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The Naomi Watts-Led Game Of Thrones Prequel Series Just Got Killed

The landmark fantasy series Game of Thrones told us on several occasions that "what is dead may never die," but the Drowned God's prayer doesn't apply to HBO's untitled GoT prequel.

It seems like just yesterday that fans were gearing up to head back to Westeros through an intriguing Thrones prequel series, set to explore the end of the so-called "Age of Heroes" and reveal how the Seven Kingdoms spiraled into the dark ages chronicled through the "first of its name" Game of Thrones series. In fact, it was just a couple of months ago that HBO ordered the series to pilot, with none other than esteemed actress Naomi Watts in the lead role. 

Unfortunately, nothing has gone to plan for the hotly-anticipated series. TV Line reports that HBO has, in fact, plunged a Valerian steel blade into the heart of the show, effectively killing it deader than the Night King himself. 

That's right: there will be no backstory for Bran the Builder — nor will there be any exploration of a Westeros that pre-dates the arrival of the Lannisters, or any new info about the origin of White Walkers and the First Men. And, perhaps most tragically, there's no chance at all that we'll finally get to see those ever-elusive ice spiders.

According to TV Line, HBO insiders had known for some time that the project was in trouble — with budget overages, creative clashes, and casting issues plaguing the production. Company executives screened the pilot episode sometime over the summer and were less than dazzled with the results, sending the prequel's creative back to the editing room in hopes of salvaging not just the pilot but the series itself. The recut pilot sadly didn't impress, and HBO's executive team ultimately elected not to move forward with the project. 

Penned by X-Men: First Class scribe Jane Goldman (who also served as showrunner), the planned series was initially envisioned as the first of many Game of Thrones prequels and spin-offs, with its deep-dive into the long history of George R.R. Martin's fictional realm Westeros offering a sort of template for potential series to come.

As we've known for some time, HBO initially intended to create five Game of Thrones spin-offs. The company's head of programming Casey Bloys offered to satisfy HBO's desire to put all its dragon eggs into one basket by producing only one of the planned shows to start, when it was announced in July 2018 that four of the five projects had been axed for the time being. That tactic makes sense given that Game of Thrones — particularly in its final two seasons — was one of the most expensive series produced in the history of television. As HBO initially went forward with the Watt-starring series, even ponying up a chunk of change for the pilot, it was presumed said show would carry the GoT torch not just for the immediate future, but also for years to come. 

Given its financial investment alone, HBO's passing on the first Game of Thrones prequel series is a legitimately shocking turn of events that seemingly leaves the future of any GoT spin-off up in the air. 

What does this mean for the realm of Game of Thrones prequels?

All this considered, fans can still expect to see a new Game of Thrones series sometime in the near-ish future from HBO. The flagship GoT series was not only both a creative and critical triumph, but it also became an iconic pop culture staple that ensured HBO's legacy as a bonafide trailblazer in the cable television industry for all eternity. It didn't hurt that the show also netted the cable giant untold billions of dollars over the years, and delivered one of the most unwavering viewerships in the history of television. 

Given the wickedly divisive response to Game of Thrones' uneven series finale, it makes sense that HBO brass would want to be extremely careful in how they move forward. Network bigwig Bob Greenblatt recently addressed this fact when he told Deadline, "We have to be really thoughtful about not killing the golden goose and not putting on shows that aren't up to that quality level [...] There's a prequel in production, but just a pilot so that we can see if it has all the goods and if it is worthy of going forward. We're just trying to be really thoughtful about how to expand this universe if it makes sense, and not, like I said, kill the golden goose."

With the failure of the aforementioned prequel, it appears HBO is officially one goose down, and will be foraging for fresh golden eggs in a different Game of Thrones basket.

The good news is HBO actually has several more baskets to choose from — with George R.R. Martin himself (in lieu of finishing his own book series, apparently) chiming in on where best to expand the GoT universe for the small screen. It appears that said expansion now rests in the hands of a prequel series focused on the rise of House Targaryen. According to a Deadline report from September 2019, HBO may be looking to serve GoT's staunchly devoted fanbase by bringing the dragon-action front and center once again through a story based on the initial demise of the Targaryens, which would unfold approximately 300 years prior to the rise and fall of Daenerys Targaryen herself.

With the aid of Ryan Condal, Martin himself created the project, said to be based on histories explored in the Game of Thrones companion book Fire and Blood. In the wake of the shocking turn of events for the just-cancelled prequel series, HBO has reportedly just ordered a full series for the Targaryen-centric tale, entitled House of the Dragon, which should begin production in the near future.

Now, who wants to bet that — even in spite of this most unexpected development — HBO still gets House of the Dragon to the small screen before Martin delivers the final volumes of his O.G. book series? Anybody?