The first episode of House of the Dragon dropped on 21 August on HBO Max to the excitement of fans of the epic fantasy universe created by George R.R. Martin. Exactly a month ago, the makers had released the first official trailer for the show which serves as the prequel to Game of Thrones (2011-19).
The epic high fantasy series is set 200 years before the events in Game of Thrones and focusses on the history of the House Targaryen, the family of which Daenerys Targaryen was a descendant.
House of the Dragon is adapted from George R.R. Martin’s 2018 book Fire & Blood, which is about the Targaryen royal family and their interactions with dragons.
The official Twitter handle of Game of Thrones announced the start of production of the show on 4 December 2020. The first season of the show, consisting of 10 episodes, is being aired on HBO and HBO Max.
Here’s all we know about House of the Dragon
What does the first episode show?
The House of the Dragon premiere episode titled “The Heirs of the Dragon” takes viewers right to the midst of the tension within the Targaryen family over who would succeed King Viserys I Targaryen. Conspiracies, violence, gore and torture are frequently shown on the screen — as is expected of a prequel to the Game of Thrones.
Almost every bit of the action takes place in King’s Landing. Initially supportive of his younger brother, Daemon, Viserys picks his daughter as heir to the Iron Throne following the death of his newborn son. As all the houses swear fealty to Rhaenyra, an irked Daemon flies off on the back of his dragon, named Caraxes.
Although the first episode has no battle scenes, fans get to see jousting and brutal killings of those accused of committing serious crimes. Plenty of dragons are, of course, seen flying across the skies of Westeros.
What is the critics’ initial response?
The first episode got an overwhelmingly positive reception from fans and critics alike.
Akhil Arora of Gadgets360 writes, “House of the Dragon shows that we are in safe hands. In fact, there are flashes here that suggest we might get the best of Game of Thrones back.”
Nicola Austin of We Have a Hulk says that the series is a “slow-burn affair” where politicking takes precedence over high-budget battles.
When will the next episodes hit the screens as per US release?
The release time of all episodes is 6 pm PT/ 9 pm ET.
Episode 2: 28 August
Episode 3: 4 September
Episode 4: 11 September
Episode 5: 18 September
Episode 6: 25 September
Episode 7: 2 October
Episode 8: 9 October
Episode 9: 16 October
Episode 10: 23 October
More about the release
With regard to the release, HBO takes a lead over the other highly-anticipated fantasy series of 2022 —Amazon Prime’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, which is set to premiere on 2 September.
But this also brings the two in direct confrontation on the ratings chart because the latter is coming only 12 days after the premiere of the former.
What does the trailer show?
Earlier, the House of the Dragon trailer showed glimpses of the civil war that tore Westeros apart.
Expansive battle scenes, conspiracies and fire-breathing dragons ensured the trailer leaves no stone unturned to treat viewers to the stylistic visuals that were among the best highlights of Game of Thrones.
The almost three-minute-long trailer gave a view of the Iron Throne. Viserys reveals he saw a dream “clearer than a memory,” which hinted at the coming of a civil war.
“And I placed my heir upon the Iron Throne. And all the dragons roared as one,” he says.
When Otto Hightower indicates that the first-born child, Rhaenyra, will have a claim to the throne, murmurs of objection arise.
“No queen has ever sat on the Iron Throne,” says Lyonel Strong.
Thereafter, the trailer dives into the build-up to the climactic war that changed everything from allegiances to the fate of the dragons.
As Rhaenyra continues on her quest to “create a new order” as a queen, Daemon Targaryen goes on his own mission to become king by winning wars with the other lords.
Several members of the other prominent houses, including Stark, Lannister, Baratheon and Velaryon, engage in a plot for the control of the Iron Throne.
But the biggest attraction in the trailer is the dragons. Since the story is set in a time when these mythical creatures numbered aplenty, there is more than one dragon that can be seen flying in the skies of Westeros.
The trailer shows Daemon holding a dragon’s egg at Dragon Stone. He can also be seen playing with a dark red dragon. Fans of the books identify the dragon as Caraxes the Blood Wyrm.
The House of the Dragon trailer ended with a clip of a dragon with green eyes. Identified as Syrax, the female dragon is the ride of Rhaenyra Targaryen in the books.
What is the plot of House of the Dragon?
As the title of the series suggests, it is about the house that ruled Westeros before a civil war, known as “Dance of the Dragons,” that resulted in the fall of the throne. This civil war was fought between the children of King Viserys I Targaryen — Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen and Prince Aegon II Targaryen — following his death.
Princess Rhaenyra is depicted as the king’s first-born child and is of “pure Valyrian blood.” She is married to her uncle, the brother of the king, Prince Daemon Targaryen, who is also a potential heir to the throne.
The war divided the land of Westeros, with other houses such as the House of Stark, which was at the centre of Game of Thrones, and the House Lannister joining either side.
A notable thing about this period in Westeros history is the existence of dragons. The teaser as well as HBO highlight their importance in the following manner: “Dreams didn’t make us kings — dragons did.”
The Targaryens were famous for their dragon-riding ability, a skill that Daenerys, the ‘mother of dragons’, showed effortlessly in Game of Thrones. The civil war is referenced through the original series and is cited as the reason behind the near extinction of dragons from the fictional world until Daenerys found three eggs centuries later.
Who are the cast members?
Paddy Considine plays King Viserys I Targaryen, who is presented as a “warm, kind, and decent man”. He is the successor of the Old King, Jaehaerys Targaryen.
The two principal characters, Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen and Prince Daemon Targaryen, are essayed by Emma D’Arcy and Matt Smith, respectively. Emma played Astrid in the British comedy horror series The Truth Seekers (2020) while Matt is best known for his portrayal of Doctor Who in iconic series from 2010-2014.
Other major cast members include Olivia Cooke as Alicent Hightower, Rhys Ifans as Otto Hightower —the Hand of the King and father of Alicent, Eve Best as Princess Rhaenys Velaryon — the wife of The Sea Snake, Sonoya Mizuno as Mysaria, Fabien Frankel as Ser Criston Cole, and Jefferson Hall as twins Lord Jason Lannister and Tyland Lannister.
The character of Aegon II is not yet part of the series.
What did we see in the first teaser of House of the Dragon?
The one-minute teaser released on 5 October 2021 gave us fleeting glimpses of some major characters, including Prince Daemon Targaryen, Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, Otto Hightower and King Viserys I Targaryen. It also showed The Sea Snake appearing at a feast at the King’s Landing.
The teaser dropped enough hints of something serious brewing in Westeros and finished with Daemon’s voice saying, “Dreams didn’t make us kings — dragons did.”
Are there more Game of Thrones spinoffs planned?
Though the series is a prequel, it is also presented as one of the many spinoffs of Game of Thrones that are in the pipeline. Variety reported in April 2021 that HBO has signed a five-year deal with Martin for multiple spinoff projects based on his writings.
Among the planned shows are Tales of Dunk and Egg which follows Ser Duncan the Tall (Dunk) and young Aegon V Targaryen (Egg) on their adventures.
Another is a series titled 9 Voyages, which is directly connected to the events of the House of the Dragon and its characters. It will follow the famed navigator Lord Corlys Velaryon, popularly known in the stories as The Sea Snake.
The character will be played by Steve Toussaint in House of the Dragon. HBO describes the character as the “most famed nautical adventurer in the history of Westeros”.
As the lord of House Velaryon, The Sea Snake is said to be richer than the Lannisters and having the largest navy in its fictional world.
Who is directing the series?
Besides George R.R. Martin, Ryan Condal is credited as a co-creator.
HBO said that Condal will join Miguel Sapochnik as showrunner. Sapochnik has previously directed six Game of Thrones episodes. He has won Emmy awards for his direction and producing the show.
Other directors include Clare Kilner of The Wedding Date fame, Geeta V. Patel of The Witcher fame and Greg Yaitanes of House. Yaitanes also serves as co-executive producer.
Martin, Condal, Sapochnik are also the executive producers along with Vince Gerardis, Sara Lee Hess and Ron Schmidt.
Music for the series has been composed by Emmy award winner Ramin Djawadi, who is best known for the illustrious soundtrack of the Game of Thrones.
(Main image: HBO; Featured image: Screenshot/HBO Max/YouTube)