Film & TV, Lifestyle

House of the Dragon: What we know so far…

House of the Dragon: What we know so far...

“Fire Will Reign”, the tagline reads, and reign it already has in the first four episodes of the House of the Dragon, which is a prequel to the critically acclaimed television series Game of Thrones, which was based on the novel series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin. The House of the Dragon series itself is based on another of Martin’s books Fire & Blood.

House of the Dragon takes us back to Westeros and the Seven Kingdoms, but this time 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones and 172 years before the birth of the self-acclaimed ‘Mother of Dragons’, Danaerys Targaryen. It will depict the beginning of the end of House Targaryen’s might, the powerful house who ruled the Seven Kingdoms by the might of their dragons, and will cover the events of the Targaryen war of succession, which was known as the “Dance of the Dragons”.

The series was created by George R. R. Martin and Ryan Condal for HBO, with Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik serving as the showrunners. It premiered on HBO August 21, 2022, with the first season set to consist of ten episodes, and was renewed for a second season five days after its premiere.

House of the Dragon Premise

About a hundred years after Aegon “The Conqueror” Targaryen and his sister-wives, Rhaenys and Visenya, united the Seven Kingdoms largely by the might of their dragons, House Targaryen rules from King’s Landing under King Viserys I, the fifth king of the Seven Kingdoms. All is well and good in the realm, save for the fact that the king’s only child is a girl, Rhaenyra.

By the pre-existing laws of succession, no girl has ever sat on the Iron Throne, which makes Viserys’ brother, Daemon, the Heir Apparent until the king gives birth to a son. Following the queen’s death during childbirth and the subsequent death of the son that the king has so desperately wished for, Viserys finally names Rhaenyra as his heir, driving a wedge between him and his brother.

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Had it stopped there, though, the realm would have been fine. However, the king, unwittingly manipulated by his Hand, Sir Otto Hightower, decides to take his daughter Alicent Hightower, who also happened to be his daughter Rhaenyra’s best friend, as his new queen. Alicent gives Viserys the son he has been desperate for, named Aegon, after the Conqueror. And here another wedge is driven between the childhood friends.

Episode three takes us to the Stepstones, where, in a bid to prove his worth to his brother, Prince Daemon allies himself with the powerful House Velaryon, whom King Viserys slighted when he took Alicent to wife, to end the threat of the Crabfeeder, a mysterious upstart who stakes his enemies on the beach. After three years without making any headway (since the Crabfeeder’s men always disappear into caves whenever Daemon appears with Caraxes), the Prince finally lures them out with a faux-white flag without his dragon, and the rebellion is broken.

House of the Dragon’s episode four does not offer much, apart from Prince Daemon trying to sully Rhaenyra’s reputation by taking her to a pleasure house and appearing to want to have coitus with her, but stopping at the last moment and leaving. The Princess also leaves, only to seduce and surrender her virtue to her personal Kingsguard, Sir Criston Cole (a major diversion from the book’s events, since Ser Criston refused her advances and even proceeded to loathe her for her wantonness).

The King’s hand, whose spy had seen Rhaenyra and Daemon in the brothel together, took the news to Viserys in another subtle effort to discredit her, and that was where the King began to put the pieces together, and realizing that Alicent appearing in his chamber to console him after the death of his wife was all a ploy. Subsequently, he strips Otto Hightower of the mantle of Hand.

And here I am going to stop to avoid spoilers, because, like the title reads, this is what we know so far from the four episodes that have been released of the House of the Dragon. Although any true Game of Thrones fan would know where the story ends, since they would have read the book and are just watching the show for… well, show. And the dragons.

House of the Dragon Cast

The House of the Dragon features a large, ensemble cast, much like its predecessor Game of Thrones, with Paddy Considine playing the role of King Viserys Targaryen, the First of His Name and the fifth king of the Seven Kingdoms. Milly Alcock appears as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, his firstborn child and heir apparent and praised as the “Realm’s Delight” during her youth, along with Emily Carey as Lady Alicent Hightower, the Princess’ childhood friend and later her father’s second wife.

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Both actresses, however, are not long for the screen in this show, because (spoiler alert!) the House of the Dragon is set to experience time jumps that will soon see them recast as adult versions of themselves. Smaller time jumps have already occurred between the first three episodes; six months between episodes one and two, and three years between two and three. However, a ten-year time jump is looming, and from episode six, Emma D’Arcy will take over as the adult Rhaenyra, and Olivia Cooke as adult Alicent, among other recastings.

And while this change has been somewhat expected, the young actresses have, by virtue of their splendid performances, managed to worm their ways into quite a large number of hearts, and fans have begun dreading the looming recasting. And this problem is set to worsen because the more the show progresses and viewers fall more in love with Alcock and Carey, the harder it will be harder to watch them replaced. Even just thinking about it breaks my heart a little. Rhaenyra just looks so soft-spoken, and yet so fierce (sniffles).

But, yeah, back to our cast list.

Matt Smith plays Prince Daemon Targaryen, the king’s younger brother known as the “Rogue Prince” for his unpredictable behavior and the experienced dragon rider of Caraxes. He is also a fearsome warrior, as seen in episode 3. Otto Hightower, the Hand of the King and Alicent’s father, who is also Daemon’s bitter political rival, is played by Rhys Ifans.

Steve Toussaint is Lord Corlys Velaryon, the most famous seafarer in Westerosi history, known as the Sea Snake and head of House Velaryon, the realm’s wealthiest and most powerful clan. His son Laenor rides the dragon Seasmoke (Theo Nate plays the young Laenor and will be replaced by John Macmillan). His wife, Princess Rhaenys Targaryen, who was passed over in favor of her younger cousin Viserys due to her gender and known as the “Queen Who Never Was”, is played by Eve Best.

Ser Criston Cole is portrayed by Fabien Frankel, and is a skilled swordsman from the Dornish Marches who is handpicked into the Kingsguard by Princess Rhaenyra, and will later be known as “the Kingmaker”, as well as the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. The current Lord Commander is Ser Harold Westerling, played by Graham McTavish.

Mmm, yeah, I think that about sums up the major cast for now. …so far, remember?

House of the Dragon Budget and Viewership

According to Variety, each episode costs under US$20 million, and the overall production budget of the first season is nearly $200 million, while the marketing budget, according to  Deadline Hollywood, is in excess of $100 million. In comparison, its parent series Game of Thrones cost around $100 million per season ($6 million per episode from seasons one to five, around $10 million per episode for seasons six and seven, and up to $15 million for each episode in its eighth season).

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House of the Dragon premiered on HBO and is the network’s first series to stream in 4K, Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision HDR on its streaming platform HBO Max. It is distributed in Austria, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Switzerland and the UK on Sky Atlantic and Now, its accompanying streaming service; and Neon streaming service and Sky’s SoHo TV Channel airs it in New Zealand.

It is available in Canada on Bell Media’s Cave streaming service and its HBO linear channel, on Binge and Foxtel in Australia, Disney+ Hotstar in India, and, finally, on Showmax in Africa.

The series broke HBO’s viewership records on its premiere, with an estimated 9.9 million viewers on its first night of availability, which HBO claimed was the largest single-day viewership for a series debut in the channel’s history. The size of this audience reportedly caused HBO Max to crash for some users; Downdetector registered 3,700 complaints of the application not responding, and there were also reports of general streaming issues on Crave, its Canadian partner service.

House of the Dragon Book

The series is based on parts of the novel Fire & Blood by George R.R. Martin, which chronicles the history of House Targaryen, the dragon-riding family from his series A Song of Ice and Fire. According to Martin, the book was initially planned for publication after the completion of the series, but he changed his mind after the material grew too large and decided to publish the history in two volumes.

The first volume was released on November 20, 2018, and while critics remain divided on whether or not it is a stellar publication, I myself have found it to be an enjoyable read. Maybe that’s just because I’m a history nerd, whether fictional or real (despite being a science student initially). Or maybe it’s just that I love dragons. Because the book features a lot of them.

House of the Dragons’ Dragons

Well, duh! It won’t be a house of dragons without dragons, right? And unlike in Game of Thrones where we saw just three, House of the Dragon showrunners Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik, in an interview with TVLine, revealed that the show promises a whooping seventeen dragons. Nine of these glorious beasts will appear in season 1 alone.

Viewers have already seen Syrax, Princess Rhaenyra’s ride, as well as the mighty Caraxes, also known as the Blood Wyrm for his serpentine appearance and blood-red scales. Episode 3 also brought snapshots of Seasmoke to the screen, ridden by Ser Laenor Velaryon, the son of Princess Rhaenys and Lord Corlys Velaryon.

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And also unlike Game of Thrones, in which all three dragons looked more or less the same but for their color and size, these dragons are distinct to showcase their different breeds. This way, you can easily recognize them.

Syrax
Syrax
Caraxes
Caraxes, the Blood Wyrm
Seasmoke
Seasmoke

Balerion the Black Dread, the dragon ridden by Aegon the Conqueror during his Targaryen Conquest of Westeros, also appears in the series, although he is already dead of old age by the time the events of the House of the Dragon take place. Hence, we only get to see his skull, which is said to be so large it can swallow a mammoth whole.

Balerion the Black Dread
See for yourself

Others who are expected to feature in the series include:

Vhagar, another mighty dragon who was used in Aegon’s Conquest by Visenya, one of his sister-wives, and will be ridden by Aemond Targaryen, Viserys I’s second son by Alicent;

Meleys, known as the Red Queen and ridden by Rhaenys Targaryen, the Queen Who Never Was; and

Sunfyre the Golden, said to be the most beautiful dragon to take flight in Westeros and ridden by Aegon II, Viserys’ and Alicent’s first son and claimant to the Iron Throne, among others.

Fire will indeed reign.

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A couple of unexpected turns in life found Jimmy with a metaphorical pen in hand, churning out content and living in his head so much that he knighted himself the Pen Dragon. He is also an avid reader, gamer, drummer, full-blown metalhead, and all-round fun gi
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