With tension mounting ahead of the Game of Thrones prequel, our expert dives into the back story behind the TV sensation to reveal what we can expect – with one major warning.
Warm up your dragon and prepare to whip your long blond wig in the wind, because it’s almost time to go back to Westeros with the new series House Of The Dragon.
After Game Of Thrones changed the face of television, this prequel, set about 200 years earlier, will seek to pick up everything that made GoT such a worldwide hit, while avoiding the final season meltdown that divided fans.
The release of a new trailer this week quite rightly left fans excited – and wondering: What is it all about?
Well, if you have read author and creator George RR Martin’s 2018 “historical fantasy” Fire And Blood, you will already have a decent idea. However, as GoT showed, just because it’s on the page, it doesn’t mean it will end up on the screen.
The producers have kept things very guarded but we can make some educated guesses about what will happen.
Release date is set for Monday, August 22 in Australia on Binge and Foxtel (it screens the evening of August 21 in the US, so will land at the same time here, our mid-morning).
It is almost certainly going to center around a vicious civil war between the Targaryens that divided Westeros and caused plenty of blood-letting, back-stabbing and dragon-flaming.
We know that there’s going to be plenty of blond wigs with all those Targaryens, although the dragons probably won’t start burning stuff until later in season one and we may not see a Stark until season two.
Paddy Considine plays King Viserys Targaryen, who’s good and kind and wise. That means he’s got about as much chance of lasting until the end as the only cupcake at a birthday party for fat kids.
There are three power factions maneuvering for the throne.
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First is his younger brother Daemon, played by Matt Smith (Dr Who). He’s a fearsome warrior and dragon rider but the real power struggle will actually be between two women – Viserys’s daughter and heir Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) and his new wife Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke).
Alicent is the daughter of the King’s Hand Otto (Rhys Ifans) so obviously he’s going to be on her side.
Casting of young Rhaenyra and Alicent suggests we’re going to see the two as friends when young, thus setting up extra drama when they go for each other’s throats. Or maybe they were enemies as kids, thus adding extra spice to their conflict as adults?
Being Westeros, there’s going to be betrayals, back-stabbing and plenty of rumpy-pumpy, probably including some incestuous stuff because obviously the Targaryens didn’t go mad just because they were blond.
Of course the drama won’t end with the fabulously bloody civil war, as Lannisters and Starks join the fun to help keep the peace … or keep the realm in pieces, anyway.
Many of the locations we know from GoT are going to be back in action for HoTD, including obviously King’s Landing.
With a rumored budget of close to $20 million for each episode, it’s going to look good. The showrunners are Ryan J Condal and Miguel Sapochnik. Sapochnik was responsible for such stunning GoT episodes as Hardhome and Battle Of The Bastards, so that’s a big positive for any fans who were nervous about whether there would be a hangover from GoT’s last season.
Sapochnik also addressed that with The Hollywood Reporter, saying: “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”.
Of course the final word should go to George RR Martin, who is tantalising fans waiting (increasingly impatiently) for his long-anticipated next GoT novel, Winds Of Winter.
“I saw rough cuts of a couple more episodes of House Of The Dragon, and was just as pleased as I was with the earlier episodes. Ryan and Miguel and their cast and crew are doing great work. Those of you who like complex, conflicted, gray characters (as I do) will like this series. There will be plenty of dragons and battles, to be sure, but the spine of the story is the human conflicts, the love and the hate, character drama rather than action/adventure.” he said.
GoT fans will obviously say: “That’s great George, a real relief”. And then most of them will add: “Now stop watching HoTD and get writing!”
TRAIL(ER) OF BLOOD … AND HINTS
The latest House Of The Dragon trailer, released on Friday, delivered a series of tantalising hints about what will happen – as well as a few fiery blasts of dragon fire.
Unsurprisingly, the action centered on the two women who will battle for the throne: Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D’Arcy) and Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke).
Interestingly, we also saw quite a bit of their younger selves – played respectively by Australia’s Milly Alcock and England’s Emily Carey – along with a warning that noblemen don’t want a woman on the Iron Throne.
This sets up the possibility that there will be two storylines, across two timelines, with the two young women perhaps uniting to stop Rhaenyra’s uncle Daemon (Matt Smith) taking over.
That could be possibly running concurrently, told in flashback, or through a couple of the earlier episodes.
Then, once that is settled, we will see their older versions battling for the throne, with earlier friendship adding extra poignancy.
Seeing as one of the scenes has Daemon and Rhaenyra clasping blood-soaked hands and smiling, it seems they make a deal. I’d say kiss and make up, but that means something different to the incestuous Targaryens.
We also see Daemon looking like he’s handing a dragon’s egg over to Alicent’s father Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), the Hand of the King. Or is Otto trying to stop him stealing one, given we later see a guilty-looking Daemon being surprised by a fire-breathing dragon in a crypt? Plus there’s a box of something valuable being delivered, which looks a bit like the box of dragon eggs Daenerys was given in Game Of Thrones.
That’s perhaps the most intriguing scene, among the obvious battles and flying dragons.
We also get a funeral, which I suspect is for King Viserys (Paddy Considine).
The most dramatic – if brief – scene shows Alicent running at Rhaenyra with a dagger. But is that the end of their fight for the throne, or the beginning?
We’ll know more on August 22.
House Of The Dragon premieres in Australia on August 22, and like all previous episodes of Game of Thrones will be available to stream on BINGE and watch on Foxtel
George RR Martin’s Fire And Blood is at all good bookstores, published by HarperCollins