Many Game of Thrones fans no doubt view the looming debut of House of the Dragon, GoT‘s first spinoff series, with considerable trepidation. On the one hand, the 10-episode prequel series is based on George R.R. Martin’s book Fire & Blood, and it’s complete, so there’s no chance of the series getting too far ahead of the source material. On the other hand, the GoT series finale was a crushing disappointment to many (if not most) fans, and HBO has a bit of an uphill battle ahead to win back their trust.
HBO just dropped the official trailer for House of the Dragon, which is visually sumptuous and confirms the likely plot and overall tone. But it will take more than a decent trailer to set those lingering doubts to rest. HBO also unveiled new, appropriately brooding posters for each major character.
As I’ve written previously, House of the Dragon is set 200 years before the events of its predecessor, chronicling the beginning of the end for the reign of House Targaryen. Those events culminated in civil war and the extinction of the dragons—at least until Daenerys Targaryen came along two centuries later. In addition to co-creators Martin and Ryan J. Condal, Miguel Sapochnik—who filmed some of the most eye-popping, complicated battles on Game of Thrones—serves as co-showrunner and directed the pilot and several other episodes.
Fire and Blood, a fictional history of the Targaryen kings, begins with Aegon I’s conquest of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, thanks to the family’s advanced weaponry in the form of dragons. This is followed by a period of relative peace before the inevitable succession crisis. The final two sections of Fire and Blood deal with the fallout of that crisis and serve as the primary source material for House of the Dragon.
In the book, a council of lords selects King Viserys I Targaryen to succeed Jaehaerys I, passing over Princess Rhaenys Velaryon, a dragonrider known as “the Queen Who Never Was.” Viserys I has no sons from his first wife and decides his daughter, Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, will succeed him. But this is Westeros, so there are others scheming for the Iron Throne, most notably Ser Otto Hightower, Hand of the King—whose daughter Alicent becomes the king’s second wife and wants her son Aegon to be the heir—and Prince Daemon Targaryen, the king’s younger brother.
The cast features Paddy Considine as King Viserys I; Emma D’Arcy as the older version of Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock plays the younger version); Olivia Cooke as Lady Alicent Hightower; the 11th Doctor, Matt Smith, as Prince Daemon; Rhys Ifans as Ser Otto Hightower; Steve Toussaint as Lord Corlys Velaryon, aka the “Sea Snake”; and Eve Best as Rhaenys Velaryon.
Sonoya Mizuno plays the foreign-born dancing girl Mysaria; Fabien Frankel plays the Dornish-born Ser Criston Cole, a skilled swordsman; Graham McTavish plays Ser Harrold Westerling, a member of the King’s Guard charged with protecting Rhaenyra; Ryan Corr plays Ser Harwin Strong, the strongest man in the Seven Kingdoms; Jefferson Hall plays identical twins Lord Jason and Ser Tyland Lannister (clearly twins run in the Lannister bloodline); David Horovitch plays Grand Maester Mellos; Bill Paterson plays Lord Lyman Beesbury, Master of Coin; and Gavin Spokes plays Lord Lyonel Strong of Harrenhal.
HBO dropped a teaser for House of the Dragon last October, which didn’t do much more than give us an idea of the general look and feel of the series. This full trailer confirms that the storyline largely hews to the events of the final two sections of Fire & Blood.
The trailer opens with a shot of a melancholy Rhaenys Velaryon gazing out over the sea as a voiceover (identified as Corlys Velaryon) intones, “What is this brief mortal life, if not the pursuit of a legacy?” That pretty much sets the tone as we briefly meet a few of the key players whose last names will be very familiar to GoT fans: the aforementioned Corlys, Rickard Stark, and Boremund Baratheon. All are seen declaring fealty to King Viserys Targaryen and his named heir, Princess Rhaenyra.
But she’s clearly a controversial choice, as Rhaenys Velaryon knows all too well: “Men would sooner put the realm to the torch than see a woman ascend the Iron Throne.” We see dragons, a dragon egg, a possible wedding, and a possible funeral, with intrigue lurking in every corner of Daemon’s conniving smirks. And of course there will be battles. All in all, it seems very Game of Thrones. It’s an “ugly game,” as Otto Hightower says, and we know all too well how the losers of such games typically fare. Who has the determination to win it—and what will that victory cost?
House of the Dragon debuts on HBO Max on August 21, 2022.
Listing image by YouTube/HBO Max