It’s official: The Game of Thrones prequel set 10,000 years in the past is out, and the prequel set 300 years in the past is in. Called House of The Dragon, this Targaryens-and-dragons-based series will trace the rise of House Targaryen from Aegon’s Conquest through to the civil war known as The Dance of Dragons.
Even better news, this series is based on George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood, a novel which exists in a finished form and covers all of the above material. So if he never gets around to Fire & Blood II: Baelor’s Revenge, no one will care.
House of the Dragon also brings continuity behind the scenes. Miguel Sapochnik, who directed some of GoT‘s most memorable episodes, is co-showrunner with writer Ryan Condal, with Martin listed as executive producer. The good news here is that Sapochnik saw the mistakes of the final GoT season up close, which could bode well for this team trying again.
Then again, this could be more like when Game of Thrones went to Dorne and the show made all the mistakes of the novels (albeit in completely different ways). Perhaps it should be said every time a new Game of Thrones season or series is made: the gods toss a coin in the air and the world holds its breath to see how it will land… but we still have some informed predictions. Consider this a quick-and-broad primer on how the 2018 book’s contents may very well be synthesized by HBO into a multi-season project, for better and for worse.
Season 1 will stick to Aegon’s conquest
Fire & Blood is divided into six parts. (Or as in-world author Archmaester Gyldayn might have put it, “Ignis et Sanguis est omnis divisa in partes sex.”) From Aegon’s arrival to the years of the Targaryen Civil War, there’s enough here to cover six seasons easily. That could grow to eight if HBO wanted to split both major wars into two seasons—or, goodness, into two short seasons with super-sized episodes, because that worked out really well last time.
Most fans might assume that, like Game of Thrones, one season covers one book. But that’s not possible with Fire & Blood. There are too many kings, too many battles, and too many events in both the early going and in the later parts. Far more likely is that the show is planning to do a multi-season run, with each of these sections taking up at least one season, if not more. Most likely, the first seasons will cram all of the Aegon’s Conquest battles in a rush to end with the forging of the Iron Throne. But the series would be better off splitting that war over two seasons (there’s just so much history to cover) and end the first with the Burning of Harrenhal, instead.
Less politicking, more war
Either way, combat is coming.
Hiring Miguel Sapochnik—known for some of GoT‘s most impressive battles, as director and co-showrunner—suggests we should anticipate several major battle sequences in the first season. Fire & Blood has plenty to choose from. Upon landing, the Targaryens subdued two houses (House Rosby and Stokeworth), followed by “Aegon’s First Test,” in which Houses Maidenpool and Dunkendale banded together to march upon Blackwater Rush where the foundations of King’s Landing sat. No one argued or positioned themselves via whispers and secrets. These were giant armies rushing at each other, while dragons rained fire in a coordinated, aerial assault.
That’s just the beginning. The subjugation of House Arryn at Gulltown followed, along with the Conquest of the Stormlands and the Submission of Crackclaw Point. Not to mention the famous Burning of Harrenhal and the original Field of Fire, where House Gardener made its last stand. (House Gardener is merely a long-dead legend in A Song of Ice & Fire, so this conflict in particular is juicy from an HBO perspective: it’s an opportunity to show how the Tyrells took over when Gardener died out.)
All this and the failure of the Dornish campaign to boot. Set your VFX budget accordingly, HBO.
Looking forward to these badass women
The Targaryen rule followed the same patriarchal structure of the Andals. But this was a family full of ambitious, powerful women who were fierce and ruthless. Visenya, Aegon’s older sister-wife, was known as stern and unforgiving; it was whispered she dabbled in dark spells. She and her dragon Vhagar were directly responsible for the fall of Houses Stokeworth and Dunkendale, and she personally led the charges in Gulltown and Crackclaw Point. Younger sister-wife Rhaenys and her dragon Meraxes took out House Rosby. Rhaenys was also instrumental during the fights at Storm’s End and the Field of Fire. These are badass women.
In terms of casting diversity—unless this new show surprises us and goes full Wheel of Time—pickings are slim. Characters with Rhoynar heritage from Dorne notwithstanding, we expect House of the Dragon to be as white as when winter comes.
A series short on Starks
The Starks stayed away from the Dragonlords as much as possible, which means they’ll probably remain off-screen for the bulk of the series. We should see them toward the end of the conquest, but please note, the North never fought Aegon. Torrhen Stark marched south with a great host that dwarfed the Targaryen forces. But the King in the North saw what happened to everyone who stood against the dragons and decided his pride wasn’t worth the cost. He would be forever known as “The King Who Knelt,” but his people lived to come home.
They stayed there. The Starks rarely went south, and then only to attend events like The Golden Wedding or The Great Council of 101 AC. But these were seen as unlucky events, as most who went rarely lived long afterward. There were also rare trips north by the Targaryens, like when Queen Alysanne visited. But that trip forced the Starks to donate the land known as “The New Gift” to the Wall. As Game of Thrones proved, Targaryens and Starks just don’t mix.