If you think about it, the entire first season of House of the Dragon—all 10 episodes—is basically the prologue to the Targaryen civil war that begins with the final shot of the finale. It’s a story that has already spanned decades and, if creator George R.R. Martin had his way, would have been even longer. Much longer.
If you’ll recall, the show begins with King Jaehaerys naming his grandson Viserys, the son of his second son Baelon, as his heir instead of Rhaenys, the eldest daughter of his first son and intended heir Aemon. From that moment until the end of the 10th episode, around 26 years pass (at least according to the book canon), courtesy of not one, not two, but three timejumps.
In a lengthy new video interview with his publisher, Penguin Random House, Martin said there was a great deal of discussion in the writer’s room about where the show should begin, with one possibility being Viserys’ death, which ended up happening at the end of the eighth episode. Martin’s idea was to start the show before leads Rhaenyra Targaryen and Alicent Hightower were even born:
“I would have began it like 40 years earlier with the episode I would have called ‘The Heir and the Spare,’ in which Jaehaerys’s two sons, Aemon and Baelon, are alive. And we see the friendship, but also the rivalry, between the two sides of the great house. You know, Aemon dies accidentally when a Myrish crossbowman shoots him by accident on Tarth and then Jaehaerys has to decide who becomes the new heir. Is it the daughter of the older son who’s just died or is it the second son, who has sons of his own and is a man and she’s just a teenage girl?”
A Conversation with George R R Martin | A Celebration of the Targaryen Dynasty
Martin admits “I was the only one who was really enthused” about the idea, which would have necessitated more timejumps and likely more multiple castings. Some people seemed to have enough trouble wrapping their heads around Milly Alcock growing into Emma D’Arcy and her kids going from adolescents to teens in-between episodes, so this absolutely worked out for the best.
Honestly, though, I get it. He meticulously crafted the centuries of Targaryen royal history to create the backdrop for A Song of Ice and Fire. Why wouldn’t he want to see it all onscreen? But for the purposes of the show, I think covering 20 years in 10 episodes was just about all we needed to know how needless, messy, and brutal this war for the Iron Throne is going to be.
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