On May 19th, the season finale of Game of Thrones aired on HBO, bringing to an end the most successful TV drama of the last decade. Over its eight seasons, Thrones has grown into a behemoth of a show, with episodes costing $10m or more and millions of fans worldwide tuned in to see what riveting twists showrunners D. Benioff and D.B. Weiss have planned next. It’s been an immense money-maker for HBO – one that neither they nor the show’s fans have enjoyed saying goodbye to. The question, then, is what, if anything, comes next?
We already know that HBO has spent several years trying to solve this problem. Game of Thrones is simply too big a franchise to let go of. Back in early 2017, before we’d even seen the first footage of Season 7, we were told that there were as many as five ideas for Game of Thrones spin-offs, focusing on the history of Westeros and its characters, with A Song of Ice and Fire writer and Thrones producer George R. R. Martin involved with two of them. Some of these ideas have inevitably fallen by the wayside, but recent reports indicate that we’ll see at least one making its way to our screens just a few years following this year’s divisive Game of Thrones season finale.
According to George R. R. Martin – serving as a narrative adviser to producers at HBO – this will be The Long Night, telling the story of the Age of Heroes and the last coming of the White Walkers, at least 5,000 years before the events of Game of Thrones. “Westeros is a very different place,” Martin told Entertainment Weekly of the upcoming series. “There’s no King’s Landing. There’s no Iron Throne. There are no Targaryens — Valyria has hardly begun to rise yet with its dragons and the great empire that it built. We’re dealing with a different and older world, and hopefully that will be part of the fun of the series.” World-building has long been one of Game of Thrones‘ strengths, with the world of ice and fire brought magnificently to life by the talents (and big budgets) of everyone at HBO, so you can safely expect the world on-screen to be just as fully-realised as that of Game of Thrones.
Already we have our first indication of who’ll be working on the new series. Oscar-nominee Naomi Watts (Twin Peaks, Birdman) is set to star, alongside Josh Whitehouse (of Poldark fame), Georgie Henley (The Chronicles of Narnia) and relative newcomers in Naomi Ackie (Star Wars: Episode IX) and Jamie Campbell Bower (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald). Behind the camera, Benioff & Weiss will make way for Jane Goldman (Kingsman, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Kick-Ass) to run the show, and there’s said to be a bustling writer’s room ready to churn out the 8-10 scripts of the debut season.
But what we all want to know is what stories this new show will tell. Although tentatively titled The Long Night by George R. R. Martin, the spin-off currently has no official title – though we can still guess at its direction from interviews, press reports and the snippets of narrative lore Martin littered throughout his books. Apparently focusing on the end of the Age of Heroes and the first coming of the White Walkers, we could well come across such mythical figures as Brandon the Builder, Lann the Clever, Garth Greenhand, and “the Prince that was Promised,” Azor Ahai, as they seek to fend off the threats from the north. Ancient Thrones lore also tells of an unnamed “last hero” who ventured north to find the Children of the Forest and enlisted their aid to end the threat of the White Walkers – could we witness their perilous journey northwards to bring an end to the mythical “Long Night”?
Considering the story possibilities – and the success of episodes such as ‘Hardhome’ and ‘Battle of the Bastards’ – you can safely expect this one to be action-packed, and filled to the brim with horror. Thrones may have made its name with political intrigue, but its legacy will surely be sheer spectacle. When the premise of the series is the first onslaught from the White Walkers – as well as discovering “the mysteries of the East,” according to George R. R. Martin – could you really predict anything else? That said, don’t expect the political intrigue which so hooked viewers in Thrones‘ early seasons to disappear entirely. Naomi Watts’ character is said to be “a charismatic socialite holding a dark secret,” indicating that there’ll be more than just humans vs. ice zombies afoot in whatever HBO have in store for us in the next few years. Although, with a premise so similar to the final two seasons of Thrones, it’ll be interesting to see if the behind-the-scenes crew manage to make any political maneuvering pay off in a more satisfying way than the little amount it did in Seasons 7 and 8.
In any case, it’s safe to say that, despite Season 8 coming to an end, we’re not done yet with the world of Game of Thrones. With one prequel show well underway in pre-production and due to arrive in 2020 or 2021, and several others still being considered by HBO (potentially focusing on the wars just before Game of Thrones or on the lands off to the far east or south of Westeros), it’ll be a long while yet before we finally say goodbye to Westeros and the world of ice and fire. Quite honestly, I’m not ready to yet, and I think I speak for many when I say I’m excited for whatever HBO have up their sleeves for us next.
Game of Thrones Season 8 is available for UK viewers on Sky now.