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Farewell The Long Night — we hardly knew ye. No, really: We knew very little about the Game of Thrones prequel that HBO condemned to the cancellation dungeon after reportedly being disappointed by the S.J. Clarkson-directed pilot. Even the title of the show, which was created by Jane Goldman and featured Naomi Watts as the anchor of a sprawling cast, was famously a work in progress. The pilot was filmed in Northern Ireland under the working title, Bloodmoon, but GoT creator, George R.R. Martin, was the first to publicly refer to the series as The Long Night. He then walked that claim back after HBO issued a polite, but stern correction. Here’s one thing we do know for sure: That series is deader than the Night King. So what does the future hold for the citizens of Westeros? Well, another prequel series — House of the Dragon — just scored a straight to series order, and a few more are waiting in the wings as well. Here’s everything we know about the state of the Game of Thrones franchise so far.
The Age of Heroes is no more
By most accounts, Goldman’s rejected pilot turned back the clock somewhere between 5,000 to 10,000 years to a time when the Seven Kingdoms as we knew them in the “modern” era had yet to exist. The show would then have followed how this mythical Age of Heroes declined and fell into chaos with the arrival of the White Walkers — a period known as the Long Night. (Hence Martin’s belief that that’s the title HBO ultimately would have settled on.) Watts would have played a well-positioned power player who goes to great lengths to protect a dark secret. The rest of the cast included Miranda Richardson, Georgie Henley, Jamie Campbell Bower, Toby Regbo and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker newcomer, Naomi Ackie, but their names and character descriptions never leaked to the press. Perhaps one day HBO will revisit the Age of Heroes — Emilia Clarke, for one, hopes so — but for now this attempt joins the original (and legendarily awful) Game of Thrones pilot in permanent exile from TV screens. “It goes without saying that I was saddened to hear the show would not be going to series,” Martin wrote on his blog, confirming that the plot would have centered around a confrontation between the Starks of old and the White Walkers. “Jane Goldman is a terrific screenwriter, and I enjoyed brainstorming with her.”
Welcome to the Age of the Targaryens
There’s no title confusion about the prequel series that’s taking the place of Goldman’s show: HBO is so firmly committed to House of the Dragon that they’ve skipped over the pilot process and given it a full 10-episode order. Overseen by Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik — who directed multiple episodes of GoT, including the super-sized final season installment “The Long Night” — this tale unfolds a mere 300 years before the all-consuming fight for the Iron Throne. That’s when the Targaryen clan asserted themselves as Westeros’s most powerful House, aided along the way by their dragons and imperial aspirations. “House of the Dragon has been in development for several years (though the title has changed a couple of times during that process),” Martin revealed on his blog. “It was actually the first concept I pitched to HBO when we started talking about a successor show, way back in the summer of 2016.”
There’s a clear blueprint in place
Just as David Benioff and D.B. Weiss had a clear road map for the mothership series (at least until they ran out of books and had to wing it… with mixed results), Condal and Sapochnik are working from a foundational text written by Martin himself. House of the Dragon will lean heavily on the events chronicled in Fire & Blood, the author’s own history of Daenerys’s ancestors, starting with Aegon I, who eventually tamed all of the Seven Kingdoms save for Dorne. Martin — who has already said that he won’t contribute any scripts to the new show until the sixth Song of Ice and Fire installment is complete — chronicles some 150 years of Targaryen history in the book’s 736 pages, which should give the showrunners at least three seasons’ worth of material. And unlike their predecessors, at least they already know how this particular story ends.
Dance magic dragons dance
According to Entertainment Weekly, House of the Dragon won’t be spending too much time on how Aegon I tamed Westeros. Instead, the show will fast-forward ahead some 100 years to the reign of the fifth Targaryen ruler, Viserys I. That’s when the question of succession — not to be confused with HBO’s other succession-based series — got complicated. How complicated? Well, Viserys’s son, Aegon II, wasn’t happy that his half-sister, Rhaenyra, was named the designated heir, resulting in an internal civil war that entered the history books as the Dance of the Dragons. People fighting over the throne worked out so well last time, it’s no surprise that HBO decided to do it again.
Actors… start calling your agents!
They’ve got a title and a concept, now House of the Dragon just needs some actors. If history holds true to form, the first casting announcement will be a big-name hire — a la Sean Bean and Naomi Watts — who may or may not survive the first season. (We’re just putting this out into the universe now: Sigourney Weaver as anyone!) After that, the rest of the ensemble will likely consist of a mixture of respected veteran character actors and fresh faces who go on to join the Marvel and/or Star Wars cinematic universe. “A lot of work remains ahead of us,” Martin writes on his blog. “There’s a writer’s room to be assembled, episodes to be broken down and scripted, a cast and crew to be assembled, budgets and production details to be worked out. As yet, we don’t even know where we will be shooting... though I expect we will revisit at least some of the countries David & Dan used for Game of Thrones.”
More shows are coming
Now that HBO’s owners at WarnerMedia have a whole streaming service to fill, you can be sure that multiple trips back to Westeros are in the works. The network originally had five concepts for continuations, but two of those — Goldman’s show, and another series pitched by Bryan Cogman — are officially off the table. Some are speculating that House of the Dragon may bring together a few of the remaining concepts that were in the works, most notably a Max Borenstein script that was said to be Targaryen-centric. (Although other rumors have suggested it was set during a pre-Aegon I period, the Doom of Valyria.) There are two other scripts that remain unaccounted for — one penned by Oscar-winning screenwriter Brian Helgeland, and the other from Emmy-nominated Mad Men scribe, Carly Wray. “It was an insane creative proposition,” Wray said of her pitch in 2018, adding that she went through “tons” of ancillary material. “I combed through those… and found a piece of the pre-history that I really liked.” If she’s talking about the Second Spice War, we’re all in.
House of the Dragon will premiere on HBO in 2021.
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