Death in the world of Westeros often comes quickly, brutally, and with very little warning. As in fiction, so in real life then this week, as HBO abruptly announced that it was killing off Jane Goldman’s Game Of Thrones prequel, informally known as The Long Night. The series was set thousands of years before the HBO blockbuster, with Naomi Watts and Miranda Richardson starring together in a story about the first battle between the Starks and the Others and the White Walkers, one which hopefully would not have ended in a sort of single-episode anti-climax.
Except that it kind of totally did; after struggling with a pilot shot last year, HBO gave the series the boot earlier this week, despite hopes that—like the original series—a rough pilot might be rebuilt into something groundbreaking and successful. But rest assured: When someone in the Seven Kingdoms gets cut down in their prime, author George R.R. Martin is there to report on the grisly aftermath. In a blog post from earlier today (in which he also discussed the other prequel project that’s actually going forward, House Of The Dragon), Martin took a minute to pour out some condolences for Goodman’s project.
I would be remiss if I did not also mention the bad news. HBO also announced that it has decided not to proceed with the other successor show we had in development, the one I kept calling THE LONG NIGHT (though it was, and remains, officially untitled), the pilot for which was shot in Northern Ireland last spring and summer. Set thousands of years before either GAME OF THRONES or HOUSE OF THE DRAGON, and centered on the Starks and the White Walkers, the untitled pilot was written by Jane Goldman, directed by S.J. Clarkson, and starred Naomi Watts, Miranda Richardson, and a splendid cast. It goes without saying that I was saddened to hear the show would not be going to series. Jane Goldman is a terrific screenwriter, and I enjoyed brainstorming with her. I do not know why HBO decided not to go to series on this one.
That being said, this is not George R.R. Martin’s first disappointment in the TV business, and while he did note that losing a pilot like this can be “heartbreaking,” it’s also just part of the cost of doing business. “It’s not at all uncommon,” he writes. “I’ve been there myself, more than once. I know Jane and her team are feeling the disappointment just now, and they have all my sympathy… with my thanks for all their hard work, and my good wishes for whatever they do next.”