For better or for worse, Game of Thrones has reached its end, but that doesn’t mean that HBO is finished with the world of Westeros. While the network at one time had five prequel series in the early stages of development, only one has officially moved forward into production. Greenlit in 2018, this as-yet-unnamed series is helmed by showrunner Jane Goldman, and the pilot has been filmed in Belfast.
As with its parent series, much of the information about this spinoff is shrouded in secrecy, and a premiere date is still nowhere in sight. However, there have been a few clues dropped by author George R.R. Martin and HBO execs about what the series might include, and what it probably won’t.
Below, we’ve scraped together every vague prediction, plot hint, and educated guess we’ve been able to get our hands on about the Game of Thrones prequel, in an attempt to get a clearer picture of what to expect when the highly anticipated series eventually makes its way onto our television screens.
The Long Night?
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Shortly after HBO greenlit the pilot, author George R.R. Martin posted on his blog that if he got a vote, he’d call the prequel series The Long Night. As fans of Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series are well aware, The Long Night was a time of great darkness that occurred during the Age of Heroes, in which the Others (or White Walkers) invaded Westeros. They were opposed by the Children of the Forest and the First Men, with the Night’s Watch ultimately driving them back north during the Battle for the Dawn, and Bran the Builder raising the magic Wall to protect the people of Westeros against future invasions.
However, the network hasn’t taken his suggestion (yet), and is instead shooting under the working title of Bloodmoon. While this title isn’t as easy to parse as Martin’s, it may still hold a few clues. In the books, there is a legend that says the Long Night began as a result of the Blood Betrayal, in which the brother of the empress killed his sister and took her throne, calling himself the Bloodstone Emperor. His reign of terror included torture, necromancy, cannibalism, and the worship of a black stone that fell from the sky. Bloodmoon may indicate that the Blood Emperor and his black stone may wind up playing a pivotal role in the events leading up to the Battle for the Dawn.
Long, long ago…
Reports about the timeline for Bloodmoon have been conflicting, but the one thing everyone seems to agree on is that this is no mere decades-earlier prequel. HBO said in their brief summary that the show will take place “thousands of years” before the events of Game of Thrones, beginning toward the end of the Age of Heroes and journeying through the events that led to Westeros’ “darkest hour,” which will presumably be the Long Night, brought on by the first appearance of the White Walkers. Martin threw out the figure of 10,000 years on his website, with the caveat that it may actually be only half that, depending on whether the better historians are the oral histories of the First Men, or the maesters at the Citadel.
Whether Bloodmoon takes place five or ten thousand years before the start of Game of Thrones, we can expect this version of Westeros to look very different from the one we’ve come to know. Central holdings like Winterfell and the Red Keep won’t be constructed, and the massive, magical Wall that divides the North from the Lands of Always Winter won’t yet have any reason to exist.
No familiar faces
Considering how far in the past this series is thought to take place, don’t expect to see any familiar faces pop up on your screen. While the cast of Bloodmoon may still be populated with Starks, Lannisters, and Boltons, they won’t be the ones we’ve come to know and love — or hate — over the eight seasons of Game of Thrones. Even most of the characters who have only appeared in flashbacks in the flagship series won’t be born until thousands of years after the prequel takes place.
The single exception to this could be the Night King, whose creation we caught glimpses of in Game of Thrones, and who is thought to be thousands of years old. HBO has promised that the prequel will reveal the “true origin of the White Walkers,” which means that not only could the Night King show up, but we may finally learn who he was before he became an immortal ice being.
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For all its strengths, Game of Thrones was never known for its diverse casting or racial sensitivity. While there were some regions, such as Dorne and Essos, populated by characters of color, those lands and the indigenous people who resided in them were never the focal point of the show. Additionally, the plots given to these characters have been widely criticized for perpetuating racist tropes, contributing to the problematic trend in fiction of advancing the narratives of white characters through the brutalization and dehumanization of characters of color.
However, the casting for Bloodmoon seems to indicate that this prequel may finally take some steps to course correct on this issue. Four actors of color — Naomi Ackie, Sheila Atim, and Ivanno Jeremiah, and Marquis Rodriguez — have been cast as series regulars as of the time of this writing. Since most of the areas of Westeros we’ve seen have been populated almost exclusively with light-skinned characters, this may be an indication that this new series could spend significant amounts of time in areas that have previously been either underexplored or not shown at all, and could prioritize the perspectives of people of color. Perhaps we will finally get to see Essos through the eyes of the people who were actually born and raised there, or learn about new lands that the characters of Game of Thrones haven’t even heard of.
Bran the Builder
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Poldark actor Josh Whitehouse has been cast as the male lead of the Game of Thrones prequel, with fans speculating that he’ll play a member of House Stark. While this could indicate any number of characters, including many that we’ve never heard of, one strong contender is Bran the Builder, the legendary founder of House Stark who was responsible for the construction of Winterfell.
After driving the White Walkers (or the Others, as they’re likely to be called in the prequel) out of Westeros and back into the frozen lands of the far north, the original Bran Stark worked alongside giants and the Children of the Forest to construct the magical Wall that would come to house the Night’s Watch and protect the world of the living from future invasions.
If Martin’s claims about the premise of the show are to be believed, Brandon Stark is one of the most central and exciting figures in the tale of the Long Night, and it’s hard to imagine a cinematic version of it that doesn’t include him. Combined with HBO’s promise that this prequel will focus on “the Starks of legend,” it seems like a no-brainer that one of its main characters should be the most famous Stark of all.
Not the story we think we know
HBO’s official synopsis for Bloodmoon ends with the cryptic phrase, “It’s not the story we think we know.” That’s an intriguing claim even if you only consider the history revealed over the course of the show, but gets downright perplexing when you take all of Martin’s novels and supplemental materials into account. While Game of Thrones touched a little bit on the creation of the White Walkers and the history of Westeros, the show has never been particularly concerned with the events of the past, keeping its eyes fixed firmly in the present. But when taken in conjunction with the books and supplemental texts, there are few corners of the Thrones universe that haven’t already been thoroughly explored — or so it would seem.
Whether you’re a casual viewer of the show or a devoted scholar of the books, prepare for the revelations of the prequel series to completely upend some of the histories and stories we’ve always believed to be true. It’s possible that a character that history recorded as heroic was actually more of a villain, or that certain events happened completely differently than what we’ve always pictured.
Remember, history is written by the victors, and 10,000 years is an awfully long time for stories to remain intact. Memories fade and legends can transform, so when we finally set eyes on the truth, it may not look much like we thought it would.
In its sixth season, Game of Thrones gave us what appeared to be a glimpse at the origins of the White Walkers, when Bran had a vision of the Children of the Forest turning a man into a blue-eyed ice being by plunging what appeared to be a blade of dragonglass into his chest. Leaf tells Bran that the Children created the Others to defend them from the men who were cutting down their sacred trees. Since Westerosi history states that the Children of the Forest joined with the First Men to fight the White Walkers at the Battle for the Dawn, we can only assume that sometime after the Children created their undead army, the White Walkers turned on them, forcing the Children to ultimately join forces with their former enemies.
Of course, this raises quite a few questions, namely… what went wrong? Not only should we expect the prequel series to fill in a lot of the blanks about how the White Walkers went from being the protectors of the Children of the Forest to their greatest threat, but don’t be surprised if the version of White Walker history that Leaf gave to Bran wasn’t entirely accurate. After all, HBO has teased that we will learn the “true” origin of the White Walkers, implying that the information we already have isn’t the full truth, and could even be an outright lie.
The main character may be … a Lannister?
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Naomi Watts leads the ensemble cast of Bloodmoon, and according to HBO, she will play a “charismatic socialite hiding a dark secret.” This doesn’t do much to narrow the playing field. Game of Thrones has never had any shortage of manipulative nobles. However, Watts’ blonde hair and fair complexion have prompted some early speculation that she may belong to one of the two Great Houses of Westeros known for their light locks — the Targaryens or the Lannisters.
The problem with her being a Targaryen is that the dragon-riding family didn’t even arrive in Westeros until a few hundred years before the start of Game of Thrones, placing them in Valyria during the time that the prequel will take place. While it’s possible that some of the series could be set in Valyria, it seems unlikely that it will be centered around a lead character who never even sets foot in Westeros.
House Lannister, on the other hand, was founded in Westeros during the Age of Heroes, after Lann the Clever tricked House Casterly into giving up their holding of Casterly Rock. The timing works out perfectly for Watts to be playing one of these early Lannisters, possibly a contemporary of Bran the Builder. And while we’re used to seeing House Lannister and House Stark constantly at one another’s throats, if a Lannister is indeed the protagonist this time around, we may finally get to see them as allies.
A new perspective
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One of the most common criticisms leveled against Game of Thrones was its treatment of its female characters, a failing that was frequently attributed to how few women have been involved in prominent creative roles behind the scenes. According to The Daily Beast, only three women have ever been credited as writers for Game of Thrones, and only one woman has directed, contributing to a combined nine out of 73 episodes. While the show had no shortage of female characters, according to a study reported by the BBC, women had far fewer lines than men, and less overall screen time.
However, if the creative team behind Bloodmoon is any indication, don’t be surprised if this spinoff is much more female-centric in its storytelling than the flagship series. Not only is nearly half of the announced cast women (seven of the announced 16 series regulars), but Bloodmoon is helmed by Stardust scribe Jane Goldman, whose impressive resume includes writing credits for X-Men, Kingsman, and Kick-Ass, showing she is no stranger to sweeping fantasy, intense action, and large ensemble casts. The show has also tapped executive producer SJ Clarkson to direct the pilot episode, whose previous work includes several shows with predominantly female casts such as Mistresses, Orange Is the New Black, and Jessica Jones.
The Children of the Forest return
The mysterious forest-dwellers who assisted Bran Stark in finding the Three-Eyed Raven in Game of Thrones will likely get a lot more screen time in the prequel series. By the time the events depicted in Game of Thrones rolled around, the Children were relegated to enigmatic side characters who appeared out of nowhere in season four, and then were seemingly wiped out completely by the end of season six.
But toward the end of the Age of Heroes, the Children played a much more prominent role in Westeros’ history. The Children of the Forest are inextricable from the tales of Bran the Builder, the Battle for the Dawn, and the construction of the Wall, first — if Bran’s vision in Game of Thrones is to be believed — creating the White Walkers, and then ultimately joining forces with the giants and the First Men to defeat them. Given their extreme importance to the time period in which the show will be set, it’s highly probable that one or more of the announced cast for the series will portray Children of the Forest, and that we’re about to learn a whole lot more about this secretive race of non-human beings.
A legendary hero
One of the most notorious figures in Westerosi history is the hero Azor Ahai, who helped save the world from a great darkness while wielding his flaming sword, Lightbringer. While it is not made explicitly clear in the books whether Azor Ahai was the same figure as the Last Hero, who lived during the Long Night and helped defeat the Others, there is also nothing to say that it wasn’t him.
Including Azor Ahai would give viewers many of the things we’ve come to expect from Game of Thrones: tragic love stories, reluctant heroes, thrilling battles, and a touch of magic. It would also be a way to include a character familiar to the audience, without needing to bring back any of the Thrones cast. While viewers and readers have never actually met Azor Ahai, he’s been the subject of rampant speculation for years. Seeing him appear onscreen would not only provide the prequel with a rich character to explore, but would surely excite viewers who have long hungered for more information about the mysterious hero.
An absence of dragons
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter shortly before the final season of Game of Thrones aired, Martin warned that the prequel series would be very different from the Westeros fans had grown accustomed to seeing, saying it would contain “No dragons, no Iron Throne, no King’s Landing.”
This is hardly surprising, given the time period in which the prequel is set. Five to ten thousand years before Game of Thrones, King’s Landing hadn’t been constructed, and Aegon Targaryen hadn’t yet been born to build a throne out of the blades of his vanquished enemies. Further, while dragons surely existed somewhere in the world, the Targaryens wouldn’t bring the winged creatures from Valyria to Westeros for thousands of years.
Still, despite the immense differences between the prequel and the familiar world of Game of Thrones, Martin is still hopeful that fans will enjoy it, telling THR, “I have my fingers crossed.”
A ‘horrifying’ true history
The short synopsis HBO released for the Game of Thrones prequel doesn’t tell us much, but what it does say is revealing, claiming that the series will explore “the horrifying secrets of Westeros’s history.” While no one who has been a Game of Thrones fan for any amount of time is surprised to hear that Westeros has a disturbing past — much of which has been well-documented — it’s intriguing that HBO seems to be implying that there are still a number of dark corners that haven’t been explored.
This brings us back to the network’s claim that despite the volumes of text and hours of film we have chronicling the history of Westeros, we don’t know nearly as much as we think we do. Martin has even said that if one were to scour The World of Ice and Fire, his book of Westerosi history, there are still only a couple lines that might provide clues about what to expect, and that most of the prequel pilot is coming from the imagination of showrunner Jane Goldman.
As Bloodmoon journeys through production and we edge closer to uncovering more of Westeros’ secrets, only one thing is certain: none of what we believe we know about the Age of Heroes is written in stone, and there are a wealth of stories yet to be told.
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