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HBO Just Ordered a <em>Game of Thrones</em> Prequel Pilot

HBO has ordered a pilot for a prequel to its megahit series Game of Thrones, further clarifying its plans for continuing the fantasy series’ success after its final season in 2019.

The new series is being developed by filmmaker Jane Goldman and George R.R. Martin, author of the books that formed the basis of the original series. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the spinoff, if it goes into full production, will be set thousands of years before the story of Ned Stark’s children. Though plot details are scarce, a tease from HBO says the show would touch on topics from “the horrifying secrets of Westeros’ history to the true origin of the White Walkers, [from] the mysteries of the East to the Starks of legend”.

The pilot marks a step forward for HBO’s ambitious plan to produce one or more Game of Thrones “successor shows.” News broke last year that writers had been hired to develop ideas for as many as five shows telling more stories in the fantasy world. They mark the first time HBO has ever pursued a sequel or spinoff – no surprise, considering that the show has shattered the network’s ratings records.

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The pilot announcement, though, does come on the heels of a disappointing box office performance from the Star Wars prequel film Solo: A Star Wars Story. That film has been dinged by critics in part for its hamfisted determination to provide a myth-deflating explanation of every miniscule aspect of the iconic Han Solo character. That points to the inherent conflict between the entertainment businesses’ prevailing tendency to produce endless iterations of a successful franchise, and the restraint required to actually tell a good story.

HBO seems to be well aware of that risk, though – HBO President of Programming Casey Bloys has said that only the best of the commissioned ideas will actually see production. According to other statements from Bloys, any Game of Thrones spinoffs won’t air until at least 2020.