Before Game of Thrones | The Science of Adaptation


The Likelihood of a Game of Thrones spinoff

pop culture mysteries 1Does there need to be a Game of Thrones spinoff? Not necessarily. After the eighth season has finished, HBO could smile with pride at the show which helped to usher in a golden age of television while putting the showrunners to work on new and exciting projects. When it concludes, Game of Thrones could just be eight excellent seasons and the wonderful books it was, and that would be fine.

But that’s not how these kind of things work.

The surest sign that indicates we’ll be getting more from the “World of Ice and Fire” is that Game of Thrones has been so profitable. that’s the logical flow of money in  entertainment. Everything that keeps the franchise going keeps money coming in. A Thrones prequel isn’t just giving the fans what they want, it’s a reliable investment. That’s why there will be Star Wars media long after I die, why The Hobbit was stretched into three films, and why there will be five Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movies. And sooner or later, HBO will return to its favorite cash cow.

HBO CEO Richard Plepler was quoted as saying: “It certainly has not escaped [HBO President of Programming] and myself that there might be some brand extension [for Game of Thrones] that would be exciting. It certainly has not escaped the producers.”

Yeesh. Spoken like a true CEO. “Brand Extension.” Then again, this is the most popular show on television right now, so it’s to be expected. There’s money to be had, and HBO will have it. There’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll see more stories from Westeros. It’s merely a matter of when will this happen, and what stories will be presented.

What People Think a Thrones Spin-off Should Be

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For whatever reason, just about everyone on the internet seems to be in agreement as to what they want to be the next installment in the Game of Thrones universe should be after HBO is done adapting George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. The common assumption is that HBO will eventually give us a series which tells the story of Robert’s Rebellion – set about twenty years before the show begins, detailing the story of how Robert Baratheon defeated the Mad King as a means of taking the throne. And when people list potential Game of Thrones spinoffs, Robert’s Rebellion consistently tops the list; source, source, and source. IGN wrote an article about four spinoffs they’d love to see, and mentioned Robert’s Rebellion before going on to pitch three much better ideas. A Blog of Thrones has already gone so far as to pitch a potential cast.

The issue with adapting Robert’s Rebellion is that we already know a lot of what happens. All the biggest moments have already been talked about. The show retells everything that happened, and the books do it in even greater detail.

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Let’s take a look at the most notable events from Robert’s Rebellion, and corresponding scenes from Game of Thrones where characters talk about these events.

  • The Tourney at Harrenhal – S5E04; Littlefinger tells Sansa about Rhaegar “choosing” Lyanna after he won the tourney. Additionally, Meera retells this event in A Storm of Swords.
  • The Battle of the Trident – S3E03; Ser Barristan tells Daenerys about fighting alongside her brother Rhaegar.
  • The Siege of Storm’s End – S2E08; Stannis recalls the trauma of the siege of Storm’s End.
  • The Sack of King’s Landing and the Kingslayer – S3E05; Jaime tells Brienne about how became the Kingslayer. Definitely a high point of Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s performance.
  • The Murder of Elia Martell and her children – most famously, Elia’s brother Oberyn tells this story during his first scene in S4the trial by combat in S4E08, during his Inigo Montoya moment.
  • The Tower of Joy – depicted in various episodes of Season 6.

Through these scenes, we learn about these experiences and how these events effected the characters. I’m not sure depicting any of the scenes would be more emotionally impactful or better performed than seeing these characters relive these events through storytelling. (It would make for great action, which begs the question – do people watch Game of Thrones for the compelling characters or the awesome action?)

Robert’s Rebellion isn’t supposed to be a story on its own. It’s extensive worldbuilding by means of creating the history of Westeros. It helps to set up what the characters of Game of Thrones will be like by giving them prior experiences. Alongside the main series, it would be like watching a history documentary.

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To compare it to Star Wars, let’s talk about the necessity of seeing Robert’s Rebellion. The Star Wars prequels showed us a young, timid, Anakin Skywalker as he slowly became the mysterious and evil Darth Vader that we see in the original trilogy. For everything the prequels lacked (which, yeah, was a lot) they certainly didn’t lack a distinctive arc for its major characters. And even though we know where most characters end up, we’ll see how they are effected by what happens. Robert’s Rebellion has no character with a distinctive arc. Stannis starts off grouchy and becomes more grouchy during the siege at Storm’s End. Robert is the bawdy warrior we know him to be, and during the course of the rebellion he becomes angry and grieves the death of his love Lyanna, and then he becomes a bawdy, grieving, warrior king. Ned is honorable, then slightly sacrifices his honor to save Lyanna and Rhaegar’s baby, but since we are aware that during Game of Thrones he’s still known to be very honorable, the stakes are low. Jaime joins the Kingsguard but ultimately kills his king, which could make for an interesting story, but there’s no emotional weight that could be put into it that wasn’t found in his Season 3 monologue where he tells the story.

One character who does show some growth might be Davos, who would start off as a smuggler who doesn’t care for the law but then risks his life to smuggle food and resources to Stannis. The shortening of Davos’ fingers is the end point of an arc from lawlessness to lawfulness, which would be neat to see. But out of the wide cast of characters, is Davos’ arc worth producing an entire series. Perhaps Jaime, who gradually might transition from being a kingsguard just to stay near Cersei to genuinely trying to protect his kingdom by killing his king.

In the Star Wars series, the prequels provide an arc for Darth Vader which actually adds to the rest of the series. Whereas Robert’s Rebellion would not. At most, Ned is made to look more honorable, Jamie made to look more heroic, Robert made to look more grief-stricken. When we look at it this way, the Thrones characters gain nothing from being in a Robert’s Rebellion series.

Additionally, there’s the issue of worldbuilding. All the provided histories are there to furnish the main story in Game of Thrones. Even though the Star Wars prequels were only made to compliment the main story, they did enough to show us new places, new stories, and new characters. There’s some level of unpredictability.

And it’s a weird thought, but couldn’t you just picture a bunch of fan service? Maybe there’d be a scene where Robert tells his brothers he is going to be king, and Renly says he wants to be king and Stannis tells him that that’s not how succession works. Maybe there’s a dialogue exchange during the tourney at Harrenhal where Brandon asks Ned what he thinks of his betrothed Catelyn and Ned quips that she’s nice but not his kind of girl, and it’s ironic because they end up getting married. Maybe when Jaime is knighted as he says that he’ll defend the king, they play “The Rains of Castamere” and he winks at the camera or something, I don’t know. Prequels are risky like that – creators walk a fine line of fan service. You’ll never know if you’ll get something as well-placed as Rogue One retconning a notable plot hole or if you’ll get hamfisted prequel cameos by Boba Fett and Chewbacca.

What a Thrones Spinoff will more likely be

George R.R. Martin explained that his spinoff novel A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms would be the best choice to follow-up Game of ThronesA Knight of the Seven Kingdoms was a series of spinoff novellas called The Tales of Dunk and Egg by George R.R. Martin which was compiled into one novel.

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms is a buddy-adventure between Ser Duncan the Tall and young Aegon (called Egg) Targaryen. It takes place about one hundred years before Game of Thrones, and mostly shows us characters we’ve never seen before. This is to A Song of Ice and Fire as The Hobbit is to Lord of the Rings; not a sweeping fantasy epic but a fun, little adventure about chivalry. Tonally, it would like be rather different from Thrones. If there’s anything that HBO has shown us, it’s that two characters going on an adventure together makes for great television.

This is the spinoff George Martin wants, calling it “The most natural follow up.” Frankly, I think this is the spinoff we are more likely to get.

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Everyone wants to see Robert’s Rebellion. The colossal moments such as the Battle of the Trident or the Sack of King’s Landing would make for wonderful, cinematic action, but it lacks unpredictability and character growth. We want to see Robert’s Rebellion because it is familiar to us, but that is the very thing that would likely stop it from being great.


6 thoughts on “Before Game of Thrones | The Science of Adaptation

  1. I think you’re spot-on with the Dunk and Egg novellas being the most likely candidates for adaptation. It might be interesting to see how the rebellion works out, especially because there are elements leading up to the rebellion (the Knight of the Laughing Tree being the most notable, totally absent in the show but probably one of the most amazing Rhaegar moments that was described by Meera Reed in such poetic allegory, that I’d love to see it made manifest.)


    1. Yeah, it would certainly be neat to see. The one thought I’ve had since writing this was that I would love to see the chemistry between Rhaegar and Lyanna. That being said, I don’t know if that would carry the series.

      I definitely think a Robert’s Rebellion series could be good. But I don’t expect good from Game of Thrones. I expect great.

      Liked by 1 person

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