Welcome to this week’s Free Talk Friday. This week I am asking, and hopefully answering the question posed in the title. Will Game of Thrones work as a franchise? You see Game of Thrones may have been the biggest TV show in the world, but but does that mean audiences will go daft for any Thrones content? Can Game of Thrones be Star Wars, MCU, The Lord of the Rings big?
A Clashing Fanbase
The problem you have when it comes to Game of Thrones is two-fold. Casual fans of the show, and rabid fans of the books are a very different fan base to one another. The thing that attracts some casual fans to a show like Game of Thrones is the fact it’s all a little soap-opera. However Game of Thrones is like soap opera with sex, violence and occasionally action. Many casual fans took to this format and fell in love with the formula. Maybe even some of those casual fans liked the final season, though I know many who did not.
The we have the die-hard book fans who know more about the history of Westeros than anyone outside of George Martin himself. Many of these books fans began to turn away from the TV show around Season 5. Season 5 was also when showrunners Benioff and Weiss began diverging further and further form what was in Martin’s books. Now, some of that was necessity, after all Martin is still two books away from finishing his A Song of Ice and Fire saga, which the show simply called Game of Thrones after Martin’s title for the first volume. I communicate with these guys from time to time, though my Westeros geek cred is far lower than my middle-Earth geek cred, I can get by.
As far as the die-hard book fans are concerned Game of Thrones went steadily downhill from Season 5 onwards and leaned into the what audiences seemed to like, and less into the actual source. Those fans were so done with anything related to Game of Thrones and have almost no interest in seeing HBO expand the Universe. Many have vowed to stay away from anything other than the words of Martin himself, because they were so disappointed in the ending of the TV show.
For some time we have known HBO wants to expand into Game of Thrones spin-off shows. The first of these to go into production is House of the Dragon. House of the Dragon is a prequel show based on Martins fake historical record of the Targaryen dynasty. So how will our two sets of fans feel about this? That depends, because as yet it’s hard to gauge what House of the Dragon will feel like. You see the book fans already know the history of the period and what the rough story will be. However, as this content was written as a historical record, that means the showrunners and writers don’t really have any Martin dialogue to fall back on.
The casual fans know nothing about the history of Westeros other than the Targaryen’s were in charge and had Dragons. If this new show is filled with the same extreme soap opera Game of Thrones got popular for, then it will sell. Sex and violence always sell, just ask the slaves in the fighting pits of Mereen. The point is that House of the Dragon might attract fans of the books, but not the casuals, or vice versa? Or, HBO could really hit that magic spot again and attract both sets of fans. If HBO only manages to attract one set of fans, can Game of Thrones really be their Star Wars?
Dunk and Egg
Yesterday brought news that HBO are also developing a Dunk and Egg series. there is one slight issue with the Dunk and Egg books and it’s a familiar one. Martin hasn’t finished the series. Previously when asked about the possibility of HBO adapting his Dunk and Egg books, Martin had doubts. First off HBO did not own the rights to Dunk and Egg, however they did own the rights to everything in A Song of Ice and Fire. So Either HBO would have to buy the rights to Dunk and Egg, or if someone else did, they could not reference anything from the show, which would be tricky.
Martin also said that he fancied finishing these books off before selling the rights at one point. Well, I guess that has changed and we know have HBO developing another show on Martin’s unfinished work. What’s more is that currently Martin isn’t even writing those other Dunk and Egg books. Martin is trying his best to finish The Winds of Winter, the next book in his main series. He promised his fans no other books were getting written till he finished Winds, and what feels like a generation later it is still not out.
Dunk and Egg has at least two more books to go, maybe more, I’m not 100% on that one. Unlike House of the Dragon, Dunk and Egg are proper stories with Martin’s dialogue. So from a fans perspective, the book fans will be happy to see the books adapted well. But will they fall away again once the HBO team has to finish the story themselves?
The Final Word
I just don’t know, will Game of Thrones work as a franchise? With the ending of the show so slated, by me included, and the fan base in such disarray, it all depends on this next show. If House of the Dragon is nowhere near what Game of Thrones was culturally, will Dunk and Egg even happen?
I get the feeling that Martin is happy to take HBO’s money for all this unfinished work. But perhaps by jumping in too soon, HBO won’t have learned the lessons they should have from the ending of Game of Thrones? I guess we will find out soon enough. If House of the Dragon works, you can probably bet we will be seeing Westeros on HBO for at least another 20 years.
What do you think, will Game of Thrones work as a franchise? leave your thoughts below.