George R.R. Martin might not be tops at making book deadlines, but he's the unquestioned master of creating sprawling, fantastical universes, where princesses ride dragons and mad kings reign.
So on Thursday when HBO announced four -- yes, four -- "Game of Thrones" spinoffs, fans of Westeros and Essos beamed.
"We've closed deals for four very talented writers to each explore different time periods of George R. R. Martin's vast and rich universe," HBO said in a statement.
Since HBO isn't saying yet which four time periods the shows will explore, let's make 'em up. Here are topics and time periods I'd love to see the new shows explore.
The Lannister Bunch
"Game of Thrones" fans know Tywin and his children, unnaturally close twins Jaime and Cersei, and their younger brother Tyrion. But what was it like when they were kids? We know that Tywin's wife Joanna died giving birth to Tyrion, and that the tragedy and his dwarfism made him a shunned son from the start. Let's meet Joanna and find out whether she would've been a loving mother or if she too had a thirst for power at the expense of her own flesh and blood. Show a young Cersei and Jaime before their, uh, "Flowers in the Attic" days and see what it was like for Tyrion to grow up in an unforgiving environment.
Call of the Dothraki
Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa) is off playing Aquaman, but his brief time on "Game of Thrones" introduced viewers to his nomadic warrior race, the Dothraki. No one else on "Thrones" is like them. They're the bikers or Vikings of Essos, similar in this universe to what the warrior Klingons are in Star Trek. It's said they're born in the saddle and learn to ride and shoot arrows from horseback at age 4. So many fascinating Dothraki traditions could be explored: the Khalasars and their steadfast loyalty to their leaders that ends when the Khal can no longer ride, their impressive weaponry, their distaste for sea travel, the hair they do not cut unless they are defeated. Whatever time period is chosen (who wouldn't want to meet Khal Drogo's grandparents?), Martin and crew would have a field day setting episodes in Vaes Dothrak, the city ruled by widows of Khals where blood cannot be shed but where Dothraki still find creative ways to kill.
The Mad King
Leave it to Martin to create such an intriguing character as the Mad King and leave him in the background, as a mysterious figure cited in stories and legend. Maybe one of the new shows could dig into the terror-filled reign of Aerys II Targaryen. The creepy dad of Daenerys and a gold-loving Viserys, the Mad King has even appeared on the show, so there's precedent for exploring his unstable reign on the Iron Throne. Viewers would get to see what Dany's family was like (she never knew her father) and, eventually, to see the famed murder that gave Jaime "Kingslayer" Lannister his nickname.
Maesters Welby, M.D.
Sam Tarly isn't the only one who finds the Maesters, who serve as healers, scholars and sort-of doctors, a fascinating lot. Imagine practicing medicine in a world where creepy diseases such as greyscale exist, and where people are willing to burn their daughters alive. Those who choose (or are forced to choose) life inside the maesters' academic, women-free world drop their last names, take a vow of celibacy and don't get to choose who they work for. As a result of the latter, they can as easily end up assigned to a psychotic torturing prince (ahem, House Bolton?) as to a benevolent ruler. And they have an intriguing way of showing their expertise: hand-forging links of different metal for each specialty and wearing the chain constantly, even when sleeping.
These are just a start. "Game of Thrones" spinoffs could examine Syrio Florel's early days as the First Sword of Braavos, dive inside the young days of the Queen of Thorns of House Tyrell (it might be something like PBS's "Victoria") or investigate Catelyn Stark's life as a Tully.
That's the best thing about Martin's sprawling universe. It's a labyrinth of possibilities. And just because he chose to go down one path in the books doesn't mean there aren't a thousand other stories around the bend.
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