Every week, IndieWire asks a select handful of TV critics two questions and publishes the results on Tuesday. (The answer to the second, “What is the best show currently on TV?” can be found at the end of this post.)
This week’s question: Who is your dream director you’d choose to work on the “Game of Thrones” prequel?
Caroline Framke (@carolineframke), Variety
I have to imagine that half of the responses here are going to be Mimi Leder, and if not, they should be! Leder’s work on “The Leftovers” managed to be sweeping and intimate all at once, bringing a surreal show to life with such searing clarity that she made it feel perfectly natural to take detours to a nuclear dreamscape or lion sex cult cruise. (Miss you so much, “Leftovers.”) It would be amazing to see what she could do with a “Game of Thrones” budget. My hope would be that she could bring out some more personal moments in the middle of all the bombastic power plays that usually dominate the show.
Kaitlin Thomas (@thekaitling), TVGuide.com
The answer is pretty simple: anyone who identifies as a woman. I could write a book about the lack of female representation behind the camera on “Game of Thrones,” but it’s an issue that plagues the entire entertainment industry, not just HBO. Everyone needs to strive to be better. Still, if I need to narrow that down to just one woman, the answer is Michelle MacLaren. Not only do I just really love what she does behind the camera (I am still thinking about everything she did on “Breaking Bad”), but she is the only woman to direct “Game of Thrones” across its entire run – insert seriously exaggerated eye roll .GIF here – which means she should be a shoo-in to direct the prequel series. However, she wasn’t included on the list of directors for the final season of “Game of Thrones,” so who the hell knows what those idiots are thinking over there. Oh, I would also like to see Mimi Leder, because duh.
Allison Keene (@KeeneTV), Collider
Guillermo del Toro. I’d love to see him dig into this fantasy world and really make it look fantastical, scary, and whimsical all at once. His vision for what this prequel series could be would elevate it out of being anything expected, and make magic an essential part of the storytelling. Instead of the fall of man being grim or bleak, I think his involvement would make the series a stunning voyage through a mystical time.
On the more realistic side, maybe it’s because I’ve been re-watching “Generation Kill” (it’s still one of the finest miniseries I’ve ever seen), but director Susanna White is on my mind. She also directed the miniseries “Bleak House,” “Jane Eyre”, and “Parade’s End” (all of which are among my favorites), as well as episodes of “Billions,” “Boardwalk Empire,” and “Trust.” White has a really keen eye for pacing and action, but also in finding humanity in dark stories or difficult narratives. She often uses quick cuts, close-ups, selective focus to really hone-in on characters and their reactions, helping to visually explore character personalities based on the context of their situations. That’s an essential quality in a series like “Game of Thrones” as well as the prequel that’s being developed. With so many characters (one assumes), it’s important to get to know them as individuals, which goes beyond dialogue. The miniseries that White has worked on remain some of the most visually interesting and memorable of the many I’ve seen, and in such a male-dominated series as “Generation Kill,” her female gaze is much appreciated. I’d love to see her craft a vision for this new “Game of Thrones” story.
Marisa Roffman (@marisaroffman), Give Me My Remote
If I was looking totally out of the box, I’d like to see someone like James Burrows or Pamela Fryman — two directing legends who specialize in multi-cam — tackle the spinoff. If you’re going to, potentially, have multiple spinoffs, why not have one that looks drastically different than the mothership?
But, more realistically, I’d love to see Michelle MacLaren rejoin the “Game of Thrones” world. Not only has MacLaren been a go-to for prestige dramas in recent years (“Breaking Bad,” “The Leftovers,” “Westworld,” “Better Call Saul”), but she has range. (MacLaren’s credits also include “Modern Family,” plus procedurals like “NCIS” and “Lie to Me.”) MacLaren has been trusted to craft the look of a series from the beginning before (“The Deuce”), so it would be great for her to get to put a stamp on a property this large.
Liz Shannon Miller (@lizlet), IndieWire
The second you proposed this topic my immediate answer was “not a straight white man,” just, y’know, for a change of pace. But let’s get specific and call out the amazing Karyn Kusama, whose career has featured some ups and downs, but has always shown a great sense of tone and an ability to make the worlds of her films feel like distinct, unique places. Given what we’ve heard about the vaguely apocalyptic sounding narrative in play with this prequel, it’d be fascinating to see someone with a strong root in horror, with legit TV drama chops to boot, get the opportunity to help define this new take on a world we only think we know.
Damian Holbrook (@damianholbrook), TV Guide Magazine
I would love to see what Lexi Alexander could bring to that world. It’s probably going to be a brutal universe, which we know she can rock thanks to “Green Street Hooligans,” and her work on “Arrow” and “Supergirl” in particular, shows her knack for balancing character moments with the fantastical. It also helps that she clearly understands the language of action set pieces, probably thanks to her background in karate and stunt work. And it would be cool AF to have someone with such a strong devotion to advancing female representation leave her mark on a franchise that, quite honestly, fails women more that it celebrates them.
Joyce Eng (@joyceeng61), GoldDerby
I honestly couldn’t care less about “Game of Thrones” and with all due respect to my favorite “Game of Thrones” director Michelle MacLaren, the only thing that could get me remotely excited about a prequel is Taika Waititi. “Game of Thrones” is not humorless (I love a good grammar gag), but it can be so dreadfully self-serious, and the logline for the prequel sounds like a total snooze. Let Waititi make it different, make it weird, make it fun. You saw the photos from “Jojo Rabbit,” right? Taika Watiti as Hitler is something I didn’t know I needed, but it’s something we deserve.
Todd VanDerWerff (@tvoti), Vox
You know what the “Game of Thrones” universe could use? A little puncturing of its self-seriousness. You know who would be perfect to do just that? “Thor Ragnarok” director Taika Waititi! Just imagine a series where Bran the Builder, the great legendary hero of the Stark lineage, is forced to hang out with some sort of talking rock creature! Or a segment where the Children of the Forest, forced to live incredibly long lives, hang out in their trees and talk about nothing much in particular. With Waititi’s trademark dry humor and anti-colonialist politics, we’d be sure to get a great series about the ridiculous pomposity of Old Valyria or something like that. Following up “Game of Thrones” with a comedy set in the same universe is an idea so crazy it’s guaranteed to work!
April Neale (@aprilmac), Monsters & Critics
I would love to see David Lynch take a crack. Having said that, the work that Miguel Sapochnik (“Battle of the Bastards”) and David Nutter (“The Rains of Castamere,” aka the Red Wedding episode) was so good that if they get a Mulligan to work on this series, fantastic. For new blood, I am a fan of two female directors who really might be up for this challenge. Sarah Adina Smith and Megan Griffiths, each of whom turned in grippingly good “Room 104” episodes for HBO.
Ben Travers (@BenTTravers), IndieWire
The unspoken aspect of this question — at least for a skeptical viewer like myself — is who do we want to get stuck with the “Game of Thrones” spinoff? Who can handle the expectations attached to a billion-dollar franchise that has to be its own entity and somehow visually, stylistically, and thematically connect to the original? I’d love to see someone come in and turn the whole show on its head, but I doubt that’ll happen with George R.R. Martin attached and the monetary influences listed above.
So let’s put Michelle MacLaren on it — assuming, of course, she’s game. She’s got a history with the franchise (dating back to 2013) as well as HBO. (She directed the pilot of “The Deuce,” which is one of the best hours of TV in recent memory.) She’s also worked on a previous high-stakes spinoff, helming the second episode of “Better Call Saul” (after handling a few episodes of “Breaking Bad”). Plus, Michelle MacLaren is extraordinary. If I’m being honest, I’d rather see her work on something that’s wholly her own — be it an indie film, blockbuster movie, or a series she’s helped build from the ground up — but if she wants the “Game of Thrones” spinoff, no one should get in her way.
Q: What is the best show currently on TV?*
A: “Westworld” (three votes)
Other contenders: “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (two votes each), “Humans,” “Pose,” “Vida,” (one vote each)
*In the case of streaming services that release full seasons at once, only include shows that have premiered in the last month.