House of the Dragon is a prequel to the hugely successful Game of Thrones and the first episode will be released on the 21st August. The new show takes place 200 years before the start of Game of Thrones and will focus far more on the Targaryen family. After what was considered a disappointing ending by many GoT fans there is a lot of pressure on the show to match the brilliance of the early season of GoT.
Most Complicated Spoiler Warning Ever: Content from various books in the A Song Of Ice and Fire series will be discussed, including Fire and Blood, and differences in the books and the tv show will be discussed but mostly around the setup of the story.
The Source Material
GoT is based on the still unfinished A Song of Ice and Fire book series by George RR Martin – the first book being A Game of Thrones from which the tv show took it’s name. HotD is based largely on the book Fire and Blood, a “history” of the Targaryen Family (also written by Martin) as well as other facts established in the book series.
HotD is based on an event alluded to much in ASOIAF and Fire and Blood – The Dance of the Dragons, a civil war fought between rival heirs to the Iron Throne. King Viserys I’s eldest child is Rhaenyra and expecting resistance to a ruling queen he has the major lords swear to follow his daughter. On the King’s death though many would still rather the King’s son, Aegon (and half-brother to Rhaenyra) take the throne. The disagreement turns violent and soon it is all out war, splitting both Westeros and the Targaryen family. As the Targaryens have plentiful dragons to use in this war it was given the name The Dance of the Dragons (one of the reasons dragons have died out in GoT is many died in this war).
The tv show has changed a few details, most importantly Rhaenyra’s challenger is not her half-brother but her uncle – Daemon. This would presumably be as Aegon was little more than a child and an older – and far more dangerous – challenger could be a more satisfying opponent. Or it could be that as far as HotD is concerned the conflict between Daemon and Rhaenyra is only the first part of this war.
HotD shows events over several decades, looking through IMDb there are a number of actors who play some characters, with child actors standing in for the appropriate stage in life. Indeed it has been said the first season covers nearly thirty years, from the first inkling of a problem to the war itself.
Game of Thrones was already a nightmare of characters, families and factions and this is perhaps even more complicated but here is a quick guide to the major characters.
Viserys I – Paddy Considine – the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms at the start of the show and apparently a more tragic character than the one in the books, who is pleasant and generous and the reign was one of peace and prosperity. It is his decision to break with precedence and name his daughter as heir that leads to civil war.
Rhaenyra Targaryen – Emma D’arcy – the first-born child of King Viserys who clearly sees the throne as her birth-right, even though there has never been a queen-regnant (a queen who is the ruler, as opposed to a queen consort, the wife of the ruler. Queen Elizabeth II is queen-regnant).
Daemon Targaryen – Matt Smith – King Viserys’ younger brother and judging from the trailer was the king’s presumed heir until recent events stirred things up. Daemon is a respected warrior and dragon-rider, and of course, is a man. Confusingly in the books, Daemon Targaryen is Rhaenyra’s husband (as well as uncle, yes, the Targaryens are weird) and is one of Rhaenyra’s strongest supporters.
Other important characters – Alicent Hightower – Olivia Cooke – Queen and wife of King Viserys, in the books Alicent was the mother of Aegon, the rival to Rhaenyra, but as in this version it is Daemon who is the rival. Her son, Aegon, seemingly has been cast but has thrown my faction understanding into a muddle as if there is a son then Daemon would be completely cut out of the succession – if you didn’t want a female heir in Rhaenyra you’d have a male heir in Aegon.
Lord Corlys Velaryon – Steve Toussaint – the Velaryons are one of the Targaryen’s closest allies, Corlys is a famed seafarer and adventurer and one of the wealthiest people in Westeros and is married to a Targaryen princess. Also a member of the Small Council (the closest advisors to the king) he will have a lot of sway. In the books he became Hand of the King to Rhaenyra but it is unclear what side he is taking, although in one trailer he says, “The King has an heir, Daemon Targaryen.”
Rhaenys Velaryon – Eve Best – a character always described in the books as Rhaenys Targaryen even after she marries Corlys, this change of name is significant, perhaps indicating this character’s loyalty to her new family and not the Targaryens. Interestingly in the books Rhaenys found herself in a similar position where – if gender were ignored – she would have become queen but was passed over for a male relative.
Ser Otto Hightower – Rhys Ifans – not only is Otto the Hand to the King of Viserys but his daughter is Alicent – Viserys’ second wife. The trailer has Ser Otto bring the issue of succession to Viserys, stressing the importance of having a clear successor. In the books Otto supported Aegon (his grandson) but as this struggle is different who will he support?
So as we travel to Westeros once again for more plotting, betrayal and dragons hopefully you’ll not have to ask quite so often – “who are they again?”