Last month, there was a lot of excitement about the second Game of Thrones prequel spinoff, currently in development at HBO. The network has already filmed a pilot for one potential Westeros series, and now another is getting closer to reality. However, it can be hard to separate the truth from the hype.
HBO put five spinoffs into development as Game of Thrones came to a close earlier this year. The network has ordered a pilot for one, yet none have gone to series yet. Many see it as inevitable given the original show's popularity, and the vast amount of source material in the A Song of Ice and Fire book universe.
Author George R. R. Martin is trying not to get over-excited, however. Martin issued a new blog post, addressing the news and the rumors as frankly as possible, and being objective about the show's chances. The author has a long career in both publishing and TV, so he knows how these deals tend to go.
In his post, Martin responded to last month's report from Entertainment Weekly practically point-by-point. EW got the scoop that the show was moving along, and the internet ran with it. Thankfully, Martin was there to temper the reaction.
Here is everything we know for sure about the second Game of Thrones prequel series.
The World of Ice and Fire is large, and its history is long, so a setting can really help pin down the direction of a new series. The other prequel, for example, is set thousands of years before the main series, when the White Walkers first marched on the wall.
In his blog post, Martin confirmed that the new show is "set thousands of years after" the first prequel, and it is based on material from his latest book, Fire & Blood. As he pointed out, however, that does not technically help us narrow it down too much.
"[For what it's worth,] those who have read Fire & Blood will realize it contains enough materials for dozens of shows," Martin wrote.
Still, that does tell us that the new show is set on the continent of Westeros within 300 years before the original show. Many assume it will document King Aegon I's conquest of the Seven Kingdoms, while others figure it will cover House Targaryen's civil war known as The Dance of The Dragons.
Martin did decide to risk revealing that "there will be dragons," adding: "Everyone else has said that, so why not me?" This narrows the setting down even further, as dragons were thought to be extinct for more than a century before the main series began.
Martin confirmed that the new show has a title, but he did not say what it was. The author wrote that "no one else has revealed it, so I had better not either."
"But it's not the obvious title," he added in double parentheses.
This may not seem like a groundbreaking revelation, but in a way it is. The other prequel series is still woefully untitled, at least as far as the public knows. Early on, Martin said that he would like for it to be called The Long Night, but later said that HBO has asked him not to confuse people by using that title. He now refers to it as "Jane Goldman's as yet untitled show, which I am still not supposed to call THE LONG NIGHT."
If the Targaryen prequel already found a title so easily, that may indicate that it will have a name recognizable to fans. Martin told us that it is not the "obvious one," but there are layers of obviousness to sift through within his huge and obsessive fandom. It could be that The Dance of the Dragons or some version of that is still on the table.
Martin confirmed that the new show is based on material from 2018's Fire & Blood, which leaves a lot of room for speculation. The book is a fictional history of Westeros, written from the perspective of a character named Archmaester Gyldayn, an unreliable narrator. In a pseudo-academic voice, it recounts the first half of the 300-year Targaryen dynasty.
Fire & Blood is a huge, dense book with countless narrative tributaries to follow, any one of which could fill a show. However, if the writers' interest is in engaging an audience, we can also expect that the series will provide some new information about the dragon-riding clan, so we should look to storylines about dragons, magic and their mysterious Valyrian heritage for clues.
The new show may not have a pilot order yet, but there is plenty of material on hand. Martin confirmed that the show has "a script and a bible, and both of them are terrific, first-rate, exciting."
TV writers often create a series "bible" to streamline the collaborative process. This reference document gives details on characters, settings and events to ensure consistency. It can even offer analysis of motivations, tone and theme to make sure that the show has one cohesive feel to it.
If this show has a bible already, that means it has been well-thought-out and prepared, giving fans a lot to look forward to.
Martin also revealed that the Targaryen-centric prequel has been written by Ryan Condal. Condal is a well-known screenwriter in the action and sci-fi/fantasy circles. He wrote the script for the 2014 movie Hercules, and last year's Rampage, both starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. He also created the TV series Colony. However, Martin remembers him for one of his first big credits.
"I first met Ryan when he came to New Mexico a couple of years ago to shoot a pilot for a fantasy western called THE SIXTH GUN, based on the comic book," he recalled. "That show did not go, though I had the pleasure of screening the pilot at my theatre, the Jean Cocteau."
"He’s a helluva strong writer, and a huge fan of A SONG OF ICE & FIRE, Dunk & Egg, and Westeros in general," Martin went on. "I’ve loved working with him, and if the Seven Gods and HBO are kind, I hope to keep on working with him for years to come on this new successor show."
Perhaps most importantly, Martin emphasized the earliness of the development process. He urged fans not to get over-excited, saying: "'moving closer to a pilot order' is NOT the same thing as 'getting a pilot order.'"
"When HBO actually gives us a pilot order, you will hear me shouting it from the rooftops," he added. "A series order, and I’ll be shouting even louder. But we’ll see. Right now all the signs are good, but nothing is confirmed."
We can speculate about the next steps, of course. HBO will review Condal's material to see if they are interested in a pilot. If so, they may even see what performers they can get interested in the project before deciding to order it. With the last prequel, the news of the order came side-by-side with the word that Naomi Watts would be starring.
Martin also addressed the whispers that the success of this Targaryen show might affect the status of the other prequel. He stressed that this is not the case, as far as he knows.
"I love what Ryan has done, but I’m excited about the possibilities for Jane’s series as well," he wrote.
Martin gave the latest on Goldman's pilot, saying that he has seen some of the sets "and they were spectacular," and that he expects to see her first cut of the pilot "soon." More importantly, he emphasized that there is no reason both shows could not coexist in today's TV landscape.
"The world of Ice & Fire is a WORLD, boys and girls. Huge continents, ten thousand years of history, cities, deserts, oceans, mysteries, triumphs and tragedies," he wrote, adding: "surely there are eight billion stories to be told about Westeros, Essos, Sothoryos, and the lands beyond the Sunset Sea."
"And in these days of a hundred networks, channels, and streaming services, I think television has plenty of room for two shows set in Westeros... or hell, maybe three or four..."
Finally, it would be a shame to ignore the emphatic and creative efforts of fans already looking forward to this series. After the reports of the Targaryen prequel progress, the internet filled with speculation, some of it entertaining in its own right. Fan blogs went wild, and one group even produced a teaser so convincing that some took it for a genuine HBO release.
The teasers came from a Game of Thrones fan account on YouTube, released just after the EW report broke. They feature animated dragons, breathtaking artwork and an authoritative voice-over, explaining the supposed premise of the series.
Some of the teasers have leaned towards the idea of a prequel about Aegon's conquest, while others focus on the house more generally. Whatever the case, the show is sure to delight fans at every level.