Believe it or not, we’re now over a year removed from the end of ‘Game of Thrones.’ In some ways, it feels like it happened in a different lifetime, but in others, it’s like the credits rolled on the last episode yesterday as we all sat back in shock, wondering what we’d just seen. We know there are some of you reading this who loved the way the last season played out, but you’re in the minority. As the overwhelming majority of ‘Game of Thrones’ fans agree, the last-ever season was such a catastrophic mess that it ruined the whole show. It’s now impossible to go back and rewatch old episodes without being aware of the ultimately unsatisfying fate of the characters, and the legacy of the series has been tarnished.
Perhaps because of all the factors we just mentioned, the news that the ‘Game of Thrones’ prequel ‘House of the Dragon’ has just entered pre-production probably passed most people by. It was confirmed a little over a week ago that scriptwriting has begun, and that we might expect casting announcements in the near future. If this had been announced mid-way through the last season, ‘Game of Thrones’ fans would be beside themselves with excitement. As it is, nobody seems to care. Virtually no mainstream press coverage has been afforded to the news. It’s likely that millions of lapsed ‘Game of Thrones’ fans don’t know that the prequel is happening at all.
Contrast the current situation with the way things were early last year. ‘Game of Thrones’ was everywhere. It was water-cooler talk in every workplace in the land. People passed each other on the streets in ‘Game of Thrones’ t-shirts and offered knowing nods and winks to each other. There was a PlayStation video game based on the show. There was even an online slots game based on the show. We don’t have figures to tell us how many people were attracted to online slots websites by the official ‘Game of Thrones’ slot, but we imagine it was a lot. Little did we know back then that the writers were about to take a bigger gamble with the goodwill of fans than that online slots game could ever offer. They bet the house and came up short, and the result is that HBO is pumping money into a ‘Game of Thrones’ prequel that may struggle to resonate with viewers.
This is not the first ‘Game of Thrones’ prequel to go into production. When the cameras roll, it won’t even be the first ‘Game of Thrones’ prequel to go in front of them. That distinction has already gone to ‘Bloodmoon,’ for which a pilot was made last year only for the cast and crew to be told that it wasn’t up to the mark and that their services for a full season would not be required. We don’t know what the content of the pilot was (other than the fact that it was set in Westeros thousands of years before the first season of ‘Game of Thrones’), but we do know who was in it. Naomi Watts was in a leading role, and Miranda Richardson and John Simm were among the supporting cast. If a project involving Watts, Richardson, and Simm can’t get off the ground, it doesn’t bode well for the prospects of any other prequel making it past the pilot stage.
Let’s not assume failure before the show has started filming, though. Let’s instead look at what this new prequel might have going for it, and what we should expect from it. We know that it’s based on ‘Fire & Blood,’ so the source material is George R. R. Martin’s. That’s something that it has going for it that the final series of the main television show didn’t. Because we know which Martin book it’s based on, we also know the basic details of the plot. ‘Fire & Blood’ is all about the history of House Targaryen, which is the bloodline of Daenerys, so we should expect to see plenty of madness and plenty of dragons. The title ‘House of the Dragon’ probably gave that aspect away already, though. The text of the novel goes back to the time of the younger Aegon Targaryen’s domination of the seven kingdoms, so expect all the other Houses to be smaller in both stature and influence – if they’re even there at all.
It’s possible that Martin might even write some of the scripts for the new show himself – something he’s been sworn off doing for television for several years while he focused on writing ‘The Winds of Winter,’ the (very) long-awaited next textual installment in the literary ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ series. Martin hasn’t written a new book in the line since 2011, but in recent months he’s been dropping hints to fans that his recent enforced time indoors has allowed him to focus and write every day, and that the book is either finished or very close to being finished. As soon as he’s done with that, he could presumably turn his attention to writing for ‘House of the Dragon’ so long as he wants to. Just because other people have started the writing process already doesn’t mean that he couldn’t edit it or add to it in the future.
Normally speaking, if a show enters pre-production one year and scripts are being written, you can expect to see it the following year. That won’t be the case with ‘House of the Dragon.’ Ever since the commissioning of the show as first announced, we’ve been consistently given a 2022 estimate for transmission dates. The recent shutdown of television and movie production across the globe won’t have improved the prospects of bringing that date forward. While 2022 might seem like a long time away, the long wait might work in the show’s favor. Right now, the ending of ‘Game of Thrones’ still feels too recent and too raw for anyone to follow up on it. In another two years’ time, though, the memory of the show and the sour taste that the final episodes left in the mouths of most viewers will have faded.
Will anyone care about ‘House of the Dragon?’ Possibly not right now, but perhaps they will by 2022.