HBO's Game of Thrones took television by storm in 2011 with its first season. The series reshaped mainstream views of fantasy by introducing audiences to a medieval world that was so much more than just knights, castles and magic. Westeros was populated by characters with which audiences could connect, so much so that they watched every scene fearfully, in case their favorites met a sudden and violent demise.
The story may be nearing its end, but fans of George R.R. Martin's fantasy world can look forward to a new series, set long before the War of the Five Kings, with new characters to adore and possibly mourn, new conflicts and struggles, and likely a lot more magic. Game of Thrones creators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff aren't involved, but writer Jane Goldman is attached to the prequel series as showrunner.
If you haven't been able to find much about the upcoming prequel, and you're hungry for more details, you've come to the right place.
WHAT'S THE PREQUEL CALLED?
Although many are now referring to the prequel series by a working title, Bloodmoon, this name has not been confirmed and is only rumored to be in use for production.
Martin wrote about casting for the prequel series on his blog in October 2018, calling it The Long Night, a nod to a historic period in A Song of Ice and Fire.
Not long afterward, HBO clarified the series doesn't yet have an official title. So while Martin has made his preference known, and several outlets continue to refer to the project as The Long Night and now Bloodmoon, these are not official. There's a good chance HBO will decide to go with something else.
WHEN IS THE SPINOFF SET?
We know very little about the precise setting of the prequel, as only vague details have been released. The series will be set thousands of years before the events of Game of Thrones. That much is certain from the description HBO released following the announcement:
Taking place thousands of years before the events of Game of Thrones, the series chronicles the world’s descent from the golden Age of Heroes into its darkest hour. And only one thing is for sure: From the horrifying secrets of Westeros’ history to the true origin of the white walkers, the mysteries of the East, to the Starks of legend… it’s not the story we think we know.
Martin briefly described the era of the Game of Thrones prequel, noting the series will feature an almost entirely different world, "There’s no King’s Landing. There’s no Iron Throne," he wrote. "There are no Targaryens — Valyria has hardly begun to rise yet with its dragons and the great empire that it built." In fact, many of the Great Houses do not exist in the era as Westeros is split between hundreds of petty kingdoms, according the author.
However, that doesn't mean fans will have to acquaint themselves with a complete list of new names. While Houses such as Lannister and Targaryen did not exist back then, Martin has explained that, "the Starks will definitely be there."
In the novels, the Age of Heroes is a moniker that describes a period of time in Westerosi history spanning 4,000 years. Its beginning is marked by the sealing of the Pact between the First Men and the Children of the Forest, and its end by the invasion of Westeros by the Andals. During this time, Westeros saw the rise of heroes such as Bran the Builder, who founded House Stark and constructed the Wall in the aftermath of the Long Night.
The winter known as the Long Night lasted an entire generation. As Old Nan described it to Bran, "Kings froze to death in their castles, same as the shepherds in their huts; and women smothered their babies rather than see them starve." It was during that winter that the White Walkers descended on Westeros for the first time.
WHO STARS IN THE SERIES?
The first cast member revealed was Naomi Watts, although her role remains a closely guarded secret, in true Game of Thrones fashion. Watts is known for roles in King Kong, The Impossible and Birdman. Josh Whitehouse from the BBC series Poldark was added to the cast soon after.
In January, eight more cast members were announced: Georgie Henley from the Chronicles of Narnia film series; Toby Regbo and Jamie Campbell Bower from Harry Potter; Naomie Ackie from Lady Macbeth; Alex Sharp from The Heist; Ivanno Jeremiah from the Cold Feet series; actress and singer Sheila Atim; and Denise Gough from The Fall and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
They were followed in March by Miranda Richardson, from the Harry Potter film series, Marquis Rodriguez from Netflix's Luke Cage and Iron Fist, John Simm from Life on Mars, Richard McCabe from The Walking Dead, John Heffernan from The Crown and Dixie Violet Egerickx from Genius. Much like early seasons of Game of Thrones, the prequel series will feature an ensemble cast.
WILL THE PREQUELS HAVE DRAGONS?
One of the reasons fans enjoy watching Game of Thrones is its depiction of dragons. Over the past seven seasons, audiences have watched Drogon, Viserion and Rhaegal grow from tiny little lizards into fire-breathing creatures. Unfortunately, because the prequel takes place long before the Targaryen dynasty and their dragons reached Westeros, it will likely be without any winged reptiles.
It may serve the series well to exclude dragons. Much of Game of Thrones' sizeable budget has been allotted to the creation of the three dragons, which require a lot of work, and not only from the talented visual effects studios. Keeping these costly beasts out of the prequel series may result in better-quality visual effects elsewhere, making ancient Westeros appear to be an even more magical place.
That doesn't mean ancient Westeros was any less dangerous when it came to wild animals. George R.R. Martin has stated that audiences will almost certainly see creatures such as direwolves and mammoths, both of which appeared throughout Game of Thrones at one point or another. It will be interesting to see how they are involved in the lives of ancient Westerosi society.
WHEN IS THE PREQUEL EXPECTED TO PREMIERE?
HBO programming president Casey Bloys has not given an exact date, but has said principal photography for the pilot will commence some time in early summer. There are no solid details regarding where filming will take place, although it is rumored the pilot -- like much of Game of Thrones -- will be shot in Northern Ireland.
No release date has been announced. Game of Thrones will end soon, and HBO has stated the spinoff series is unlikely to premiere earlier than a year after the current series ends. In other words, don't expect the prequel to air before April 2020.
WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER POTENTIAL SPINOFFS?
When HBO first announced its plans for the future of the Game of Thrones franchise in May 2017, the network revealed it had ordered four scripts for prequel pilots from writers Jane Goldman, Max Borenstein, Brian Helgeland and Carly Wray. Martin later revealed a fifth project had been in the works, written by potential showrunner Bryan Cogman. That was confirmed by HBO several months later.
However, Cogman left HBO for Amazon in June 2018, presumably ending any plans for his pilot script. With Goldman's pitch ordered to pilot, the fate of the other three scripts has come into question. The network has stated in the past that, due to the logistics involved, only one show will be developed at a time. Casey Bloys told USA Today, "I don’t know that we’ll do another one; I’m just not sure" so, assuming Goldman's pilot is picked up, we may not see any of the others developed any further, at least not for the foreseeable future.
Martin has more than just those shows to offer. In December, the author told The New York Times about another idea for a series. Not a prequel, but one whose events would run concurrent with the events of Game of Thrones.