Why a Game of Thrones Spinoff Should Be a Direct Prequel

HBO Robert's Rebellion Game of Thrones Prequel Baratheon

Warning: This post contains spoilers for Game Of Thrones


Game Of Thrones returns to our screens this year for its penultimate season, and already there's been much discussion about the fate of the series when the final season comes to a close. It's looking likely that HBO may create a new series within the same universe, starting to build a Game Of Thrones multi-series franchise that could theoretically continue to grow for as long as there are viewers willing to watch it. Earlier this month, HBO president Casey Bloys confirmed that spin-offs are being considered, although they are very much still in the 'exploration' phase, and in a different interview Bloys also suggested that a prequel may be the most likely option. A prequel certainly makes sense, especially as George R R Martin has created a dense and complex history for his fictional world. The bare bones of Westerosi history are ready and waiting, and just need to be fleshed out.

There are any number of possible prequel options for HBO to choose from, including the early days of the Children of the Forest, the stories of the Night's Watch at its best (or its worst, with the story of the Night's King of legend), the lives of Bran the Builder and other legendary figures, and many, many more. One of the most likely, and most suitable prequel options, however, doesn't stretch quite that far back in time. Instead, it takes place almost immediately before season 1 of Game Of Thrones began.

We are referring, of course, to the story of Robert's Rebellion. This was the war that ousted the Targaryens, put Robert Baratheon on the throne (and Cersei Lannister next to him), and was the true beginning of the events we have watched unfold in Game Of Thrones. The rebellion is one of the most fleshed-out parts of Westerosi history, and Martin has created a detailed record of everything that happened - from romances to battles.

The Basic History Of The Rebellion

Ned Stark Robert Baratheon and Rhaegar Targaryen in Game of Thrones
Rhaegar Targaryen artwork by Karla Ortiz

Robert's Rebellion starts with a celebration; a tourney at Harrenhal, which was attended by representatives of all the most powerful families in Westeros, including King Aerys Targaryen. Things turned sour at the end of the event when the Crown Prince, Rhaegar, honored Lyanna Stark over his own wife... a move which was not only far from diplomatic, but seen as instrumental in motivating Rhaegar to 'kidnap' Lyanna a short time later. In response to this abduction, the Starks (and their friends) demanded the death of Rhaegar, and were put to death themselves for their trouble. Eddard Stark, now Lord of Winterfell, and Robert Baratheon (Lyanna's betrothed) were to be brought in by Jon Arryn and murdered as well, but instead the three rose up in rebellion against the Mad King.

We know how the rebellion ends, of course, courtesy of the current show. After several battles, Robert managed to kill Rhaegar at the Battle of the Trident, and declared his intent to take the Iron Throne. Eddard Stark was sent to take King's Landing from the Mad King in a final confrontation. Lord Tywin Lannister joined Stark and his men at the gates of the city, and tricked King Aerys into opening them - allowing the rebels to pour in and sack the city. Jaime Lannister, kingsguard to Aerys, uncovered a plot by the Mad King to burn down the entire city rather than let it be taken, and killed the king to save the city. The last notable death at the Sack of King's Landing was that of Rhaegar's wife - Elia Martell, who was brutally raped and murdered by Gregor Clegane.

At the end of the rebellion, Eddard left to try and save Lyanna, who was being 'held' at the Tower Of Joy - and where she died giving birth to her son. The remaining Targaryens - Queen Rhaella and her son, Viserys - were left on Dragonstone. When Rhaella died giving birth to her daughter, Daenerys, the Targaryen children were smuggled away to grow up in hiding. Robert Baratheon took the throne and married Cersei to seal his alliance with the Lannisters. It is fifteen years later that Game Of Thrones begins.

In Support Of A Rebellious Prequel

Ned Stark Tower of Joy Game of Thrones Season 6 Finale

Robert's Rebellion would make an ideal prequel series for Game Of Thrones. As we can see from the "short" history of the rebellion above, this chapter in Westeros history is already laid out in great detail, making it quick and easy to adapt for the small screen. And unlike the events of A Song Of Ice And Fire, Robert's Rebellion is relatively uncomplicated. There is a clear 'good guy' (the rebels), and an obvious villain (the Mad King). Many viewers have difficulty following the vastly complex and intricate politics of Game Of Thrones, as well as the absolutely enormous cast of characters. Robert's Rebellion, while still featuring plenty of political intrigue, is comparatively straightforward, and would be much easier for viewers to follow.

In addition to being a little less convoluted, many of the characters involved in Robert's Rebellion are now familiar to Game Of Thrones fans. Robert himself has already appeared as a key character, along with Eddard Stark, Jamie Lannister, Cersei Lannister, and many more. A prequel featuring these well-known characters needs significantly less set-up, and means that new characters are easier for viewers to keep track of. We would also get to see more of many of the fan-favorites who didn't survive the series. Younger versions of Eddard, Robert, Jamie and Cersei would be absolutely fascinating, especially as we now know where they end up. In addition, we would love to see characters like Lyanna Stark (who appeared only briefly, in flashback) and Rhaegar (who has been mentioned, but not seen) developed fully. Several of these characters have even been cast already, for their appearances in flashbacks.

Potential Problems

Ned Stark in Game of Thrones Pilot

Despite these advantages, there are some issues with a Robert's Rebellion prequel series - the biggest, of course, being that there are no surprises in this story. The events of the Rebellion are such an integral part of the current story that there can be no major deviations or twists and turns to shock the audience. We know who lives and who dies, which might lessen the interest for those who love to play guess-who-survives with Game Of Thrones.

Robert's Rebellion is also not much of a deviation from the current formula. Unlike prequels that could delve into the age of Heroes, or a time where dragons were commonplace, the world of the Rebellion is the same one that we know from Game of Thrones. This is familiar and comfortable, but it might also feel a little bit too safe, even borderline boring. Without shock value, plot twists or new worlds to explore, some may argue that a Robert's Rebellion series just wouldn't hold the viewer's attention for long.

Bring On The Rebels!

Mark Addy as Robert Baratheon in Game of Thrones

Robert's Rebellion has everything that fans of Game of Thrones want to see: the return of favorite characters; infant versions of heroes like Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen; familiar stories from Westeros history brought to life; romance, epic battles, and political intrigue. The only thing missing is a dragon or two! The detailed storylines and some pre-established casting also means that this story could be turned into a series in a very short period of time - potentially giving us a new series only a year after the end of the existing one. Despite a few potential problems, Robert's Rebellion would be a phenomenal expansion of the Westeros universe, and we hope it is made real by the creative minds at HBO.

What would you like to see explored in a Game Of Thrones spin-off series? Comment and let us know.

Key Release Dates
  • Game of Thrones release date:
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