Game of Thrones will go down in history not just as one of the most successful television programmes, but in succeeding in becoming a televisual event.
The Season 6 finale in summer 2016 garnered 8.9 million viewers. Viewer figures have increased consistently (3 million, 4.2 million, 5.4 million, 7.1 million, 8.1 million) for the preceding season finales respectively.
While, like the Iron Throne, the show has faced its share of barbs (slow-moving episodes, convoluted plots, lengthy absences), the creators have finally set an end date. Just like Lost before it, whose fans applauded when the producers committed to giving answers and reaching a peak by setting an end date. The show will end in 2018 with Season 8.
By knowing when the show will end (and allowing George RR Martin to catch up with the books), they can truly focus on bringing the show to a satisfying conclusion.
Jon and Daenerys are honing in on Westeros – and Cersei is determined to defend her claim. As the trailer for the 7th season (condensed from 10 episodes to 7) hints at through a spoof of James’s hit song “Sit Down” (kind of), the show also seems to condense the storytelling down to the fight for supremacy. But could they join forces to defend the land from the White Walkers beyond the wall?
And what happens when the throne is won and the dust has settled?
Five screenwriters – Max Borenstein, Jane Goldman, Brian Helgeland and Carly Wray and a mystery fifth writer – have been commissioned independently to create possible spin-offs for the show. All have had major communication with George RR Martin, and each idea is set to take the fantasy series in a new direction.
Martin has dismissed the idea that the show would follow in the footsteps of spin-offs like Joey, Frasier, The Cleveland Show, or Melrose Place in that it would feature no characters from the current narratology. The shows are deemed “successor shows” set in the same world, most likely before the events of the current series.
The Mythos of Westeros Will Live On
Given the vast mythos of the show – the stories of yore that are constantly told – there is scope for anything resembling the years gone by in the land of ice and fire. The show’s genre would likely remain the same fantastical, period-esque, sexcapade that Thrones is – it’s unlikely that one of the spin-offs will be a sitcom about two lowly castle servants with lofty aspirations and a zany Lord.
Borenstein is known for penning Godzilla (2014) and Kong: Skull Island (2017), so his version would likely feature some of the more monstrous elements of the show. Goldman is known for Kick-Ass (2010) and Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) – both about punchy teens thrust into situations out of their depth. And Helgeland is famed for true crime, so a more Mafioso version of Westeros could be drafted on his laptop.
However spin-offs don’t have to just come in the same form as the original. Dark Horse Comics continued Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Zenescope kept Charmed living on via comic books; Lost was spun into a video game with new characters; critically acclaimed, commercially flopped Firefly (2002) has a video game in the works.
Similarly, the GoT universe exists beyond the books and series. A video game was released in 2015, Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series, across all major console platform. Betway Casino has a Game of Thrones slot game and even a spin-off slot, Forbidden Throne.
Anything can be given the Thrones treatment to cloak it in the intrigue of the show, even pinball: Stern has released no fewer than 3 versions of their Game of Thrones pinball machine – with the Premium version available at a mere $7.699.
But will a spin-off work? Better Call Saul and Fear the Walking Dead attempted to continue the story-world of behemoths Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead respectively. Both have been well-received by fans – Better Call Saul received a 97% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, while Fear the Walking Dead got a 75% rating.
While a business decision of Disney proportions, the spin-off treatment also works to further the fans’ engagement with the narrative. An existing fan-base means greater budget and scope for the spin-off and a proven track record of success allows for greater investment. The better the show, the happier the fans.
The Franchise Treatment
Just look at Harry Potter. The last book was released in 2009 and the last official film in 2011 – yet the franchise is still accumulating wealth and fans. The latest edition – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) was spawned from a book Rowling wrote for Comic Relief. The Potterheads are appeased and investors are guaranteed a low-risk, high-reward payoff.
Projected earnings for the GoT franchise are a guarded secret, but assuming they justify the $10 million budget for each Season 6 episode, they should be fairly high. A Game of Thrones spin-off – or five – will undoubtedly retain the majority of the finale’s audience – and may even get back some who jumped ship earlier on (when the show deviated from the books, when we spent so long in the desert, that Jaime and Cersei scene).