It’s time for San Diego Comic-Con, and among the many TV shows expected to feature prominently is HBO Max’s House of the Dragon, a spinoff prequel to HBO’s hugely popular Game of Thrones. We had our share of disappointments with that series’ later seasons (especially the series finale) like everyone else, but this new House of the Dragon trailer seems to capture the original tone and spirit that we loved so much about its predecessor.
As I’ve written previously, House of the Dragon is set 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones and chronicles the beginning of the end of House Targaryen’s reign. Those events culminated in a civil war and the extinction of the dragons—at least until Daenerys Targaryen came along two centuries later. Miguel Sapochnik—who filmed some of the most eye-popping, complicated battles on Game of Thrones—serves as co-showrunner with series co-creators Martin and Ryan J. Condal. Sapochnik directed the pilot and several other episodes.
Fire and Blood, a fictional history of the Targaryen kings written by George R.R. Martin, begins with Aegon I’s conquest of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, thanks to the family’s advanced weaponry in the form of dragons. This is followed by a period of relative peace before the inevitable succession crisis. The final two sections of Fire and Blood deal with the fallout of that crisis and serve as the primary source material for House of the Dragon.
In the book, 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 from 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 wants her son Aegon to be the heir—and Prince Daemon Targaryen, the king’s younger brother.
The first full trailer was released in May and confirmed that the storyline largely hews to the events of the final two sections of Fire & Blood. It mostly served to introduce the key players, whose last names will be very familiar to GoT fans: Corlys Velaryon, aka the “Sea Snake,” Rickard Stark, and Boremund Baratheon. All are seen declaring fealty to King Viserys Targaryen and his named heir, Princess Rhaenyra. But she’s clearly a controversial choice; we were warned that many would not accept a woman on the iron throne, as Rhaenys Velaryon knows all too well.
This latest trailer sets the stage for the Dance of Dragons war, pitting Targaryen against Targaryen and dragon versus dragon. The trailer opens with a voiceover courtesy of King Viserys. “The dream, it was clearer than a memory,” he says. “And I heard the sound of thundering hooves, splintering shields, and ringing swords. And I placed my heir upon the Iron Throne, and all the dragons roared as one.” That heir, of course, is Rhaenyra, and while Rhaenys warns her that a queen is not within “the order of things,” Rhaenyra vows to create a new order once she ascends the throne.
It’s not long before the aristocracy starts picking sides. Rhaenyra has her supporters, but Corlys, for one, is Team Daemon Targaryen. Alicent Hightower is also opposed to Rhenyra since if she came to power, “she could cut off any challenge to her succession.” And it looks like Rhaenys could potentially play both sides and be the prequel’s scheming version of Littlefinger.
But it’s the dragons, always a fan favorite, who dominate the new trailer. Viserys questions whether men should ever have meddled with such power, an obvious parallel to the dawn of the nuclear age. It appears that Westeros is in an internal cold war when the series opens, and its 10 episodes will culminate in that cold war turning very, very hot—a conflict that will rain down fire and blood and ultimately split the Seven Kingdoms in half.
The cast 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; and Eve Best as Rhaenys Velaryon.
Sonoya Mizuno plays the foreign-born dancing girl Mysaria; Fabien Frankel plays the Dornish-born Ser Criston Cole, a skilled swordsman; Graham McTavish plays Ser Harrold Westerling, a member of the King’s Guard charged with protecting Rhaenyra; Ryan Corr plays Ser Harwin Strong, the strongest man in the Seven Kingdoms; Jefferson Hall plays identical twins Lord Jason and Ser Tyland Lannister (clearly twins run in the Lannister bloodline); David Horovitch plays Grand Maester Mellos; Bill Paterson plays Lord Lyman Beesbury, Master of Coin; and Gavin Spokes plays Lord Lyonel Strong of Harrenhal.
House of the Dragon premieres on HBO Max on August 21, 2022.
Listing image by YouTube/HBO Max