It may feel a little premature to start thinking about the successor to a show which has yet to finish, but with Game of Thrones taking a year-long hiatus before its final season airs in 2019, it’s hard to resist looking ahead.
HBO certainly isn’t twiddling its thumbs when it comes to riding off the wave of success Game of Thrones has generated for the network. Last year in early May, HBO announced that we won’t have seen the last of Westeros when the final credits roll for Season Eight. At the time, we learned that the network was exploring four different options for spin-offs, which would most likely not all make it to production, and that author George R.R. Martin was closely involved in the process as executive producer, while Thrones‘ main writers, D.B. Weiss and David Benioff are not (looks like they will have their hands full with “Star Wars”).
Soon after, HBO made it clear that we should not expect see any familiar faces from the current show (including fan-favorite Jon Snow) and while many audience members and readers of George R.R. Martin’s original series hoped for a spin-off featuring Robert’s Rebellion or the cheerful tales of Dunk and Egg, the spin-offs were going to feature entirely new characters and plot-points. You’re making it a little difficult to speculate, HBO!
Currently, the release date for the spin-offs is also sketchy. HBO’s programming president, Casey Bloys, told us that “there is no timetable,” when it comes to a premiere and that Game of Thrones deserves a bit of time to linger in the public mind before we move on to the next big thing. Fair enough…but Westeros withdrawal is real.
Still, perhaps in a bid to keep attention on Thrones while the show is still a long way from airing, the spin-off news continues to trickle in. This week, we learned a little about HBO’s plans for the budgets of the spin-offs (which are now said to be between three and five in production– again, this doesn’t mean we will see five spin-off shows, but HBO likes to keep its options open). Bloys tells us that the first season of the spin-off won’t have the budget of Game of Thrones’ final season…perhaps something more like the show’s third season’s budget. This makes sense, given that HBO can’t justify pouring copious amounts of money into a project that they don’t know will be a massive success, and to be fair, while we love White Walkers and dragons (which both featured in some memorable Season Three moments), Game of Thrones is just as adored for it’s tight dialogue and complex plot-lines as it is for its shiny CGI creatures and castles.
So what are we to make of all this? We currently know more about what the spin-offs will not feature or be about, than what they will, and that can be frustrating. Will a Westeros, perhaps set in another time, featuring a whole new cast of characters, have the same allure as the one we so desperately want to return to in Season Eight? While everyone loves the monsters and battles of Game of Thrones, plenty of movies and shows have featured similar imagery– it’s difficult to distill what makes Game of Thrones so special, and sets it apart from its competition, but discovering what exactly that is is important for HBO if they want to recreate the phenomenal success of Game of Thrones.
It’s easy to be a little wary of spin-offs of popular shows. Generally, franchises with fan-bases large and passionate enough to justify a spin-off have strong feelings about what they want and value in a show, and can often jump quickly from excitement to resentment when faced with a spin-off. HBO needs to realize that a spin-off is as much a risk as it is a promise of more success, and carefully contemplate what exactly it is people love so much about Thrones. While I am sure opinions will differ, I think a great deal of the draw of the show is its complex, nuanced characters. Many people love the escapism that Westeros provides, but they return to the show because they are invested in characters and families that they have followed and felt for and related to for years now.
As much as Season Seven had some brilliant displays of battles, dragons, and battles with and against dragons, most people will tell you their favorite scene was a “quieter” moment– perhaps when Olenna Tyrell died surprisingly victorious, or when Jaime Lannister finally rode away from King’s Landing and his toxic relationship with Cersei. Game of Thrones found universal appeal because its very human characters allowed us to easily immerse ourselves in its very foreign world, and I hope the writers of the spin-offs remember that the key to Game of Thrones’ success was founded as much on dialogue as dragons.
I’d like to see a show start off with a small cast and smaller stakes, and give us a reason to care about the characters in the show, beyond the fact that they live in the same world as the one Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen once did, or will someday. On the same note, if the producers want to generate entirely new and original characters, I hope not to see archetypes or approximations of ones we have already seen in the show– if it’s clear that a new character is merely derivative of one which was already featured on Game of Thrones, I anticipate audiences will balk.
There are plenty of directions that a Game of Thrones spin-off could go. We have focused on the royal members of Westeros’ Houses– why not explore the lives of commoners, or perhaps even wildlings in depth? We have wandered around a large part of Westeros– why not see what Essos holds for us beyond the locales Daenerys has explored? We have seen the world as it was faced with destruction– what does it look like during prosperity? At the end of the day, especially with the input of George R.R. Martin, I am sure HBO will finding an interesting premise to launch us back into its world of kings and crowns and untimely deaths.
As much as HBO is being coy about a release date, it seems likely that a spin-off, which is likely in production now, will air a year or two after the finale of Game of Thrones. The show is wildly popular at the moment, but most audiences are often known to be fickle and will move on to other interests if forced to wait too long–many already believe the year-long wait for the final season is too much. Something tells me we can expect to see a Game of Thrones spin-off reasonably soon, and I’m excited to see what’s in store.
Are you looking forward to a Game of Thrones spin-off? What do you think it should be about?
Let us know in the comments below!