Whether you have watched Game of Thrones or not, you are most likely familiar with the cultural spectacle that was the shows’ final season and the fan reaction towards the season. In short, it is generally agreed upon among fans that the final season of Game of Thrones was at best a disappointment and at worst a disaster. Among other things, the show has been widely criticized for setting the character of Daenerys up to be a just ruler in contrast to the other dictatorial rulers of the realm only to have her descend into villainy in the span of several episodes.
Despite the negative reception towards Game of Thrones’ final season, it was announced in October 2019, only five months after the end of the show that HBO would be putting out a Game of Thrones prequel entitled House of the Dragon. The prequel will follow the Targaryen family 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones. House of the Dragon is based on George R.R. Martin’s book “Fire and Blood”, a companion book to the A Song of Ice and Fire series which the Game of Thrones show was based on. “Fire and Blood” is not a narrative novel, like A Song of Ice and Fire, but instead explains the history of House Targaryen.
House of the Dragon represents a new start for the Game of Thrones franchise, and many fans are hopeful that the series will not let them down in the same way that Game of Thrones did. Much of this hope is derived from the fact that House of the Dragon has a different pair of showrunners than Game of Thrones. The previous series was written by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, colloquially known as “D & D”, who were once critically lauded but have now fallen from grace after the final season of “Thrones.”
The showrunners of House of the Dragon are Miguel Sapochnik and Ryan Condal. Sapochnik and Condal both bring impressive resumes as well as a connection to Game of Thrones to the table. Sapochnik directed numerous episodes of Game of Thrones including “The Battle of the Bastards” and “The Winds of Winter”, two fantastic episodes. Condal, most well-known for writing the sci-fi series Colony, is actually a personal friend of George R. R. Martin. Martin was, in fact, the one who recommended Condal for the job of showrunner to House of the Dragon.
Sapochnik and Condal also seem to understand that they are building upon an imperfect story. “Thrones” was heavily and consistently criticized throughout its run for not being racially diverse enough and for depicting graphic sexual violence against women. In these ways, at least, Sapochnik and Condal have consciously decided to take their show in a different direction.
Ryan Condal told Entertainment Weekly that “It was very important for Miguel and I to create a show that was not another bunch of white people on the screen” but they “didn’t want to do it in a way that felt like it was an afterthought or, worse, tokenism.”
The showrunners solution for adding diversity to the show in a genuine capacity is the inclusion of House Velaryons. The Velaryons are black conquerors who came to Westeros from the west and have a claim to the throne through marriage. The series will also feature Sonoya Mizuno as a series regular, an Asian actress known for her work in La La Land, Ex Machina and Crazy Rich Asians.
In another departure from the original series, House of the Dragon will not depict sexual violence onscreen. However, that does not mean that the show will not deal with sexual violence at all. Executive producer Sara Hess told Vanity Fair “I think what our show does, and what I’m proud of, is that we choose to focus on the violence against women that is inherent in a patriarchal system.” Hess also stated, “We handle one instance [of sexual violence] off-screen, and instead show the aftermath and impact on the victim and the mother of the perpetrator.” It appears that House of the Dragon will shine a special light on the topic of sexual assault without portraying it gratuitously onscreen.
The cast of the prequel series will include well-known actors Matt Smith, Olivia Cooke and the previously mentioned Sonoya Mizuno. However, the cast is largely made up of comparatively unknown actors and actresses. One such actress is 22 year old Milly Alcock. While Alcock has plenty of acting credits under her sleeve, House of the Dragon is her first big-name project. Alcock plays Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen and from the trailer, it appears that Rhaenyra will play a prominent role in the series and that Alcock has the acting chops to keep pace with her more prominent co-stars.
House of the Dragon looks quite promising overall, and fans of the original series will surely take pleasure in seeing the same universe that they fell in love with resurrected once more. The show will premiere on August 21st on HBO and HBO Max.
Image Credit: HBO
Editor: Lindsey Neri
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