Game of Thrones’ series finale came, we watched it, and... that was that. But according to George R.R. Martin, Game of Thrones’ final season could have potentially worked out much differently had an early pitch to HBO for the series gone differently.
A lot of fans were disappointed by the haphazard way Game of Thrones’ story hurriedly moved its remaining players around the board in order to smash them all together in a conclusion that was profoundly unsatisfying. Part of the disappointment stemmed from Game of Thrones’ weekly release schedule – with each episode, there was always the sliver of a promise that the next might miraculously be better.
Of course, that didn’t quite happen, but in a recent interview with German newspaper Welt, Martin restated that even though the Game of Thrones television series outpaced his novels, neither of the works’ respective endings will be any more valid or canonical than the other, as the stories being told are two discrete things.
Martin went on to say, though, that while he was discussing the television series’ finale with co-creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss about four years ago, the original plan in mind was to end Game of Thrones with three feature-length films meant to be screened in cinemas. According to the author, HBO rejected the pitch because the network wasn’t interested in theatrical releases, despite Game of Thrones’ popularity.
“Those responsible said: ‘we produce TV series, we are not in the cinema business,” Martin said. “And when HBO does make movies, like now with the film that is based on the Deadwood series, they only produce it to show it on TV – not in the cinema. Everything is changing right now. What is cinema today? What is television? What is streaming? Is Netflix making cinema or television now? Everything mixes up.”
Knowing that Game of Thrones’ architects were even considering transforming the series into an even bigger budget cinematic spectacle is particularly tantalising now in 2020, when we can look back at the show’s finale and dream of all the ways it could have been better. But at the point in time when the pitch for a Game of Thrones trilogy was made, HBO had no reason to assume that a cinematic gambit would succeed or know whether or how it might affect the network’s bottom line. It’s one thing to say “hey, let’s turn this popular TV show into a movie” and a completely other thing for a network to game out all of the logistics that would be necessary to make that happen.
Streaming services like Netflix are still struggling to get their already-produced movies into cinemas, and HBO’s only just now properly getting into the streaming service game (with new, original content designed to draw you in), meaning that it probably had little to no interest in producing the kinds of Game of Thrones movies Martin was describing.
And you know what? That’s fine. The Game of Thrones finale we saw is what it was. Given the public’s reaction to it, though, Martin’s probably taking his time specifically to make sure that when his final novels in the series hit stores, they won’t leave everyone feeling burned, too.