HBO has released the first teaser for House of the Dragon, giving us our first real look at this spinoff prequel series to Game of Thrones. Set 200 years before the events of its predecessor, the series will chronicle the beginning of the end for the reign of House Targaryen, culminating in civil war. In addition to co-creators George R.R. Martin and Ryan J. Condal, Miguel Sapochnik—who filmed some of the most eye-popping, complicated battles on Game of Thrones—will serve as co-showrunner and direct the pilot and several other episodes. The series began filming in April.
This time around, the source material is Martin’s 2018 epic fantasy Fire and Blood, a fictional history of the Targaryen kings. It begins with Aegon I’s conquest of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, thanks to the family’s advanced weaponry in the form of dragons, followed by a period of relative peace. Part three focuses on Aegon I’s sons, King Aenys I and King Maegor I. When the latter dies, the son of Aenys, Jaehaerys I, ascends to the Iron Throne. Jaehaerys I had two sons, but they both died before their regal father, thereby triggering a succession crisis.
The final two sections of Fire and Blood deal with the fallout of that crisis and seem to be the primary source material for this new series. Essentially, 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 by 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 Prince Daemon Targaryen, the king’s younger brother.
We don’t get many more specifics from this first teaser, but it does give us a good sense of the overall look and feel of the show. And we get a peek at the cast, which 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.
The cast also includes Sonoya Mizuno as the foreign-born dancing girl Mysaria; Fabien Frankel as the Dornish-born Ser Criston Cole, a skilled swordsman; Graham McTavish as Ser Harrold Westerling, a member of the King’s Guard charged with protecting Rhaenyra; Ryan Corr as Ser Harwin Strong, the strongest man in the Seven Kingdoms; Jefferson Hall as identical twins Lord Jason and Ser Tyland Lannister (clearly twins run in the Lannister bloodline); David Horovitch as Grand Maester Mellos; Bill Paterson as Lord Lyman Beesbury, Master of Coin; and Gavin Spokes as Lord Lyonel Strong of Harrenhal.
What the teaser can’t tell us is whether Sapochnik and Condal can recapture that early Game of Thrones magic and avoid the pitfalls of the later seasons, which alienated a large swath of the fan base. At least this time, the showrunners won’t outpace the books. That said, Fire and Blood received mixed critical reviews, with some criticizing its dry narrative style (one reviewer dismissed it as “interminable, self-indulgent crap”) and others praising it as “a masterpiece of popular historical fiction.” As Ani Bundel wrote for Ars back in 2019, “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.”
House of the Dragon should debut on HBO Max sometime next year.
Listing image by YouTube/HBO Max