As teased in a closely watched HBO commercial on Golden Globes night, the final episodes of Game of Thrones are coming. But the franchise isn’t going away anytime soon. A previously announced prequel series is coming into sharper focus after a spate of hires that includes eight new actors and on-the-rise director S.J. Clarkson, who had been attached to a fourth Star Trek film that currently faces a cloudy future. With showrunner Jane Goldman steering the prequel series, the primary creative voices will be female — a notable, and exciting, change from the two-man team of David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who have overseen Game of Thrones for eight seasons. Now’s as good a time as any to review everything we know about this show so far.
Long, long ago in a Westeros far, far away
The future of Westeros after Game of Thrones remains to be written: This new series travels back to the distant past, to the waning days of the Age of Heroes, an epoch set several millennia before the events we’ve been following. Martin himself has said that the time span between the shows is 5,000 to 10,000 years. Per an official HBO statement, the series will depict how the world descends from those great heights “into its darkest hour.” Accompanying that descent will be the origins of the White Walkers, as well as the distant ancestors of the Stark family we know and love. (The ones that are still alive anyway.) We can’t help but get Phantom Menace vibes from the premise of watching an orderly society fall into chaos. (Let’s avoid any midichlorians this time.)
The closest person Game of Thrones had to a major movie star when it launched in 2011 was Lord of the Rings star Sean Bean (though Peter Dinklage had a fan following from his film and theater work). HBO’s first big hire for the prequel series was Oscar-nominated A-lister Naomi Watts, who will reportedly play an upper-crust citizen with a secret to protect. (Could that secret be that she’s a Sith Lord with tyrannical ambitions?)
From the galaxy’s edge to Westeros
Last Star Wars reference, we swear! Among the eight actors who just joined the prequel series is Naomi Ackie, who has a top-secret role in Star Wars: Episode IX, due in theaters Dec. 20. The internet has its own ideas about who Ackie is playing in J.J. Abrams’s still-untitled trilogy-capper, and now they can start speculating about her Game of Thrones role as well. Ackie is the only Star Wars veteran in the cast, but some of the other new actors hail from such franchises as The Chronicles of Narnia (Georgie Henley), The Twilight Saga (Jamie Campbell Bower) and Fantastic Beasts (Toby Regbo).
Things are going to look a little different
A city like King’s Landing isn’t built in a day, a year … or 5,000 years. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Martin revealed that many familiar landmarks will be missing from the prequel series. “There’s no King’s Landing. There’s no Iron Throne,” he said. “Valyria has hardly begun to rise yet with its dragons and the great empire that it built. We’re dealing with a different and older world, and hopefully that will be part of the fun of the series.”
But the filming locations will be familiar
Just as the Lord of the Rings franchise is still generating revenue for New Zealand, Game of Thrones has become a vital part of the Irish economy. In fact, even after the mothership series ends its run, several sets will be left standing so that tourists can make their pilgrimage to Westeros’s adopted home. HBO will stay local for the prequel series as well, with filming expected to start in Northern Ireland this fall. But cameras will also be dispatched to the Canary Islands, which Vanity Fair suggests may provide the bucolic setting for the Summer Isles, which claims as native-born citizens such fan-favorite characters as Grey Worm.
The title is still coming
As the creator of Westeros, Martin knows virtually everything about his fictional universe. But some things remain a secret even to him. For example, last fall, the author claimed that the prequel series would be titled The Long Night, which is how Westerosi history refers to the ignoble end of the Age of Heroes. But then HBO swooped in to fact-check him. “HBO has informed me that the Jane Goldman pilot is not (yet) titled The Long Night,” Martin wrote on his blog. “That’s certainly the title I prefer, but for the moment the pilot is still officially UNTITLED.”
The final season of Game of Thrones premieres in April.
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