Fans used scour the darkest corners of the internet in search of clues about what to expect from HBO's Game of Thrones. The scrutiny surrounding the production led the showrunners to implement extreme security measures to prevent leaks from the set. It's why no one saw the ending of the fantasy drama coming until HBO was ready for fans to see it. However, that dedication to secrecy doesn't seem to carry over to the prequel series, which has already experienced several leaks, despite only being a few weeks into filming.
Over the past several weeks there have been multiple leaks, mostly involving photos taken on sets in Northern Ireland and Italy. We've seen statues of lions, a mysterious new sigil and even Naomi Watts, seemingly in full costume. Those photos don't reveal any telling details about the show or its characters, but all the same, it's odd to see them captured with such apparent ease when the parent series was renowned for its secrecy.
Keep in mind that the set of Game of Thrones was at one point surrounded by enormous metal walls and equipped with "drone killers" to prevent paparazzi photos. The level of security was such that shooting schedules were kept on a need-to-know basis, to avoid unwanted attention. This is the show that destroyed scripts immediately after the actors read them. Director David Nutter compared the sets of Game of Thrones to locations run by an authoritarian regime.
So far, none of that is evident on the set of the prequel series.
All of the photos seem to have been taken from a relatively short distance away, which suggests either a crew member leaked them or someone sneaked through security. Either one of those possibilities exemplifies the relative lack of security.
Perhaps HBO is confident no one will know what to make of these details anyway, as the project takes place in a largely unexplored era of Westeros history. Set 4,000 years before the events of Game of Thrones, the prequel features an entirely new cast of characters, many of who will presumably belong to largely unfamiliar families, none of which have been thoroughly explored in George R.R. Martin's novels. There's a lot of room for creativity, and none of it allows for much fan scrutiny.
We must also remember that in the early days of Game of Thrones, the sets were far more relaxed in that there wasn't a clear need for such secrecy.
As filming of the prequel progresses, we can probably expect to see more leaks, some of which may reveal significant details about the plot and characters. There is already speculation about whether Watts plays the first Lannister or a Casterly. Perhaps future leaks will reveal the answer before we ever see a trailer. Even that isn't likely to present much of a problem.
One of the biggest risks to Game of Thrones was that fans could use leaks and, to a certain point, the events of the books to piece together what might happen next. That's unlikely to happen with the prequel. Although there have been bits and pieces revealed about the distant past of Westeros, the prequel isn't an adaptation. There are no previous stories to refer to; the books barely describe the backstory of, say, House Casterly, beyond the legends and myths. However, even within the context of the narrative, those legends are said to have been corrupted by thousands of years of retelling.
There's no way to use the leaks to predict whatever twists the prequel has in store. That's a good thing for both fans and the creators. The less money is spent on needless security, the more can be spent on bringing ancient Westeros to life.