Having created one of the most successful television shows of all-time, Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss presumably had a lot of options. They could have made a GoT spinoff series (Robert’s Rebellion! Come on!), they could have taken on another fantasy series or they could have probably tried their hand at movies.
But instead they have chosen another course. HBO announced Wednesday that Benioff and Weiss’ next show will be called Confederate, and it will walk viewers through an alternate timeline in which the South won the Civil War. Via HBO:
CONFEDERATE chronicles the events leading to the Third American Civil War. The series takes place in an alternate timeline, where the southern states have successfully seceded from the Union, giving rise to a nation in which slavery remains legal and has evolved into a modern institution. The story follows a broad swath of characters on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Demilitarized Zone — freedom fighters, slave hunters, politicians, abolitionists, journalists, the executives of a slave-holding conglomerate and the families of people in their thrall.
Reaction to this announcement ranged from uncertainty…
This is one of those ideas that could end up amazing or absolutely cringeworthy. https://t.co/Jcjq4ocmp5
— Jamelle Bouie (@jbouie) July 19, 2017
I want someone to ask them "So before deciding to go alt-history have you read any serious scholarship on the actual Civil War? It's a lot"
— Stacey E. Singleton (@staceyNYCDC) July 19, 2017
To straight-up disapproval…
Nobody needs a series about a world in which the confederacy wins. Reality today is enough.
— deray mckesson (@deray) July 19, 2017
"HBO's new series CONFEDERATE is-"
Nope. Nope. Nope. Whole lotta nope. Noppity Nil. Leslie Knope. Nah. pic.twitter.com/2FzsAI2DBd
— Alan Sizzler Kistler (@SizzlerKistler) July 19, 2017
oh no no no no no no no no no no no no no https://t.co/eGl7DOOi9I
— El Flaco (@bomani_jones) July 19, 2017
There is basically no way that Benioff and Weiss can pull this off without pissing off a whole lot of people. When you’re making a fantasy show about a purely fictional world with no basis in reality, such as Game of Thrones, people can only get so upset over storylines that don’t quite make sense or characters who don’t seem fully fleshed out. But when you’re basing your fantasy series off real events—events that still provoke passionate debate, 150 years later—every scene is an opportunity to get something wrong. Confederate will have to navigate a veritable minefield of subject matter just to avoid being actively hated.
But hey, maybe Benioff and Weiss, who are obviously very talented showrunners, can synthesize volumes and volumes of historical evidence into a thoughtful alternate timeline series about the most fraught period in American history without slipping up anywhere.
We’re just sure as hell not betting on it.