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Existential Binge-Watching: The challenge the upcoming ‘Game of Thrones’ spinoff faces

It’s been more than 10 years since Game of Thrones premiered and more than two since it ended. While it’s a bit hard to believe so much time has passed since the incredibly controversial ending of the previously beloved series, it’s even harder to believe more time hasn’t passed when considering the show’s current standing in popular culture.

Without reopening old wounds too intensely, the finale - or, more broadly, the final season - of Game of Thrones wasn’t bad simply because it was poorly made. In fact, all the markings of previous seasons were still there from beautiful production work to powerhouse performances from the cast. The main problem that plagued the entire final run of the series was that it was rushed.

The final two shortened seasons probably should have been three or four final seasons at the usual 10-episode length. That way maybe there wouldn’t have been characters jumping over a map that had previously taken them seasons to traverse. Maybe Daenerys’ descent into madness would've made more sense and flowed better as a character trajectory. And maybe it would’ve given showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss more time to consider ending certain arcs in a much more fulfilling way, i.e. the destruction of Jaime Lannister’s character development.

Perhaps the most disappointing thing to come out of it all, though? The death of a fan base.

Yes, in comparison to other shows or fandoms, Game of Thrones can still be considered extremely popular. The merchandise is still out there, fans can still be found, but not in the way that should be expected from a series that truly was a cultural phenomenon. Very few shows have ever captured the attention of an entire popular culture world in the way that Game of Thrones did, yet when it was all said and done, it dropped off almost as quickly as certain plot threads did in the show.

This brings us to the problem that the new spinoff, House of the Dragon, will face. It’s not that the world is necessarily angry at Game of Thrones anymore, or even disappointed, there just needs to be a measure of trust earned back for viewers to jump on board for new shows and endeavors with open arms. That’s currently why the trailer for the new prequel series, which dropped last week, felt relatively lackluster.

Based on George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood, House of the Dragon is set 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones and is looking to tell the story of House Targaryen more closely. The trailer doesn’t really give too many details, other than the fact that the show will be as equally well made and produced as its predecessor was. However, instead of hyping up a fan base for a highly anticipated new entry into a fondly remembered universe, the sneak peek has more of a sense of worry and reserve.

The ending to Game of Thrones hurt, and while the overall brilliance of the show should not be understated, you’re supposed to stick the landing for a reason. There’s plenty of new content on the way, from a spinoff based on Martin’s Tales of Dunk & Egg to an adult animated series to even a spinoff of this upcoming spinoff, reported being centered around Corlys Velaryon, who’ll be featured in House of the Dragon. It’s just that, like this recent trailer, all of this news should feel more exciting than it really does.

House of the Dragon has a lot to live up to and a lot of fixing to do to the sinking ship that is the Game of Thrones fan base. There’s every reason in the world to want this show to succeed, and most likely it’s been enough time that people will be tuning into HBO Max when it finally releases. But this prequel needs to be more than just surface-level shocks in a healthily budgeted show. It needs to be smartly written and stand on its own to show that this universe still has some stories to tell that fans of said universe can trust to be told.

If all goes well, the goal would be that House of the Dragon is good enough that conversations about Game of Thrones don’t immediately start with talking about the sour note the finale left on the world. If all goes poorly, well, at the very least we’ll have the return of Ramin Djawadi’s outstanding scores to carry us through the turmoil ahead. Here’s to desperately hoping for the former of the two to play out.

Jackson Horvat is a senior studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnist do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Tell Jackson by tweeting him at @horvatjackson.

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