It’s the Golden Age of Prequels

“How did we get here?” 

Don’t worry, we’re not getting metaphysical; we’re just asking the question that seems to be on every streamer’s mind these days. With the success of Prey – the prequel to the 1987 action-adventure Predator – and the recent premieres of Orphan: First Kill and Uncharted, the era of the prequel is officially here.

And it’s not just movies. Television has fully embraced the prequel too. Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon recently debuted to record-breaking viewership for HBO Max. Better Call Saul, the prequel to Breaking Bad, wrapped up its excellent run to massive critical acclaim. The chart below shows the top five most viewed prequel series, including two Star Wars prequels racking up views for Disney+ and Yellowstone prequel 1883 holding strong. 

It seems we all want to know what happened before the story started, but why? 

One theory is that stories are more enjoyable when you know the ending. A study done at the University of California looked at spoilers and whether they actually ruin stories. Spoiler alert: They don’t. (Spoiler alert: That link contains spoilers!)

In fact, the researchers came to the opposite conclusion: Spoilers make you enjoy stories more. Whether twist endings, mysteries, or classic literary stories, participants in the study consistently rated stories more enjoyable when they knew the ending in advance. 

The thinking is that when you know how a story will end, you can appreciate the telling of it more because you’re not overly focused on wondering what will come next. The researchers liken it to taking a drive: If it’s your first time driving somewhere, you’re going to focus on the road and getting to where you need to be. However, if you’ve made the trip a bunch of times, you can appreciate the scenery and enjoy the ride. 

We all know the House of Targaryen is going to fall into disrepute and that the Predator will eventually meet its match in the form of a massively muscled Austrian, but maybe knowing that allows us to lose ourselves in the moment and really enjoy what we’re watching. 

Whatever the reason, prequels are everywhere right now. It seems as long as we continue to ask, “How did we get here?” studios will keep giving us new and exciting answers.