'House of the Dragon' Isn't Trying to 'Re-Create' 'Game of Thrones'

·10 min read
'House of the Dragon' Isn't Trying to 'Re-Create' 'Game of Thrones'

Though a great number of prequels have risen and died in the three years since Game of Thrones came to an uneasy conclusion, only one has survived the long night of HBO pre-production: House of the Dragon, from co-creators George R.R. Martin and Ryan Condal. (Miguel Sapochnik, who directed a number of Game of Thrones episodes, including the fan favorite "The Battle of the Bastards," serves as show-runner alongside Condal.)

The production began filming in Penzance, Cornwall, England this past spring, and as it finally approaches a formal debut, the network has also released a fiery, one-minute-long teaser for the series. And now, a new interview sheds light on the "different tone" the show plans to employ from its predecessor.

Buckle up for everything we know about the show thus far.

When Is the House of the Dragon Release Date?

In the teaser trailer, HBO confirms that the show's ten episodes will debut sometime in 2022. Considering filming only began this past spring, it seems most likely that we'll see a release date in the second half of 2022. It's also probably not a bad time to note that the show very much remains vulnerable to pandemic production woes that could delay things further—production has already shut down once in the UK once following a positive Covid-19 test among the crew—so a firm debut is unlikely to be confirmed anytime soon.

Who Is in the House of the Dragon Cast?

In the first initial photos, as well as the new trailer, the network revealed five new characters. As HBO describes them in its official press materials:

Emma D’Arcy as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen

The king’s first-born child, she is of pure Valyrian blood, and she is a dragonrider. Many would say that Rhaenyra was born with everything… but she was not born a man.

Photo credit: HBO
Photo credit: HBO

Matt Smith as Prince Daemon Targaryen

The younger brother to King Viserys and heir to the throne. A peerless warrior and a dragonrider, Daemon possesses the true blood of the dragon. But it is said that whenever a Targaryen is born, the gods toss a coin in the air…

Steve Toussaint as Lord Corlys Velaryon, “The Sea Snake”

Lord of House Velaryon, a Valyrian bloodline as old as House Targaryen. As “The Sea Snake,” the most famed nautical adventurer in the history of Westeros, Lord Corlys built his house into a powerful seat that is even richer than the Lannisters and that claims the largest navy in the world.

Photo credit: HBO
Photo credit: HBO

Olivia Cooke as Alicent Hightower

The daughter of Otto Hightower, the Hand of the King, and the most comely woman in the Seven Kingdoms. She was raised in the Red Keep, close to the king and his innermost circle; she possesses both a courtly grace and a keen political acumen

In an interview with Collider, Cooke revealed key clues about what to expect from Alicent Hightower, saying, "She's very complex and I think people are going to want to see the worst in her." Collider notes that Alicent's familial relationships will likely undergird much of the show's dramatic architecture, given that she is married to King Viserys I Targaryen, which makes her stepmother to Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen. Alicent wants the throne for her sons, while Princess Rhaenyra wants it for herself, setting up a battle for the ages.

Cooke believes it will "take some time" for viewers to understand Alicent's motivations. "What's amazing about Game of Thrones, like we saw in the past series, is that one season, you hate a character, and the next, you absolutely love them and will go to the ends of the earth for them," Cooke said. "You just don't know what you're gonna get with these characters. They're so well-written. Such is the human condition, you can do some horrendous things, but then you can also do some wonderful things as well. It's very complex, and it's not black and white at all."

Rhys Ifans as Otto Hightower

The Hand of the King, Ser Otto loyally and faithfully serves both his king and his realm. As the Hand sees it, the greatest threat to the realm is the king's brother, Daemon, and his position as heir to the throne.

Photo credit: HBO
Photo credit: HBO

The cast also includes Sonoya Mizuno as Mysaria, Paddy Considine as King Viserys I Targaryen, and Eve Best as Princess Rhaenya Velaryon. Deadline announced seven more cast members and brief descriptions of their characters, including Ryan Corr as Ser Harwin 'Breakbones' Strong, said to be the strongest man in the Seven Kingdoms. Jefferson Hall will play twins: Lord Jason Lannister, lord of Casterly Rock, and Ser Tyland Lannister, a calculating politician. David Horovitch will play Grand Maester Mellos, a trusted advisor to King Viserys. Graham McTavish joins the cast as Ser Harrold Westerling, a distinguished member of the Kingsguard. Gavin Spokes will play Lord Lyonel Strong, Master of Laws to King Viserys, while Matthew Needham will portray his son, Larys Strong. Bill Patterson will play Lord Lyman Beesbury, Master of Coin, a court role fans will remember well from the Littlefinger days.

What Is House of the Dragon About, and What Does the Trailer Reveal?

Adapted from Martin's Targaryen history book Fire & Blood, House of the Dragon is set 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones. The show will focus on an infamous event in Westeros history known as the Dance of the Dragons. This is a civil war that took place between siblings Aegon II and Rhaenyra over the throne after the death of their father Viserys I. The war pit all of Westeros against itself, with other houses such as the Starks and Lannisters joining either side. Many of House Targaryen's powerful dragons perished—and soon afterward would go extinct until Daenerys Targaryen would hatch three eggs hundreds of years later. We glimpse bits and pieces from the action in House of the Dragon's first teaser, with some classic, GOT-style sword-fighting, jousting, dramatically running down long hallways. Plus, we glimpse Matt Smith's prince having some thoughts on the shoreline. Really, though, the trailer seems as if it's meant to just whet our appetites, with bigger story reveals coming down the line.

How Will House of the Dragon Be Different From Game of Thrones?

Glad you asked. Even though House of the Dragon is a prequel with a different agenda, the creative team still wants it to feel of the Game of Thrones world. As Sapochnik told The Hollywood Reporter, "I think we were very respectful of what the original show is. It wasn't broken so we're not trying to reinvent the wheel. House of the Dragon has its own tone that will evolve and emerge over the course of the show. But first, it's very important to pay respects and homage to the original series, which was pretty groundbreaking. We're standing on the shoulders of that show and we're only here because of that show."

Despite wanting to honor their roots, the House of the Dragon team isn't looking to make a carbon copy of Game of Thrones. That's good news for fans, who can expect something both similar and surprising.

"That said, we can't say, 'Well, when we did Thrones, we did it this way…'," Sapochnik continued. "If you start every sentence with that, you've lost. This is something else, and should be something else. It's a different crew, different people, different tone. Hopefully it will be seen as something else. But it will have to earn that — it won't happen overnight. Hopefully fans will enjoy it for the thing that it is. We'll be lucky if we ever come close to what the original show was, so we're just putting our heads down and getting on with it and hoping what we come up with is worthy of having a Game of Thrones title."

Smith echoed Sapochnik's comments, describing the challenge of approaching existing storytelling from a new angle as "throwing some paint at the wall and see what sticks." He went on to highlight how chasing the high of Game of Thrones is a futile endeavor, saying, "We're trying to make a show that's entertaining on lots of different levels and has a similar scope and ambition to the previous show, in many respects. But obviously, you're never going to be able to re-create the success of Game of Thrones, because that was a very particular point in time. It was its own unique entity."

As for the OG Game of Thrones cast, the departure from what's familiar is bittersweet for them, too. Kit Harington noted that there would be just enough similarity in tone for him to feel FOMO. "I think to see people get into outfits and costumes, that resemble what we wore for all those years, and it [has] the same music and style and tone, but not be in it... there's going to be a rawness there," Harington told Insider. "Of course, I'm going to watch it and I'm going to support Miguel [Sapochnik], who's helming the show. I wish them all the best, but it's so close to my heart, that story, that of course, there might be a bit of pain there."

What's Going On with the Other Game of Thrones Spin-Offs?

After Game of Thrones ended, HBO went all-in on a number of spin-offs. An untitled prequel starring Naomi Watts was killed in development in late 2019, while numerous other spin-offs circulated in the development ether, including 9 Voyages aka Sea Snake, Flea Bottom, 10,000 Ships, as well as three potential animated series at HBOMax. However, none of these shows have received an official production order.

New details about these spin-offs have come to light at The Hollywood Reporter. One of the animated series will take place in a landscape we never visited during the original television series: the Golden Empire of Yi Ti, also known as simply Yi Ti. Located on the continent of Essos, near the south-eastern limits of the known world, Yi Ti is considered one of the oldest and most advanced realms in Martin's fantasy sandbox. Inspired by imperial China, the region had only a brief reference in the television show, when Lord Varys famously sailed to Yi Ti.

Flea Bottom, meanwhile, has been killed. Set in the infamous King's Landing slum, the series will not move forward; insiders say it was the most nascent of the spin-offs circulating at HBO. A basic story architecture has also emerged about 10,000 Ships, which will follow the warrior queen Nymeria, a cherished ancestor of House Martell who founded the kingdom of Dorne (and gave her name to Arya's direwolf). 9 Voyages, from Rome creator Bruno Heller, will follow House of the Dragon's Velaryon.

Game of Thrones hive, we have a lot to look forward to. Watch this space for updates as we continue to learn more.

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