What do we know about Bloodmoon, the axed Game of Thrones series? When you think of a Game of Thrones spin-off series, your first thoughts will go to the excellent House of the Dragon. House of the Dragon was one of the best TV series of 2022, and it breathed fresh life back into Westeros after the wildly underwhelming finale to Game of Thrones.
Then, perhaps you might think about the much-discussed Jon Snow sequel series. George RR Martin has confirmed that a new fantasy series, set in the aftermath of Game of Thrones, will centre on the life of Jon Snow and is in the early stages of development. Kit Harington himself is heavily involved, and has said that after the death of Daenerys Targaryen and his return to the wall, his character is “not okay”.
There are more Game of Thrones spin-off series in the works, too. In a fictional world as rich as Martin’s, how could there not be? But before House of the Dragon, and before the Jon Snow series, there was a secret (and cancelled) Game of Thrones spin off series that not even GRRM was allowed to see: Bloodmoon.
At one point, it’s reported that there were up to 15 ideas for prequels to Game of Thrones, each based on some aspect of Martin’s world. One of these was Bloodmoon. Bloodmoon was the first of these prequels to enter the final stages of development, and it got so far as having an experienced showrunner, and a cast. It even shot a pilot episode.
However, before getting any further the series was unceremoniously canned. The result of the pilot episode (which cost up to $35 million to shoot) and subsequent plans for the show meant HBO executives, as well as Martin, lacked faith that Bloodmoon could be a worthy successor to Game of Thrones. Those executives complained that it failed to match the “depth and richness” of the main series and that it took too many creative risks. So, it met the same fate as Ned Stark.
Bloodmoon’s headless corpse was then hidden away, with most details about the fantasy series being kept tightly under lock and key. Martin has said that even he hasn’t been allowed to see the pilot episode and likely never will. But what do we know about the ill-fated series, and from piecing that together, can we establish what Bloodmoon would have looked like?
What was the plot of Bloodmoon?
Bloodmoon was set in the early years of Westeros, before dragons, and before the structure of houses as we know them. In fact unlike House of the Dragon, which takes place only a few generations before Game of Thrones, Bloodmoon would have been set 8,000 years before the events of Game of Thrones, in the Age of Heroes, and would have depicted The Long Night and the emergence of the White Walkers.
The story for the series itself was technically based on Martin’s own writing, but had only around eight lines to go off. This meant that the series would have been entirely original, with wholly new Game of Thrones characters and settings.
Because of that creative freedom, Martin reportedly had concerns and voiced them too. He was left “scratching his head” at certain choices, and his uncertainty in the suitability of the story made its way up the ranks of HBO executives too. Speaking about the distance between Bloodmoon and Game of Thrones as audiences had come to know it, he said “Bloodmoon was a very difficult assignment. We’re dealing with a much more primitive people. There were no dragons yet. A lot of the pilot revolved around a wedding of a Southern house to a Northern house and it got into the whole history of the White Walkers.”
But, not everyone was as worried about the plot and its lack of source material. Francesca Orsi, who is HBO’s head of drama, went on the record with THR to say that Bloodmoon had lots of storytelling potential. She said “Bloodmoon really stood out as different, with unique world-building. Tonally it felt very adult, sophisticated, and intelligent, and there was a thematic conversation at the centre of it about disenfranchisement in the face of colonialism and religious extremism.”
So, Bloodmoon would have been a Westeros story with new characters, in an age that audiences had never seen before. It would have centred around The Long Night, and explored the first encounters with the White Walkers before dragons came to Westeros to heat things up. Depending on who you trust, it would have either been an ambitious and mature exploration of complex themes, or a stretch too far with dubious creative choices.
Who was in the Bloodmoon cast?
The development of Bloodmoon got so far that the series had managed to bag itself an entire – and talented – cast. Leading up the series as the main character would have been Naomi Watts. With her casting announcement, Watts’ character was described as being “a charismatic socialite hiding a dark secret”. Everyone in Westeros seems to have a dark secret or two, but with what we know about the plot it seems plausible that Watts’ character might have had something to do with the creation of the White Walkers.
Alongside Watts, Jamie Campbell Bower from Stranger Things fame would have had a large role, as would Star Wars movie star Naomie Ackie. Denise Gough, another actor with Star Wars links after appearing in Andor season 1 as ISB officer Dedra Meero, had been cast in the series too alongside former Doctor Who star John Simm.
However, other than what we know about Watts’ character, the information about who the other cast members had been playing is non-existent. We know that they will have filmed footage in their roles back when the pilot was shot in 2019, but nothing other than that.
Why was Bloodmoon really cancelled?
After huge investment, casting, the creation of expansive new sets, and filming of the pilot, Bloodmoon was cancelled. This came as a surprise to showrunner Jane Goldman, who was confident about the series’ potential and future.
The reason why Bloodmoon was cancelled is difficult to unearth, because it doesn’t seem that the pilot for the show was even particularly bad. HBO’s chief content officer Casey Bloys has said “There wasn’t anything glaringly wrong with it.” Robert Greenblatt, who was at the time the head of WarnerMedia agreed and said it wasn’t “unwatchable or horrible”. But, he did say that it left him with questions – “It didn’t take me to the same place as the original series. It didn’t have that depth and richness that the original series’ pilot did.”
Bloodmoon, then, seems to have simply been a step in the wrong direction, and for a prequel series that would be the first return to Westeros for audiences post-Game of Thrones, too much of a gamble.
It was ultimately ditched in favour of House of the Dragon. House of the Dragon was a series centred around a story (The Dance of the Dragons) that Martin himself had suggested should be HBO’s next Game of Thrones move. It had fleshed out source material, characters whose names had been mentioned in Game of Thrones, and was similar in style and tone to the best of what Game of Thrones had offered in the past. It was a safer bet, especially with Martin’s backing where he hadn’t been as confident about Bloodmoon.
Will we ever see Bloodmoon?
Given that HBO has been so secretive about the death of Bloodmoon, we’re still able to piece together a surprisingly decent picture of what the series would have looked like: set in the far-flung past of Westeros, telling the story of The Long Night and the White Walkers, with Naomi Watts as the dark and complex leading character with a talented supporting cast. Does that mean that, one day, Bloodmoon might make it to air?
It’s impossible to say for certain, but given that HBO invested so much time and money on the project only to cancel it once means that it’s overwhelmingly likely that it’s gone for good. In addition, the reasons for why it was cancelled still remain. House of the Dragon has proved that audiences still have a huge appetite for Game of Thrones, but so far it’s stuck very close to Game of Thrones and Bloodmoon wouldn’t have.
So, Bloodmoon will likely never see the light of day. It’s too much of a gamble, and too much of a step into the unknown. The Long Night saw thousands starve and mothers smothering their own children to quicken their inevitable deaths. Bloodmoon’s death, too, was inevitable. And now that it’s been smothered, it’s never coming back.