Robert’s Rebellion: A Case for the Game of Thrones Prequel Season


Yesterday, HBO President Michael Lombardo announced that Game of Thrones would run for at least three more seasons (extending the number of projected seasons from seven to eight). He also said something interesting about the potential for a prequel:

"I think you’re right, there’s enormous storytelling to be mined in a prequel."

Lombardo mentioned that HBO is open to doing whatever executive producers David Benioff and Dan Weiss want, but that they haven’t discussed the potential for prequels yet. Both Benioff and Weiss have been adamant that the series should end after seven seasons, but extending the series to eight isn’t that much of a stretch for the dynamic duo. However, D&D would not have to be attached to a prequel, especially if the fatigue of the grueling Game of Thrones filming schedule has already begun to set in.

A perfect example of the potential success of a prequel season comes from Spartacus, the acclaimed Starz series. During filming for the second season, the actor who originally portrayed Spartacus himself, Andy Whitfield, was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, causing the series creator Steven DeKnight to alter his course and go with a prequel mini-series titled Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, in hopes that Whitfield would survive his battle with cancer.

So, if HBO decides to go with a prequel season or even multiple prequel seasons, which periods should the show cover? The options are limitless, and most book readers have an idea of what they would like to see. However, show-only fans do not really have a grasp on the rich history of A Song of Ice and Fire; a prequel would need to make sense to them as well. For instance, while showing what Old Valyria was like before the Doom that destroyed it would be amazing for book readers, show watchers would be lost, as their only exposure to Valyria was in Season 5, when Jorah and Tyrion sailed through the ruins.

With that in mind, let’s look at what, in my mind, is the perfect choice for a Game of Thrones prequel season, and speculate as to how it could be translated from the pages of George R.R. Martin’s books to the small screen.

Robert’s Rebellion

This was the event that led to our current Game of Thrones era…the war that placed Robert Baratheon on the Iron Throne. Rhaegar Targareyn, the actual heir to the Throne, ran away to Dorne with Lyanna Stark. The two secluded themselves at the Tower of Joy under the protection of a few members of the Kingsguard. Believing that his sister had been kidnapped by the crown prince, Brandon Stark (Eddard’s older brother) rode to King’s Landing and demanded that Rhaegar come out to face him. It went poorly.

The Mad King, Aerys II Targaryen, had already descended into madness, and after taking Brandon into custody, he demanded that Lord Rickard Stark (Eddard’s father and the Warden of the North) come to the capital to answer for his son’s crime. Once Lord Rickard arrived, Aerys burned him alive, while Brandon choked to death in a special contraption made just for the occasion, all while trying to reach a sword just inches from his fingertips.

Aerys then sent word to Jon Arryn that he should send the heads of his two wards, Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon, to King’s Landing. Jon refused and called his banners, as did Robert and Eddard, and thus began Robert’s Rebellion. There were 10 major battles in Robert’s Rebellion, which would be perfect for a 10-episode season of TV.

Battle of Gulltown: This is the battle that started it all. Targaryen loyalists blocked the armies of Robert Baratheon, now known as the usurper, from entering the port of Gulltown. This forced Eddard Stark to take a detour home to Winterfell, so that he could call the Northern lords to arms.

Battle of Summerhall: This is where the legend of Robert Baratheon began. Robert got word that three separate armies of Targaryen loyalists would be converging at Summerhall, where they would combine forces and march on Storm’s End, House Baratheon’s seat of power. Realizing that his only chance at survival would be to defeat each army individually, Robert quickly marched on Summerhall, where he defeated each army in three different battles on the same day.

Battle of Ashford: Randyll Tarly (father to Sam) defeated one of Robert’s forces in this battle. It was the only loss the resistance suffered during the rebellion, and it served to single Lord Tarly out as a brilliant military commander. (Incidentally, an older Randyll Tarly will probably be showing up on Season 6 of Game of Thrones, and woe to those who tick him off.)

Battle of the Bells: This decisive battle is arguably the one that broke the morale of the Targaryen loyalists. Eddard Stark had called his banners, and the North marched to Riverrun, where Lord Hoster Tully joined the rebellion. This is where Ned married Catelyn, who had previously been betrothed to Ned’s older brother Brandon. The latter’s death by strangulation ended that engagement.

Meanwhile, a wounded Robert hid in the town of Stony Sept. Aerys’ new Hand of the King, Jon Connington, marched on Stony Sept and took the town by force. Lord Connington then began to search for Robert, going house to house. The town’s Septon, realizing that a battle was coming, began to ring the sept’s bells to warn the citizens to stay in their houses. The combined forces of House Stark and House Tully descended on Stony Sept, and defeated Lord Connington’s forces after a fierce battle.

Battle of the Trident: Prince Rhaegar emerged from the Tower of Joy without his Kingsguard, and led the Targaryen host to the Trident where he eventually met Robert in single combat. It was said that Robert fought like a demon in that battle, and Rhaegar was killed when Robert brought his famous warhammer down to crush the prince’s chest.

Battle at the Mander: House Greyjoy had stayed neutral during the rebellion, but once it became obvious that the Targaryens would lose, Lord Quellon Greyjoy led 50 ships full of Ironborn in an attack on the Reach. However, once they arrived at the Mander River, they were met by forces from the Shield Islands, where Lord Quellon was slain. Balon, his son (and Theon’s father), led the remaining Ironborn back to the Iron Islands.

Sack of King’s Landing: Like the Ironborn, Lord Tywin Lannister had remained neutral during the war until it became clear that Robert would emerge triumphant. Tywin, who had previously served as the Hand of the King under Aerys, marched the Lannister army to King’s Landing. Grand Maester Pycell convinced Aerys that Tywin was there to defend the city, and Aerys opened the gates. Lord Tywin proceeded to viciously sack the city. He sent his men to scale the Red Keep, where they raped and murdered Rhaegar’s wife and children. Aerys, realizing the end was near, tried to implement his plan to burn King’s Landing and all its people with wildfire, but was stopped by Jaime Lannister, who ran him through. This ended the reign of the Targaryen kings, and earned Jaime the title of Kingslayer. 

Siege of Storm’s End: Stannis Baratheon was ordered to hold Storm’s End by his brother Robert. Ever faithful to his duty, Stannis dug in and began to wait out the siege brought on by Lord Mace Tyrell and Lord Paxter Redwyne. Stannis and his men were surrounded by land and sea by the Tyrell and Redwyne armies. For almost a year, Stannis held Storm’s End, despite having eaten all the rats, cats, dogs, and horses left in the castle. Eventually, Davos Seaworth smuggled in a boatload of onions and salted fish, and soon after, Eddard Stark brought his army to bear on Lords Tyrell and Redwyne, who quickly dipped their banners and bent the knee.

Battle at the Tower of Joy: This is where the most popular theory in A Song of Ice and Fire began. Having lifted the siege at Storm’s End, Eddard Stark and six of his companions (including Howland Reed, father to Meera and Jojen) rode to Dorne to find his sister Lyanna. Once there, they met the remaining Targaryen Kingsguard:

  • Ser Arthur Dayne
  • Ser Oswell Whent
  • Gerold Hightower, the Lord Commander of Aerys’ Kingsguard

We know very little of the battle at the Tower of Joy, as we only get to see what happened through Eddard’s fevered dreams.

"“I looked for you on the Trident,” Ned said to them.“We were not there,” Ser Gerold answered.“Woe to the Usurper if we had been,” said Ser Oswell.“When King’s Landing fell, Ser Jaime slew your king with a golden sword, and I wondered where you were.”“Far away,” Ser Gerold said, “or Aerys would yet sit the Iron Throne, and our false brother would burn in seven hells.”“I came down on Storm’s End to lift the siege,” Ned told them, and the Lords Tyrell and Redwyne dipped their banners, and all their knights bent the knee to pledge us fealty. I was certain you would be among them.”“Our knees do not bend easily,” said Ser Arthur Dayne.“Ser Willem Darry is fled to Dragonstone, with your queen and Prince Viserys. I thought you might have sailed with him.”“Ser Willem is a good man and true,” said Ser Oswell.“But not of the Kingsguard,” Ser Gerold pointed out. “The Kingsguard does not flee.”“Then or now,” said Ser Arthur. He donned his helm.“We swore a vow,” explained old Ser Gerold.Ned’s wraiths moved up beside him, with shadow swords in hand. They were seven against three. “And now it begins,” said Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning. He unsheathed Dawn and held it with both hands. The blade was pale as milkglass, alive with light.“No,” Ned said with sadness in his voice. “Now it ends.”"

After the battle, only Ned and Howland remained alive, and when he heard his sister scream his name, Eddard ran into the tower, where he found Lyanna in a bed of blood. Her last words to him were, “Promise me, Ned.” Ned and Howland Reed pulled down the tower and used the stone as cairns for the fallen Kingsguard. He then rode to House Dayne to return Dawn, their ancestral sword. Ned took his sister’s bones back to Winterfell, and entombed them in the crypts below the castle. He also returned home with a baby…but that’s for another article.

Assault on Dragonstone: This is the final confrontation of the War of the Usurper. After the Targaryen defeat on the Trident, Aerys sent his pregnant wife, Queen Rhaella, and son Viserys to Dragonstone, the Targaryen seat of power. There, Rhaella crowned her son as the new King of Westeros, but it was a hollow gesture. Stannis had begun to construct a fleet of warships so that he could lay siege to Dragonstone. Nine months after their arrival, Rhaella died giving birth to a daughter, Daenerys, during a storm that destroyed the Targaryen fleet, which was anchored in the bay. 

After losing their queen and seeing their ships destroyed, the remaining Targaryen loyalists at Dragonstone were prepared to sell Viserys and Daenerys to Robert. However, one man remained loyal, Ser Willem Darry, and he took the children and sailed for Braavos, escaping Robert’s wrath.

As you can see, there is more than enough material to create a prequel season. If they do it right, the complete story of Robert’s Rebellion could make for thrilling TV.

Next: What Will Game of Thrones do with an extra season (or two)?