‘Game of Thrones’: With Naomi Watts Prequel on Ice, What’s the Future of HBO’s Planned Universe?

Five spinoffs were originally put into development — here’s where they are now

Brienne Game of Thrones finale

Update, Tuesday afternoon: Just hours after the Naomi Watts series was shuttered, HBO announced a full series order for “House of the Dragon” a prequel series about the rise of the Targaryen family in Westeros. Read all about it here.

“Game of Thrones” ended its eight-season run in May with what is arguably one of the most divisive series finales in the history of television. But long before that fanbase-breaking episode, HBO was already plotting to capitalize on the hugely popular fantasy epic by expanding its universe with potential spinoff shows.

On Tuesday, HBO’s quest to keep the franchise alive took a few steps back, as it scrapped the “GoT” prequel pilot that was the favored to next take the Iron Throne.

Ordered to pilot last year, the now-scrapped untitled project from George R.R. Martin and “Kingsman” screenwriter Jane Goldman was set thousands of years before the events of the original “Game of Thrones” series, in the era known as the Age of Heroes. The project, which wrapped production this summer, starred Naomi Watts.

So where does the death of this potential series, which Martin continuously referred to as “The Long Night” (until HBO asked him to clarify that the project was officially untitled, that is), leave the future of “Game of Thrones” at HBO? Well, there are a couple candidates still in line to succeed the original show. But not as many as when this song of development stops and starts first began.

Originally, there were five “Thrones” spinoffs scripts in development at HBO, with Goldman’s being the only one put into production.

(Here’s where we interject to remind you that “Game of Thrones” showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are not attached to any of the “Game of Thrones” prequel projects and that duo signed a massive overall deal with Netflix in August that encompasses both TV and film.)

“The reason we did multiple scripts in the development process, [is we knew] out of five we’d be lucky to get one we’re excited about,” HBO programming chief Casey Bloys told reporters at the Television Critics Association in July 2018.

Jump ahead to May 2019, when Martin wrote on his “Not a Blog” blog that “three of them are still moving forward nicely.”

Then in July, Bloys told reporters at the 2019 TCA summer press tour that the the Watts-led pilot had wrapped production in Belfast, Ireland. At that time, the HBO exec said he was “very excited” by the footage he’d seen so far, but that the pay TV channel was still considering pilot orders for additional spinoffs.

“I think we have one or two more scripts,” he told TheWrap. “But we’re gonna see what happens with this one.”

The next development came in September, when a second prequel project, this one based on the Targaryen family, was close to a pilot order at HBO. That series is from “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin and “Colony” co-creator Ryan Condal and would be set 300 years before the events of the HBO fantasy series.

House Targaryen is the family that Emila Clarke’s Daenerys belonged to, along with her brother Viserys (Harry Lloyd) and nephew Aegon Targaryen aka (SPOILER ALERT) Jon Snow, played by Kit Harington. That potential series would chronicle the downfall of the Targaryen House during a civil war, an event known as the Dance of Dragons.

“Many people have been emailing me since these stories hit the web, asking me to confirm or deny,” Martin wrote in a post on his “Not a Blog” blog, when news of that prequel project broke. “Sorry. Can’t. Well, not much, in any case. Yes, I can confirm that HBO put several GAMES OF THRONES successor shows in development at one point. There were four to start with.   Then five.   Then three. I’ve said all that before. Jane Goldman’s as yet untitled show, which I am still not supposed to call THE LONG NIGHT, is one of those. The pilot on that one wrapped a month ago and has been in post-production.  I am expecting to see her first cut soon. (Last month in Belfast, I got a behind-the-scenes look at some of her sets, and they were spectacular). The show stirring up all the internet headlines right now is one of the others.   Also a prequel.   Set thousands of years after Jane’s show in the history of Westeros.  And yes, it is based on material from one of my books.”

He added: “I do want to point out that ‘moving closer to a pilot order’ is NOT the same thing as ‘getting a pilot order.’  Would that it were. This is encouraging, this is exciting, but don’t buy the couch just yet. When HBO actually gives us a pilot order, you will hear me shouting it from the rooftops. 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.”

At the time, Martin also shot down the suggestion that because Condal’s show was moving forward it meant Goldman’s would not be, saying “If that’s so, no one has told me. I don’t think it’s so.”

“The world of ‘Ice & Fire’ is a WORLD, boys and girls,” he continued. “Huge continents, ten thousand years of history, cities, deserts, oceans, mysteries, triumphs and tragedies. If there were indeed eight million stories in ‘The Naked City’ in the 50s, surely there are eight billion stories to be told about Westeros, Essos, Sothoryos, and the lands beyond the Sunset Sea, south of Oz and north of Shangri-La… 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… I still want to do SPEARCARRIERS, after all.”

So, Martin thinks there’s room for more than one spinoff series, but is there? With one scrapped, one close to a pilot order and no word on that third, it’s unclear what HBO wants from this potential franchise at this point. That said, HBO’s parent company, WarnerMedia, is holding its media day this afternoon in Burbank, Calif. — we’ll keep you posted if any new “Game of Thrones” news emerges.