The Game of Thrones prequel tentatively known as The Long Night’s watch has ended before it even began: Variety reports that the pilot, starring Naomi Watts, and masterminded by co-creators Jane Goldman and George R.R. Martin, will not move forward as an HBO series, a shocking development considering the pay-cable channel (who declined to comment for Variety’s story) once had a whopping five potential prequels under consideration—and here we thought HBO wanted to press an icy thumb to the forehead of as many new Thrones projects as possible, building a veritable army of White Walker-esque expansions on Martin’s epic saga. “At this time, none of the other projects are believed to be moving forward either,” Variety shockingly reports.
The officially untitled pilot, which HBO ordered last summer ahead of Thrones’ final season, had been set to take place thousands of years prior to the flagship series, with a story from Goldman and Martin, and a teleplay from Goldman, who was also in line to serve as showrunner. Stars to appear alongside Watts in the pilot’s ensemble cast included Josh Whitehouse, Naomi Ackie, Denise Gough, Jamie Campbell Bower, Sheila Atim, Ivanno Jeremiah, Georgie Henley, Alex Sharp, Toby Regbo, Miranda Richardson, Marquis Rodriguez, John Simm, Richard McCabe, John Heffernan and Dixie Egerickx. S.J. Clark (Star Trek 4) directed the pilot, also serving as an executive producer alongside Goldman, Martin, SJ Clarkson, Daniel Zelman, James Farrell, Jim Danger Gray and Thrones EP Vince Gerardis.
This isn’t the first pilot HBO has taken a sword to: One of the original series’ most essential architects, writer and producer Bryan Cogman, had his pilot pitch rejected by the network as well back in April, and has since taken his talents to Amazon Prime Video’s much-anticipated Lord of the Rings adaptation.
It still seems all but certain HBO picks up a Thrones prequel of some sort: September reports revealed that the network was “nearing a pilot commitment” on an adaptation of Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series companion book Fire & Blood, which focuses primarily on the Targaryen dynasty made so famous by Emilia Clarke’s iconic portrayal of Thrones royalty Daenerys Targaryen.
The final season of Thrones took a critical beating—and deservedly so—despite earning the series a whopping 12 Emmys and record ratings aplenty, so perhaps the season’s semi-icy reception is to blame for HBO shying away from this new project, lest The Long Night (or whatever they were going to title it) end up like its much-ballyhooed but mostly unwatchable namesake episode of Thrones’ eighth season.
Word of HBO’s passing on this prequel pilot arrives, of course, within the same 24-hour period as Game of Thrones co-creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’ announcement that they are no longer overseeing a previously planned trilogy of Star Wars films, so between those two bombshells, safe to say it’s a good week to be a “D&D” (as the much-maligned showrunners are also known) detractor.