What is dead may never die. With the end of Game of Thrones in clear sight, HBO are hoping that the franchise will rise again, harder and stronger. Or, to adapt the words of House Stark, spin-offs are coming.
Yes, spin-offs plural, with no less (sorry, fewer) than five currently in the works. That’s not to say five will make it to air, but it’s clear the cable channel has huge plans for Westeros beyond the story of Jon, Daenerys et al. And that makes a lot of sense.
It’s not just a financial no-brainer, but a story one too. Game of Thrones is just one small (if crucial) chunk of Westeros history; a six-year period in a world that stretches back thousands. One of the delights of A Song of Ice and Fire is the world George R.R. Martin has built, which is among the richest in all fantasy literature. And, as GRRM himself says, there are millions of stories waiting to be told – but which one should be?
Robert’s Rebellion and The Tales of Dunk and Egg have been ruled out, but there are plenty of other options. Aegon’s Conquest and The Dance of the Dragons could both be incredible dragon-filled spectacle; Valyria a gorgeous, magical drama. But the one that really stands above the crowd is the Blackfyre Rebellion.
Taking place around 100 years before the events of the show start, it came when Daemon Blackfyre – bastard son of King Aegon IV Targaryen – claimed the Throne of his older, trueborn brother Daeron II Targaryen. The result was a civil war, and the perfect story for a Game of Thrones spin-off.
8. It Features Some Recognisable Names
Although the First Blackfyre Rebellion took place a century before the events of the show, there will still be some recognisable names to hook viewers who perhaps aren’t as familiar with the story.
The most notable of these is Brynden Rivers, aka Bloodraven. One of Aegon IV’s bastards, he remains loyal to House Targaryen during the conflict, but more interestingly is that viewers know him as the Three-Eyed Raven. Before sitting in a tree he was Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch; before that he was a crucial member of the monarchy, serving as Hand of the King to Aerys I; and before even that, he was a great archer in the Rebellion.
The other link fans will recognise is that of Aegor Rivers, or more-so the sellsword company he founds after the rebellion: The Golden Company, who were mentioned a few times in Game of Thrones’ seventh season. Meanwhile there would be the potential for some already known locations too, with battles fought in the Vale and the Reach (among others).
It’s not a huge cast of familiar names in the way doing Robert’s Rebellion would be, but it would mean the spin-off has some fun links to the main show, giving it a tangible connection without being too overt, and fleshing out at least one character fans have met but might not know much about.
7. But Is Far Enough Removed To Be Different
While the Blackfyre Rebellion has some direct links to the show, it’s also so far removed that things would be very different to what fans know. It’s still in the midst of the Targaryen dynasty, and as such viewers would be plunged into a Seven Kingdoms at once recognisable and yet very different.
There’d be no danger of the show catching up with the main timeline, or wondering if certain characters might turn up, but instead it could be completely its own thing, with a few recognisable characters strewn across its run (and more as it gets closer to the time of the show, should it run that long).
While we’ve seen glimpses of the westerlands and the Reach on the show, for example, they’re more prominent in this story, meaning we could see locales such as Lannisport to differ from the show’s focus on King’s Landing and the North, and a focus on characters who aren’t called Stark or Lannister.
6. It Hasn’t Been Detailed Too Much In The Show
One of the issues with doing a spin-off of, say, Robert’s Rebellion, is that we know so much of what happens. It’s the key event of the years prior to the show itself, and we’ve heard about what happened from various points of view – and even seen the Tower of Joy (and now Rhaegar and Lyanna’s wedding) play out.
The Blackfyre Rebellions, however, don’t have that issue. The Rebellion was mentioned in the Histories & Lore bonus feature, in a segment titled The Death of Kings (narrated by Conleth Hill as Varys), but apart from that there’s not a great deal known about it to those who’ve just watched the show, while something like The World of Ice and Fire doesn’t go as deep into it as it does some other periods of history (such as the Conquest).
Although we know some of the key beats, there’s a lot a show can fill in to excite and surprise viewers, and bring something totally fresh to the realm.
5. The Focus On Targaryens
Although they’re one of the Great Houses of Westeros, throughout the course of the show we’ve only really followed one Targaryen. Viserys lasted only six episodes, Maester Aemon wasn’t a major player, and Jon’s only just been revealed to be one, so it’s all been on Daenerys. Sure, she’s been a HUGE part of the show, but we’ve had four key Lannisters, and even more important Starks.
Despite that, Targaryen is the most important house in ‘modern’ Westeros history, with a dynasty stretching back 300 years. This is the house that shaped the Seven Kingdoms into what we know today, that ruled for centuries, and producing the Blackfyre Rebellion puts the focus on them during a key period of their history. They’re known for being different to other houses, with unique customs and cruel traits, so it’d be great to see a show centre on them and exploring those things in more depth.
4. Daemon Blackfyre (And Many Other Great Characters)
The First Blackfyre Rebellion was led by Daemon Blackfyre (formerly Waters), who became known as the Black Dragon. He’d be at the centre of any TV take on the story, and that could be a very good thing. Daemon is one of the greatest fighters to ever live in Westeros, at one point described as being “like the Warrior himself” in reference to the Warrior face of the Seven.
Not only was he one hell of a fighter, but he was also renowned for his “inhumanely beautiful” looks and considerable charm, all of which makes for the right package to lead a TV series.
Also on the side of House Blackfyre were Sers Aegor ‘Bittersteel’ Rivers and Quentyn Ball, aka Fireball, both of whom were ferocious warriors and fiery characters, with Bittersteel especially known for his anger.
On the opposing side, Daeron II Targaryen would make for a compelling counterpoint to Daemon, as he was seen as an inherently good and kind-hearted person, whose strength was his wisdom rather than skill with a sword. His greatest ally is the aforementioned Brynden Rivers, a skilled swordsman and archer, who also becomes known for his sorcery.
Shiera Seastar, last of the Great Bastards, would make for an excellent female lead. She was known for her intelligence and dabbling in the dark arts, as well as being the most beautiful woman in the Seven Kingdoms. Likewise, Daenerys Targaryen I, half-sister of Daemon, is another important figure, and a chance to see the woman the Daenerys we know was named after. And if the series started with the reign of Aegon IV, aka the Unworthy, it’d be a chance to see a truly terrible Targaryen rule.
3. A Sense Of Spectacle
It wouldn’t have the dragon-sized spectacle of the Conquest or Dance (which in turn makes it much easier on the show’s budget), but the First Blackfyre Rebellion would still have its fair share of the kind of epic scale that Game of Thrones has become known for.
It was a long, bloody war, with numerous battles fought all over the Seven Kingdoms, and that means there could be battles both large and small adapted for the screen. We’ve seen what Game of Thrones can do with this in episodes like Battle of the Bastards, and there’s a scope for similarly incredible action sequences in this story to complement the characters and political machinations. Quentyn Ball won battles at both Lannisport and the Mander, while Leo Tyrell took victories at the Reach, so there’s a chance to see fighting all over Westeros.
Most notably, though, is the Battle of the Redgrass Field. The climactic event of the Rebellion, this was a huge showdown that featured a huge amount of warriors, archers, and a duel between Daemon and Ser Gwayne Corbray (a celebrated member of the Kingsguard), meaning it would have that large-scale production with a number of extras, but then also a close focus on one-on-one combat too.
The field was only named Redgrass after the battle, because of the sheer amount of bloodshed, which gives a good idea of its ferocity, and this would fit perfectly with the penultimate episode template should the spin-off want to continue that.
2. Lots Of Family And Political Intrigue
This isn’t The War of the Five Kings, which pitted various Great Houses against one another, nor even a conflict between just two rival houses, but a Civil War that splits a family – and the rest of the Seven Kingdoms – right down the middle. There’s massive potential just in the broad strokes of a Westerosi Civil War, and even more when you get into the minutiae of the family and political drama.
It all begins with a king legitimising bastards on his deathbed, and from there you’ve got two main feuds running throughout: Daeron vs Daemon, and Brynden vs Aegor.
Tensions started to ramp up when pacts were made with the Dornish, turning them from enemies to allies, and those seeds continued to grow – it was made worse by the fact Daemon was in love with Daenerys, and supposedly she with him, and she was then married off to Dorne. There’s scheming before war actually breaks out, various factions formed, and as many political fights as bloody battles.
The strong rivalry between Bloodraven and Bittersteel, both of whom were in love with their sister Shiera, would be a particularly fascinating subplot; you’d have sides of anti-heroes rather than clear good vs bad conflict; and the chance to see a great yet twisted house being torn apart, and taking the Kingdoms with them.
1. The Potential For A Long- Running Series
With so much story to get through, especially if you introduce Aegon the Unworthy too (and then jump forward in time), the First Blackfyre Rebellion could easily be a multi-season TV show. Maybe not seven seasons, but there’s still at least a couple of years of drama to get out from there. And if it’s a success, it could lead to much more.
The Rebellions don’t end with this one, as there were as many as five. The second, third, and fourth weren’t anywhere near as major as the first – the 2nd didn’t even begin properly – but there’s still enough drama there to propel a TV show, especially with Bittersteel and Bloodraven right at the very heart of them. It’s a chance to continue following those characters, with Brynden’s journey particularly great, while refreshing other cast members quite regularly too.
All of that could build to the Fifth Blackfyre Rebellion, better known as the War of the Ninepenny Kings. This was fought between the Seven Kingdoms and a band of powerful adversaries from Essos, who united behind Maelys Blackfyre, the last of that line (as a gruesome touch, he had a second head growing out of his neck).
Although the Seven Kingdoms were led by King Jaehaerys II Targaryen, with the likes of Gerold Hightower supporting him, it was where a number of young lords made their name, including Tywin and Kevan Lannister, Brynden Tully, Barristan Selmy (who was especially prominent), and even Aerys Targaryen (the same one who’d become the Mad King). The chance to see those in their younger years, and still some way removed from Robert’s Rebellion, is an exciting way to bring the spin-off to a close.
There’d also be the potential for this to serve as a launchpad for The Tales of Dunk & Egg. The Rebellions are a key bit of background to their story, and Martin has said he doesn’t want the Tales adapted until they’re all written. Doing this first sets the stage, and could even introduce them both, and could then be spun-off into a miniseries or number of TV movies.