There was a big shake-up in Westeros on Tuesday when Deadline announced that HBO would not be going forward with its initial Game of Thrones prequel, Bloodmoon. While the prestige network would not confirm this to Refinery29, executives did announce later Tuesday evening a series order for House of the Dragon, a different GOT prequel based on George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood. Set 300 years before the events of GOT, the companion to Martin’s A Song Of Ice And Fire series tells the story of the Targaryen house. On the surface, HBO just swapped one prequel for another — and the network might say it was done for both creative and business reasons — but the reported loss of Bloodmoon is the loss of GOT’s first woman-directed, woman-led series. To complicate matters further, its replacement is comprised of the exact same ingredients, from its producers to a lack of source material, that led to GOT’s tarnished legacy.
When Game of Thrones premiered in 2011, showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss admittedly had so little experience that most of the pilot had to be redone. It remains the stuff of legend in the industry for its disastrous first attempt. At the Austin Film Festival last week, Twitter user @ForArya documented further comments Benioff and Weiss made about their inexperience, including, “Everything we could make a mistake in, we did.”
After the pilot was completely reworked, the series became a massive success — a global juggernaut with later season ratings we may never see again. Nevertheless, while Thrones’ success mounted, the writers exhausted Martin’s source material. The series culminated in a widely roasted final season. Bloodmoon seemed like the perfect chance for redemption. After all, showrunner Jane Goldman and pilot director S.J. Clarkson are not newbies to the industry, as evidenced by their extensive IMDb pages. Goldman wrote movies including the cult favorite Kick-Ass, and is the writer behind the upcoming Rebecca starring Armie Hammer and Lily James, and the live-action Little Mermaid starring Halle Bailey. Clarkson’s credits have quite the range: She’s directed episodes of Orange Is The New Black, Jessica Jones, and Succession (“Prague,” which many fans hail as the series’ best episode to date). She will also helm the upcoming unnamed Star Trek sequel.
The Bloodmoon cast was a murderer’s row of female talent. Naomi Watts was front and center, with relatively new faces like Naomi Ackie (The End Of The F***ing World, Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker), Ivanno Jeremiah (Humans, Cold Feet), and Marquis Rodriguez (When They See Us, Iron Fist) providing a diverse supporting cast. Plot-wise, the series was said to focus on Watts’ character, who fans spotted wearing a shiny gold dress while filming in Ireland, as “a charismatic socialite hiding a dark secret.” The female storylines in Game of Thrones have always been the most powerful, and we were about to get a show that prioritizes those voices. Until…
#HouseOfTheDragon, a #GameofThrones prequel is coming to @HBO.— Game of Thrones (@GameOfThrones) October 29, 2019
The series is co-created by @GRRMSpeaking and Ryan Condal. Miguel Sapochnik will partner with Condal as showrunner and will direct the pilot and additional episodes. Condal will be writing the series. pic.twitter.com/9ttMzElgXm
House of the Dragon has some eerie similarities to Game of Thrones’ seemingly ill-advised beginnings. It’s also based on source material that hasn’t been finished. While the first Fire & Blood volume was released in 2018, there’s reportedly a second in the works. And Condal, the series co-creator, has a resume that is far shorter and much less dynamic in comparison to Goldman and Clarkson’s. He created the USA series Colony and wrote the screenplay for Rampage, but no films or TV shows that can be considered major successes or that have attracted big names (aside from Dwayne Johnson). From the information we’ve been given, it’s glaringly apparent that chances are being given to a less-experienced man over two extremely experienced women — however HotD has brought Emmy-winning director and executive producer Miguel Sapochnik along from GoT, where he directed tentpole episodes like “Battle of the Bastards” and “The Long Night.”
We still know little about what Bloodmoon was supposed to be. Deadline cited “issues” during filming as a reason for its downfall, so any number of complications beyond gender could account for its demise (neither Goldman nor Clarkson returned Refinery29’s request for comment). This isn’t to point fingers, but instead to lament the loss of what sounded like an incredible new chapter in the GOT universe. And on the bright side, House of the Dragon as it is now is nothing but potential. When it comes to casting the characters and hiring the writers that could still make this series a progressive success, the throne is anyone’s for the taking.
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