Game of Thrones ends in April, but Westeros will live on in a new prequel series currently in production.
Game of Thrones is a loose adaptation of George R.R. Martin's series of novels titled A Song of Ice and Fire. In addition to five books in the main series, Martin has written six novellas, an encyclopedia of his fictional world, and a brand new history of the Targaryen dynasty called Fire and Blood, which is out on Tuesday.
Martin's world has more than enough material for sequels, prequels and spin-offs -- which is good, because HBO is planning on it. There are a total of five Game of Thrones spin-offs in production, according to Martin's blog, Not A Blog. One has been shelved indefinitely, while another is now in production.
The first of the Game of Thrones spin-offs is a prequel series, going back thousands of years before the events of the main series. It will have none of the main characters we know and love, and no Iron Throne.
This has many casual fans wondering why this is the show HBO is going with. While many of the hallmarks of Game of Thrones will be gone, this pre-historic drama will have plenty in common with its predecessor. The story will undoubtedly be full of political intrigue, blunt war-time drama and a battle between the army of the dead and the forces of mankind.
Here is everything we know about the Game of Thrones prequel so far.
Many outlets are referring to this upcoming prequel as The Long Night. This is the title Martin wants for it, as he explained in a blog post back in June.
"My vote would be THE LONG NIGHT, which says it all, but I’d be surprised if that’s where we end up," Martin wrote on his blog at the time. "More likely HBO will want to work the phrase 'game of thrones' in there somewhere. We’ll know sooner or later."
At this point, The Long Night is already in popular use. However, HBO is reserving the right to change it at any time, as Martin explained in another post just this month.
"HBO has informed me that the Jane Goldman pilot is not (yet) titled THE LONG NIGHT," he wrote. "That’s is certainly the title I prefer, but for the moment the pilot is still officially UNTITLED."
The series will begin filming this winter, and a few heavy-hitting names are already on the cast list. Chief among them is Naomi Watts, who will reportedly take the lead.
Watts' character was described as "a charismatic socialite with a dark secret" in a release by HBO, leaving many possibilities as to who she could play.
In addition, actor Josh Whitehouse is also joining the series in an as-yet unnamed role. Whitehouse is a young actor best known for his role on Poldark as Hugh Armitage.
Martin is working as closely as he can on this and all the other prequels in development, as he explained on his blog. However, he is excited to hand the reigns over to screenwriter Jane Goldman for the upcoming prequel. Goldman has written some massive blockbuster films, including both Kick-Ass scripts, both Kingsmen scripts and X-Men: First Class.
"[Jane] has been an absolute thrill to work with," Martin wrote. "My god, what a talent.
The Long Night begins filming in February of 2019. The show will be shot in Belfast, Northern Ireland, not far from where the original series was filmed. So far, the show only has a pilot order, though chances seem good that it will get a full season pick-up once screen tests begin to emerge.
The new series will focus on the point in Martin's fictional history when the Others and the White Walkers first came to life and marched from the far north down into the realms of men. As HBO put it, it will “chronicle the world's descent from the golden Age of Heroes into its darkest hour.”
To many, this means that the show will likely follow a massive construction project. The Wall where Jon Snow does most of his brooding was built during the Long Night to keep the Others at bay, and if this show tells the story of that war, it will have to show as how men, giants and the children of the forest collaborated on it, and what kind of magic it is imbued with.
The show's time line is a major source of confusion for everyone -- from casual viewers to die-hard Westerosi scholars. In an early blog post about the show, Martin placed it 10,000 years before the events of the main series.
"This one realy puts the PRE in prequel," he wrote, explaining that is is set "ten thousand years (well, assuming the oral histories of the First Men are accurate, but there are maesters at the Citadel who insist it has only been half that long)."
However, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly on Monday, he flipped that estimate, revealing that he saw the story more in the 5,000-years-ago range.
"'10,000 years' is mentioned in the novels," he said. "But you also have places where maesters say, 'No, no, it wasn’t 10,000, it was 5,000.' Again, I’m trying to reflect real-life things that a lot of high fantasy doesn’t reflect. In the Bible, it has people living for hundreds of years and then people added up how long each lived and used that to figure out when events took place. Really? I don’t think so."
"So I think it’s closer to 5,000 years," he went on. "But you’re right. Westeros is a very different place.
This revelation could have major implications for Martin's readers, as 5,000 years in the past, the Freehold of Valyria was also beginning to form. This means that the early dragon-riding ancestors of Danaerys Targaryen could play a part in the upcoming series.
One tantalizing line from HBO's synopsis of the series said that it would include "mysteries from the East." This could mean just about anything in Game of Thrones terms, but it definitely means more magic. In Martin's world, some of the most powerful forces come from the far east -- past Slaver's Bay where Danaerys spends the first few seasons.
Even the Red Witch Melissandre hails originally from Asshai by The Shadow, a strange land where no children live. This is the place where Danaerys' dragon eggs first came from.
There is a lot of speculation to be drawn from this tidbit, but at the very least it means that the show will expand Martin's world even farther. With so many book-reading fans frustrated by Game of Thrones' last few seasons, this is definitely good news.
Finally, there are still three other prequels still in development at HBO. Martin made a point of mentioning that these projects are alive and well on his blog as recently as this month, though they are far behind the point that The Long Night is at. In all likelihood, HBO is waiting to see how this show performs before investing in its other ideas.
The Long Night -- or whatever it ends up being called -- will likely air in 2020, most TV experts seem to agree. HBO will not want to air the show too soon after Game of Thrones comes to a close, though it will not want to wait too long either. 2020 seems like a safe time for the premium network, as its only other major plan for that year is Westworld.
Either way, fans can be sure that, as always, Winter is Coming.