Why I’m excited about ‘House of the Dragon’
The problem with sweeping things under the rug is that it leaves lumps.
Such was the nature of my feelings for the world of A Song of Ice and Fire, when its HBO TV adaptation, Game of Thrones, ended in 2019. I loved that show, but more than that, I loved the books they were based on. Having read the books multiple times, consumed almost all material available on the lore that precedes the fantasy, and realised that relying on George RR Martin to end the series before his time ran out was an unwise mental health choice, the ending of HBO's celebrated adaptation was all I was left with. I put all my hopes into those last three seasons, and the hope turned into ashes in my mouth as I watched in horror the ending to this once revered TV show.
I hadn't really thought about dragons, direwolves, Georges, R's, or Martins since then. I had pushed these thoughts out of my mind and pretended I didn't waste entire days of my life immersed in this sprawling world of fantasy, not until last week, when HBO released the official trailer of their new show, House of the Dragon.
Since then, I've officially been excited once again.
The show is based on the second half of Fire & Blood (2018), a history book that exists within the lore of A Song of Ice and Fire, that tells the story of House Targaryen. The Targaryens were the silver-haired, dragon-riding overlords of Westeros for some three centuries before the timeline of the first book. Fire & Blood is the historical retelling of the reign of the Targaryens as told by the fictional Archmaster Gyldayn, and it is a compressed version of all the things that make A Song of Ice and Fire so fun. The epic wars, the heroic battles, the stories of knightly valour and heart-warming/wrenching romance, the scheming, planning and betrayal—it's all there, unburdened by the sprawl and complexity that accompanies the narrative in the books that are part of the main series. The focus on one house and their rise over centuries scratches the very specific itch of a history nerd who's often disappointed by the lack of dragons and drama in real history.
The new show, House of the Dragon, will focus on the build-up and climax of the bloody civil war that tore House Targaryen apart, the Dance of the Dragons. Fire & Blood covers this war in ample detail, so the show will have tons of source material to pull from. Like all good retellings of history, Fire & Blood establishes that the causes and catalysts of all major events exist deep within the past, and it's up to the showrunners to choose how far into the past they want to delve, and how much details they want to include. If anyone cared to ask me, I'd say the more the merrier.
Within the lore, Fire & Blood was supposedly written a decade and half after the fall of the Targaryen dynasty. Much of the events covered in the book took place centuries ago, so the "author", Archmaester Gyldayn, used secondary sources. This is where it gets fun and why I had such a great time reading Fire & Blood. While most of the history is taken from reliable sources like other maesters of the citadel (academics) and Septons (priests), Gyldayn also uses unreliable sources to tell his history. These unreliable sources, like Mushroom the court fool and Coryanne Wylde, a noble born girl who goes on to live a life of "sin, suffering and slavery", are often where the more salacious rumours and the most shocking court intrigues come from. In Fire & Blood, these rumours are mentioned and then discarded straightaway. I'm excited to find out whether the showrunners of House of the Dragon decide to include any of these stories, or even address these narratives in any way.
Much of the run of Game of Thrones covered the continent of Westeros during a time of war and/or impending doom. While that made for intense drama and top-notch television (for a time), the first season(s) of House of the Dragon should be taking place during a time of relative peace and prosperity in Westeros. This is going to be different from what we've seen previously, and the chance to visually experience George RR Martin's world unravaged by war fills me with a lot of excitement. There is a possibility that we will get to visit the castles and seats of many of the noble houses of Westeros, hopefully ones we haven't already seen in the original show. As prequels are wont to do, I'm sure there will be plenty of references to names and places that played an important role in the original series, and attentive fans will find themselves spotting details that can hopefully remind them of all the reasons Game of Thrones was such a phenomenon.
One main reason I'm allowing myself to get excited about House of the Dragon is that it'll be based on a story that is already complete. The debacle of the Game of Thrones ending still haunts me, but a well done prequel may do wonders to heal the wounds left by the lack of direwolves in the last couple of seasons of Game of Thrones. In theory, botching the ending of a story that is complete should be more difficult. I hope I haven't spoken too soon.
Azmin Azran is a sub-editor at SHOUT.