The blockbuster fantasy series Game of Thrones is the biggest hit HBO has had in years. The show has become a pop culture phenomenon that has reignited interest in the sword-and-sorcery genre. But, like all good things, Game of Thrones has to eventually end. Producers have already announced the upcoming seventh and eighth seasons will be the series’ last.
So what is HBO to do? The network has tried in vain to create another hit series in recent years, but nothing has gained as much attention as Game of Thrones. True Detective and The Leftovers started strong enough but lost their luster in subsequent seasons. Westworld came the closest to attracting the same cultural zeitgeist as Game of Thrones, but its second season won’t air until 2018. With Thrones set to end soon, the most obvious option for filling that hole in the schedule is a spin-off series.
HBO programming president Casey Bloys says a prequel series is the route the network will most likely explore. “A prequel feels like it has less pressure on it,” he says. “[George R.R. Martin’s book series] gives you areas in which to say to a writer, ‘If you were going to do this, then go flesh it out,’ and we’ll see what comes back. But I don’t feel any pressure that we have to have something.”
In the case of Game of Thrones, a prequel series actually makes a lot of sense. The world of Westeros is full of history and myths that could be explored. There’s everything from “Robert’s Rebellion” to “Fall of the Dragons” that fans and readers are familiar with, and plenty of other legends to explore. It’s an easy way to keep familiar families and locations on a new show without interfering with Game of Thrones‘ more recent storylines.
More immediately, Season 7 of Game of Thrones will premiere on HBO this summer, several months later than in previous years. Filming was delayed on the new season in order to take advantage of the wintry locales the show requires. Production on Season 7 is currently underway in Iceland, with filming set to wrap up soon.