Game of Thrones has only one season left before the end, and it will be the shortest season of the series to date. Although HBO has yet to release an official premiere date for the eighth and final season, fans may already be mourning the end of one of the most epic series in television history. The good news is that the end of Game of Thrones doesn't mean the end of the Westeros action on HBO, as a spinoff pilot has already been ordered.
HBO has actually had multiple spinoffs in development for a while, and the first to get the order for a pilot will be set thousands of years before the events of Game of Thrones picked up. The project hasn't even received an official name just yet, so details are relatively scarce. That said, we do know the bare bones of what the show will be about if ordered to series, and we know some of the actors cast for major roles.
Let's start with the actress seemingly poised to take the spot as leading lady!
Naomi Watts is probably best known nowadays for her roles on the big screen, even scoring Academy Awards nominations for best leading actress on two occasions. She did recently star in a Netflix series of her own, but it wasn't especially well-received, and Gypsy got the axe after only one season. The Game of Thrones prequel pilot could be the project that turns her into a force to be reckoned with on the small screen.
For the HBO pilot, Naomi Watts will play a charismatic socialite. Fitting with characters introduced on Game of Thrones, she conceals a dark secret. If she takes after members of high society from Game of Thrones, she may be more than willing to kill if that's what it takes to protect her secret. Given that the project is set thousands of years before the War of the Five Kings, the Targaryens will still be around. Could Watts be playing a Targaryen?
It's difficult to imagine that HBO would launch a show set in the Game of Thrones universe and not find a way to feature dragons. A leading lady as a Targaryen before the dragons went (mostly) extinct would be a great way to keep the creatures in the mix. Naomi Watts does have the beauty and blonde hair to pass as a Targaryen woman, although Emilia Clarke is proof that a person doesn't have to be naturally blonde to play a Targaryen. At this point, we can only speculate.
If you're familiar with Josh Whitehouse, you're probably a fan of Poldark. The actor played Hugh Armitage for ten episodes. He'll appear in the upcoming remake of Valley Girl, tackling the role originally played by none other than Nicolas Cage. You can also find his face on billboards in certain places, as he is the face of Burberry's new fragrance campaign.
Unfortunately, there are even fewer details about Josh Whitehouse's role on the Game of Thrones prequel project than there are for Naomi Watts. Deadline reports that he landed "a lead role," which at least indicates that he'll play a prominent character. Beyond that, we can only guess. Since the news about Naomi Watts' casting preceded the news about Josh Whitehouse by a single day, perhaps we don't have to wait too long to learn more about characters to debut in the pilot.
The setting of the spinoff does mean that none of the Game of Thrones characters we've come to know and love/hate will be able to appear, unless Bran uses his Three-Eyed Raven powers to visit the past (and perhaps build the Wall as Bran the Builder). The spinoff action will reportedly take place during an era of transition, as the world moves from "the golden Age of Heroes into its darkest hour."
Assuming it gets a series order, the show will explore the true origin of the White Walkers, the Starks of days long gone by, and "mysteries of the East." As A Song of Ice and Fire book readers (who are undoubtedly starting to get seriously cranky about how long Winds of Winter is taking) know, the Age of Heroes ended when Westeros was plunged into the Long Night, a.k.a. that dreadful winter that lasted a generation and inspired some of Old Nan's spookiest stories.
The Long Night saw the arrival of the White Walkers from the far North for the first time, and the Children of the Forest teamed up with the First Men to drive them away. If the spinoff prequel does indeed tackle this era, viewers are in for a wild ride. Naomi Watts' character description as a socialite sounds fitting to a golden Age of Heroes, even if only at the end before the Long Night.
For now, we can only imagine. George R.R. Martin will be involved in the pilot despite Game of Thrones not running for as long as he'd hoped, so perusing some of his published materials could provide some background on what's going to happen. He has stated that finishing Winds of Winter will be his top priority, so he won't be overseeing everything on the spinoff project.
George R.R. Martin's Fire & Blood book could be a source for helpful information. It won't be a novel like those in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, but rather a "monumental history of the Targaryen kings of Westeros." It could provide background valuable to the writers and producers of the spinoff prequel. Only time will tell.
For now, you can look forward to the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones hitting the airwaves in 2019. A lot of characters are probably going to die, and we can only cross our fingers and hope for our favorites to make it to the end. Very little footage has released so far. Check out our fall TV schedule for some viewing options now and in the not-too-distant future.