Game of Thrones has a complicated legacy. The show was once the pinnacle of television. It was the most watched and talked about show in the world, with the series finale pulling in 13.6 million viewers when it aired, making it the most watched episode of television in HBO’s esteemed history. The show was easily the biggest breakout series of the 2010s, and it changed the game in terms of the scope of stories that could be told on television.
Despite the mixed reactions to the final season of Game of Thrones, Warner Bros and HBO are determined to keep the world of Westeros alive on-screen. It’s no wonder why. There is a lot of money to be made when a show is as successful as Game of Thrones. The series was at the peak of the entertainment zeitgeist in the 2010s, so from a business perspective, it would be almost irresponsible not to try and grow the franchise into a larger more long-lasting brand. With the first spin-off Game of Thrones material now in its first season, it’s worth exploring if Game of Thrones can even be revitalized to begin with.
The Fallout of the Final Season
Despite the immense heights that Game of Thrones reached, in the few years since the series finale, much of the love and adoration for the show has evaporated. This decline in audience interest has largely been attributed to the overall dissatisfaction that fans felt toward the show’s final season. In a show that was applauded for its character development and dramatic twists, the final season really dropped the ball. While some still found the final season to be generally enjoyable, many fans agreed that it did not live up to the high standards that the show set with its previous seasons.
The eighth and final season of Game of Thrones consisted of seven episodes rather than the 10 that were given to most seasons. While that’s not inherently a bad thing, the content within those seven episodes felt rushed, underdeveloped, and ultimately lackluster. While many of the show’s previous seasons had thoroughly developed its characters and storylines in logical and natural ways, the final season consisted mostly of ideas that were loosely strung together without much thought behind them. Much of the good will that Game of Thrones had built in its early seasons was lost, as characters were given emotional and dramatic new turns that felt more forced and unearned than satisfying and conclusive.
As a result, there has been very little lasting interest in Game of Thrones. The final season managed to kill both any interest fans had in re-watching the series while also deterring anyone who had been waiting for it to finish before binge-watching the whole thing. Considering how successful the show was just a few years ago, there’s almost no chatter about it online these days. It wasn’t a show people went back to revisit during the pandemic, and it isn’t one that is consistently still drawing new viewers. Long-time fans don’t want to go back because they don’t want to relive the disappointment they felt with the last season, and potential new viewers don’t want to start watching it to begin with because they feel they’ll only be underwhelmed at the end.
The House of the Dragon and Future Spin-Offs
Even though there has been a significant decline in interest in the core Game of Thrones series, HBO is attempting to revive the brand through numerous new spin-off shows set in the same fantasy world. The first series, House of the Dragon, is a prequel show that follows House Targaryen several hundred years prior to the events of the original series. The reaction to the show has been fairly positive so far, with critics saying the show returns to the same drama and political turmoil that made Thrones so successful to begin with. There’s no telling at this point if House of the Dragon will maintain its current success or build to the same levels as its predecessor, but the series has certainly started off on a good foot.
Beyond House of the Dragon, there are many other Game of Thrones shows that HBO has in development. Many of them are also prequel stories. The Sea Snake will reportedly operate as a spin-off of sorts to House of the Dragon, as it follows Corlys Velaryon, who has been introduced in the new series, played by Steve Toussaint. There are also Ten Thousand Ships, The Tales of Dunk and Egg, and other animated shows that could be set prior to Game of Thrones.
One of the more interesting spin-off ideas is a series focused on the fan-favorite character of Jon Snow. The series, which has been spearheaded by Kit Harington and his team, could potentially follow the character in his adventures North of the Wall after the events of Game of Thrones. Such a show would serve as a sequel series of sorts to the original show. There are many pros and cons to a Jon Snow series, but it would certainly drum up a lot of interest from fans.
Will it Work?
As disappointing as the final seasons of Game of Thrones may have been, there is no denying that the series was one of the best shows on television for a good part of the 2010s. There have been very few shows to establish such a massive audience and following as Game of Thrones. The series showed that there is an audience for this kind of mature high fantasy content. Even though many people may not have liked the final season of Thrones, it’s a bit of an exaggeration to say that the entire franchise was killed as a result. There’s certainly still an interest in this kind of material.
With that, it’s actually really smart of HBO to stay the course and move forward with all of these new Game of Thrones shows. If series like House of the Dragon and Jon Snow can tell compelling new stories and convince audiences that they want to come back to Westeros, then Game of Thrones has a legitimate chance of re-establishing its dominance in pop culture. Just look at how massively popular franchises like Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe are. The world of Game of Thrones is just as expansive and full of potential new stories as many of the biggest franchises out there right now.
Even though Game of Thrones wasn’t left in the best place after its finale, there is still a lot of life left in this franchise. It’s always hard to tell whether something will work out in the long run. Of course, all of these new spin-off shows could crash and burn, but if they do find success, then they could repair the legacy of Game of Thrones and re-establish the series as one of the biggest in the world. It’s a big gamble, but if it pays off, Warner Bros., Discovery, and HBO will once again have one of entertainment’s biggest franchises on their hands.