Game of Thrones may be coming to a close on Sunday, but fans won't have to leave Westeros behind just yet. There are a number of Game of Thrones spinoffs in the works that will continue the story. So while it may be the end of an era, it's also the start of another chapter.
Initially, HBO announced that they were developing not just one, but five potential GoT spinoffs. However, George R. R. Martin has since confirmed on his website that of those, only three of them are "still moving forward nicely." Based on Martin's website, it seems like all three are prequels, though only one has officially been confirmed. According to HBO, that show will be set thousands of years in the past, and will chronicle "the world’s descent from the golden Age of Heroes into its darkest hour." There is no set premiere date yet, but HBO programming president Casey Bloys confirmed to Entertainment Weekly that the series will begin filming this summer. Bloys also said there will be no Game of Thrones content for at least a year after the series finale airs, meaning fans will have to wait until 2020 — or potentially even later — to see this first "successor show," as Martin likes to call it.
We'll have to wait and see if the Game of Thrones finale will end up outraging fans as much as the penultimate episode, but regardless of how it ends, relish this prequel news: the creative teams behind the shows will be different, and the first series is already shaping up to be more diverse than its predecessor (Game of Thrones' lack of diversity has been one of its biggest criticisms).
GoT showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss will not be working on any of the prequels, likely because they're moving on to helm Star Wars, and because they've long hinted they're done with the series, having turned down HBO's offer for more and longer seasons. (They will, however, be credited as executive producers.) This is good news for those who felt frustrated with the rushed plot lines in Season 8 and the overall ways in which women have been mistreated on Game of Thrones.
As for who will be the showrunner for the first GoT prequel, that would be Jane Goldman, who's credited as a co-creator and executive producer alongside Martin. Goldman is an experienced screenwriter and producer, having written the screenplays for Neil Gaiman's Stardust adaptation, two X-Men films, all three Kingsman movies, and most recently Disney's The Little Mermaid live adaptation. (Compare this to D. B. Weiss, who had written just one episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia before coming on as showrunner.)
Joining them as executive producer and director is SJ Clarkson. Like Goldman, Clarkson has an impressive resume, having directed episodes of Jessica Jones, The Defenders, Orange is the New Black, Bates Motel, and Dexter, among many others. Liz Shannon Miller at IndieWire writes that Clarkson is perfect for this job, as she was "instrumental in establishing tone and aesthetic" for Season 1 of Jessica Jones. That experience will serve Clarkson well as she figures out how to ground the prequel in the same world Martin created while making it feel distinct from Benioff and Weiss' story.
Naomi Watts will play the lead in the first GoT prequel. Her character is described as "a charismatic socialite hiding a dark secret," which makes it sound like Watts will be this series' Ned Stark. Other cast members of interest are Naomi Ackie (who will be appearing in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker this winter), Georgie Henley (Meg Tudor in Spanish Princess and Lucy from Chronicles of Narnia), Miranda Richardson (Rita Skeeter in Harry Potter), Ivanno Jeremiah (Max from Humans), and Sheila Atim, a British actor who gained fame for starring in all-female adaptations of Shakespearean plays.
The other three writers who were tapped to create spinoffs are Max Borenstein, Brian Helgeland, and Carly Wray, in conjunction with Martin. It's unclear which of their projects got shelved, but of interest is Wray, whose writing credits include Mad Men, Constantine, and Westworld. Considering how much the Game of Thrones writers room was in need of more women, we can only hope that Wray's is one of the projects moving forward.
As for the story of Goldman's show, everything from the plot to even the title is being kept under wraps, but Martin has been calling it "The Long Night" on his website. The Long Night is referenced a few times in Game of Thrones, first as an exaggerated bedtime story and later, as the Night King marched on Winterfell, as truth. In the books, The Long Night is the period when the White Walkers first emerged from the North and fought against the First Men and the Children of the Forest. It was a time of terrible darkness, but ended with the humans beating back the wights with dragonglass, and Bran the Builder (aka Brandon Stark) creating The Wall and establishing The Night's Watch.
This means we'll get to see the Stark house in some form again, and with women finally at the helm, it will be interesting to see how it all pans out. Here's hoping for less sexual assault, more fully rendered character arcs for the women, and expanded roles for the characters of color.