Brent Simon brings us his House of Dragon SDCC coverage right here on Back to the Movies.
The long shadow of the zeitgeist smash hit that was Game of Thrones, based on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice novels, fell over the participants of a special panel for the new TV show House of the Dragon on Saturday, July 23, at San Diego Comic-Con.
After all, HBO’s aforementioned globe-straddling fantasy series, which ran from 2011 to 2019, was critically lauded and also responsible for pulling many millions of heretofore genre-hesitant viewers into the fantasy realm.
It was then loudly pilloried by some, however, for its perceived failure to stick the landing in its final run of episodes — leading to a reputational muddying of the water which has left some previously devoted hardcore fans skeptical about this impending prequel series.
To their credit, though, the cast and crew of House of the Dragon didn’t shy away from that complicated relationship with viewers, as well as readers of Martin’s books. “There’s a massive pressure to give (fans) what they want, but to also make it different and put our own stamp on it” acknowledged Olivia Cooke, who appeared in person alongside fellow actors Paddy Considine, Matt Smith, Emma D’Arcy, Steve Toussaint, Fabien Frankel, Eve Best, Milly Alcock, and Emily Carey. “We’re so grateful for what came before, and we just hope that this has the same legacy.”
Based on 2018’s Blood & Fire, the series — whose 10-episode first season will debut on August 21 — is set two hundred years before the events of Game of Thrones, chronicling the beginning of the end of the House Targaryen, and the events leading up to and encompassing a period of bloody conflict known as the “Dance of the Dragons.”
At the time of the new show, the Targaryens are still thriving, with a stable of 17 dragons. Yet King Viserys (Considine) finds himself struggling to maintain stability in his kingdom. Burdened by the weight of a great secret, he is beset by questions of established (or potentially reshuffled) succession — in particular a firstborn child, dragon-riding daughter Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (D’Arcy and Alcock), who expects to become the Seven Kingdoms’ first queen regnant, and a headstrong younger brother, Prince Daemon Targaryen (Smith), with his own thirst for power. “We begin at the absolute pinnacle of this dynasty’s wealth and influence — it’s just before the bloom starts to come off the rose,” said executive producer Ryan J. Condal.
House of the Dragon filmed last year mostly in the United Kingdom, in the midst of a COVID lockdown, but Martin quipped that he didn’t have the opportunity to spend much time on set, owing to “this book that I’m writing (The Winds of Winter) that’s a little late.”
In addition to exploring new Westeros worlds like Driftmark, a Blackwater Bay island near Dragonstone that serves as the seat of House Velaryon, the series will of course unpack all manner of simmering political rivalries, including that between Prince Daemon and Ser Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), the Hand of the King and father of Lady Alicent Hightower. For Cooke, who shares this latter role with the young Carey, the ability to track characters over such a considerable length of time affords viewers a rewarding experience, revealing shifting and potentially unexpected motivations. “She’s so multifaceted, there’s so many layers to her,” said Cooke of her character. “I’ve never had the freedom to create a whole human being quite like this before.”
For fans of Game of Thrones, less than a month remains before those words get put to the test.
by Brent Simon