of the television show are having trouble with the year-long wait times in between seasons.
“So what?,” fans might say. “Read the books,” cry the rest. The schedule isn’t all that different from other major drama series such as Mad Men or True Blood. Great dramas require copious amounts of time and as Game of Thrones is produced on a scale never before seen on television one should expect it to take at least a year to complete a single season. Each novel and season ends with ever-condescending cliffhanger leaving some of the more casual HBO watchers left trying to remember names, places and “house words” over an entire year of darkness. In this fleeting, fast-paced, instant gratification world it could make sense for HBO to keep fans engaged throughout the year.
For those unfamiliar with the novellas: The Tales of Dunk and Egg are a series of short stories set in the world of Westeros. They take place around 100 years before the events that lead up to Game of Thrones. Martin has written three installments thus far and has promised fans a handful more with another rumored for a May 2013 release. The story follows the lives of a lowly hedge-knight, Ser Duncan the Tall (Dunk) and his young squire, (Egg) a boy with an important and mysterious birthright. Their adventures whisk us away to familiar Westerosian locales as we run into important individuals whose legacies ring through the post-Robert’s Rebellion world we’re already familiar with.
But how could a series like this be achieved? The actors, producers and writers are all committing as much time as their lives and careers will allow to Game of Thrones. And HBO surely doesn’t want to spend more than the current 6 Million dollars per episode no matter how much upside potential it may have. But readers of the short stories know that these tales are on a much smaller scale, focusing on only one or two locations and involving only a handful of main characters. With most of the props from the series and a skeleton shooting crew a Dunk and Egg mini series could be done for much less than $6 million per installment. Perhaps they could be done for as little as $1 million each and from that, HBO would give Game of Thrones fans a reason to continue their subscriptions through the long winter. We wouldn’t want HBO to skimp on quality but surely an episode of Dunk and Egg would cost exponentially less than an episode involving the cast, crew and manpower of Game of Thrones.
The place where Dunk and Egg would almost surely work, though is on HBO’s extremely popular and successful online venue: HBO Go. What better way to stream a mini-series like this one than through the web. It could even be offered free for a limited time as basically a 1-hour advertisement for HBO and Game of Thrones. These could be something that are produced one or two times per year as Martin has yet to finish the entire Dunk and Egg saga.
“Okay I’ll bite. Who would be cast in this mini-series?” I don’t pretend to have any secret insider information when it comes to HBO’s casting decisions but it should be clear to any casual observer that HBO loves to recycle their actors. To that end I would guess that HBO could save even further by employing some of their stellar, already contracted artists. My pick for Ser Duncan? Jack Huston: better known as Boardwalk Empire’s Richard Harrow. He’s also incredible the BBC/HBO production of Parade’s End.
The tendency in the HBO adaptation of Martin’s work is to age-up the characters. Mr. Huston could easily play a 20-30 something hedge-knight with nothing to lose other than his honor. He also has the acting chops to bring some real emotion to the character. The show would also require a youngling to play Dunk’s companion, Egg.
It would be difficult to choose a child actor currently working as the show would most likely take place 2-3 years from now and the actor would need to be a very specific age. I’d assume HBO would hold casting calls as they did for the other children in Game of Thrones so I’ll refrain from casting Egg here. Nevertheless Egg would need to be quick-witted with light features and I could see them aging his character a bit to “pre-teens” (Egg is ~8 in the novels). They’d have to cast a fairly young actor so that it won’t look odd when he ages over the years of filming.
Other notable and exciting characters who would need casting include Baelor Breakspear, Ser Lyonel Baratheon, Maekar Targaryen, Lord Bloodraven, a 4-year-old Walder Frey and even a character who (magically?) still lives in the time of Game of Thrones: Aemon Targaryen.
The stories themselves are quite interesting on their own and could probably be told on-screen in 1-3 hours depending on the chapter. I’d give HBO producers a lot of leeway with how the story actually unfolds just as they’ve taken with Game of Thrones. With Martin himself on board we may even get a few surprises not included in the novellas. If you’ve read the Tales of Dunk and Egg you’ll know that much of the content is simply an excuse to go into depth on the history of the realm, to revel in house mottos and sigils and to examine a world where the seven kingdoms are united under Targaryen banners. We’re also treated to a multi-perspective look at the Blackfyre Rebellion which is quickly becoming an extremely interesting and relevant aspect of Westerosian history for readers who’ve completed A Dance with Dragons and were paying close attention.
Needless to say Martin’s story-telling abilities shine just as bright in these novellas and the slow-burning drama filled with gritty detail is as effervescent as always. Having read the entire series as well as the Tales of Dunk and Egg I can safely say that what may seem like a “side story” at first is very rapidly becoming critical to a full understanding of the Westeros we are now familiar with. And with several more installments planned I doubt we’ve even scraped the surface.
Are you excited yet? I see no reason why HBO couldn’t pull this off within a reasonable timeline and budget. The question is how to convince the titan of a network that this is in their best interest. There is a strong argument to be made for assuring fan continuity throughout the long year. But also for luring currently non-HBO subscribing fans to HBO Go with a web series. It would also give HBO yet another must-buy DVD/Blu-Ray item to sell which is a huge source of income for the premium cable network. For many fans, Dunk and Egg on DVD would be an instant, “don’t-even-have-to-think-about-it” purchase. And that fan-base of super-fans continues to grow.
While Martin takes his sweet time writing books six and seven in the series, the HBO show marches on and even he is worried that producers will catch up. While Dunk and Egg would work best as a web series it may simply become a necessity if the show is rounding Game of Thrones season eight and Martin is well behind writing book seven or eight. Even Starz’ Spartacus took a hiatus with a prequel for a single season when the show’s star took ill. A Dunk and Egg series on HBO could end up being a necessity.
In the end this may all just be wishful thinking from a hopeful fan and we may have to settle for a fan-production. But as Game of Thrones continues to seep into the fabric of world-wide culture there may eventually be enough incentive for HBO to put together a Dunk and Egg mini-series.
What do you think, ASOIAF fans? We want to hear your casting ideas as well as any thoughts you may have on the execution of such a series on HBO. Leave us a comment below with your ideas, good Sers.
Winter is Coming for now but it’s up to us as fans to make sure our voices are heard.