The spinoff is set in Westeros’ golden Age of Heroes, thousands of years in the past. In a statement dropped Friday, HBO offered up a few compelling, if vague, details about what to expect:
“Only one thing is for sure: From the horrifying secrets of Westeros’ history to the true origin of the white walkers, the mysteries of the East, to the Starks of legend...it’s not the story we think we know,” the network said.
HBO, notoriously hush-hush about the most successful show in its history, has been in prequel talks for a while, at one point reportedly developing up to five spinoff pilots at the same time. While the fate of the other four is still unknown, this pilot is co-signed by author George R. R. Martin himself, who wrote the story along with screenwriter Jane Goldman. Goldman is a Thrones newcomer, but you might recognise her from writing credits on high-octane action flicks like the Kingsman films, a handful of X-Men movies, and Kick-Ass.
Armed with that information and the show’s general premise, a few things we might expect to see come to mind.
First off, “the true origin of the white walkers” immediately draws a line between this series and the little slice of mystic Westerosi history we got in season six, when one of Bran’s extended visions revealed how the White Walkers were created by the nymph-like Children of the Forest in an attempt to battle the First Men — Westeros’ first human inhabitants. But this announcement highlights just how much of that story there is to explore: why were the Children and the First Men wrapped up in such an intense conflict? How did the White Walkers turn on their creators? And who the hell is the Night King? (Although in fairness, it’s quite likely GoT’s season eight will answer that question.)
Second, the “mysteries of the East” — while already risking sounding like some kind of Orientalist stereotype — reminds us that the lands across the Narrow Sea have suffered from rather limited onscreen development, as most of our understanding of everything from the Dothraki Sea to the Iron Bank of Braavos has been in relation to Daenerys Targaryen’s somewhat white saviour-y rise to power. But Essos is a giant continent with cultures quite distinct from Westeros’, and this spinoff could give us even more insight into the fascinating world that our favorite characters inhabit.
And finally, “horrifying secrets of Westeros’ history,” coupled with name-dropping the Starks and the Age of Heroes, suggests that this world’s folklore might be real history. Game of Thrones has been rightly criticised for shying away from the books’ unabashed love of all things magic and fantasy in favour of Westeros’ political machinations. But the thing is, dragons and werewolves are just as important to this narrative as Cersei’s scheming. If you’re telling the story of the Age of Heroes — a time when the ancient houses of Westeros were founded through almost mythical means, and the Long Night was the historical event of record — you can’t avoid the magic woven into this world.