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House Of The Dragon Guide: All You Need To Know

The premiere of HBO’s Game Of Thrones prequel spinoff House Of The Dragon is almost here. Before the first episode premieres on 22 August 2022, here’s what you need to know about House Of The Dragon:

What Is House Of The Dragon?

From showrunners, Ryan J. Condal and Miguel Sapochnik, and the mighty imagination of George R. R. Martin, comes House of the Dragon, a gripping saga that takes us deep into the extraordinary world of Westeros and explores the Targaryen family – the all-powerful dragon riders who are the seemingly invincible rulers of the Seven Kingdoms some 200 years (172 years) before the events that captivated global audiences in Game of Thrones.

Bitter rivalries, jealousy, lust, the quest for power, and betrayal will tear the Targaryens apart and threaten to destroy a dynasty that has ruled unchallenged for a century.

Condal, co-creator of the series, describes House of the Dragon as a “complex Shakespearean family drama” and adds: “Game of Thrones was very much about multiple families going to war over justice and decency. There was murder and betrayal and all of those things exist here but this is really about the dissolution of one family and that family happens to be the most powerful in the history of Westeros.”

Sapochnik, Condal’s co-showrunner who also directs several episodes of the first season, adds: “Our story begins with the Targaryens in a secure place because they have the dragons – they have the weapons of mass destruction – and as long as they do it’s hard to imagine how anybody can step up to them. They know this but that hubris could be their downfall.”

The story opens with the ailing King Jaehaerys Targaryen, who knows he is about to die, calling together the Great Council at Harrenhal where the heads of the ruling families will vote to decide his successor. Jaehaerys has outlived both of his sons and the Lords must choose between his grandchildren: Rhaenys (Eve Best), the daughter of his oldest son, and her younger cousin, Viserys (Paddy Considine).

“The Targaryens are at the absolute peak of their powers, it’s like Rome at the height of the Empire” says executive producer Jocelyn Diaz. “They have the dragons – and nobody else has dragons – and that means they have the firepower to control the Seven Kingdoms and there is no real external threat. They have fabulous wealth and influence and enjoy a life of opulence. “And then the Lords must choose an heir to Jaehaerys and the Council votes for Viserys even though Rhaenys has the stronger claim – but she’s a woman and they vote for the man.”

Viserys takes the Iron Throne and Rhaenys will forever be known as the Queen Who Never Was.

Says Eve Best who plays Rhaenys, “When they vote, Rhaenys and Viserys are standing there side by side on a podium…in front of the whole court. And they pick the wrong one. Rhaenys has a better claim to the throne – everything about her temperament, her training, her upbringing, means she is the absolute best but she is overlooked because she is a woman.”

Misogyny and the patriarchy closing ranks against a woman will be a recurring theme and eventually cost the realm in blood as years of stability are shattered by warring factions who will try to claim the Iron Throne, igniting a war where weapons of mass destruction – the dragons – are deployed by both sides.

“So our story, in many ways, is about the overthrow of a very, very ancient patriarchy, and that is one of the main things that drew me to the project because that is a story that is very resonant and very important today,” says Best.

Fourteen years after the Great Council, Viserys – a good man, but that doesn’t necessarily make for a great King – is already troubled by thoughts of his own successor. He has a teenage daughter, Princess Rhaenrya (Milly Alcock) but, crucially, no male heir after his Queen, Emma, has suffered a series of miscarriages.

Viserys’ younger brother, the charismatic but violently unpredictable Prince Daemon (Matt Smith), a formidable warrior and legendary dragon rider, is next in line. The prospect of the unstable Daemon as ruler worries not only his older brother but his closest advisors, including Ser Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), the Hand of the King.

“Otto really likes Viserys. He thinks Viserys is a good human being. Viserys is kind, he is compassionate and he is fair but those qualities don’t necessarily make for a good king in this world,” says Ifans. “And Otto understands that more than the King does. Otto understands very well that this is a game. And for any kind of notion of stability to flourish or exist that game must be played, and it must be played ruthlessly. Otherwise it descends into chaos.”

King Viserys is in a difficult position, says Paddy Considine of his character, because he loves his younger brother and is constantly forgiving of his frequent transgressions but he knows, too, that Daemon cannot be trusted to rule Westeros.

“Daemon is unpredictable, he’s like an addict in that you never know what he will do next,” says Considine. “And Viserys becoming King has forced a massive wedge between them.”

Conflict within the family, says Condal, begins to cause fault lines that will have devastating consequences.

“Daemon is heir apparent but Viserys has never officially named him heir. Through a series of mistakes, Daemon insults his brother, and the King’s council manoeuvres to keep him off the throne and exploits Daemon’s recklessness to convince Viserys to disinherit his younger brother and name Rhaenyra as heir. And that is breaking all the tradition that was set by the Great Council when the realm said, ‘no, we don’t want a woman.’”

Rhaenyra’s best friend at court is Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey), daughter of the Hand. The girls have grown up together in the rarefied atmosphere of the royal palace, the Red Keep, and are incredibly close, sharing a bond that feels unbreakable until events – manoeuvred by the men around them – conspire to pit them against each other.

“I think friendship between young girls, between the ages of 12 and 15, is a relationship like no other – you become unimaginably close to your friend and sometimes you can’t tell whether it’s platonic or maybe romantic or whether you are like sisters, it’s one of the most complex dynamics, I think,” says Emily Carey who plays Alicent as a teenager. “It’s also one of the most interesting dynamics to explore as an actor.”

Their friendship is tested when Otto Hightower pushes his teenage daughter into the arms of the grieving King Viserys. “Otto is the King’s Hand. As fans of Game of Thrones will know, the Hand is a loyal adviser and dear to the King,” says Ifans. “Otto is a highly intelligent, highly accomplished political animal with a black belt in statecraft. Anything that is going on in Westeros he knows about, either as it’s happening or before it’s happening or just after it’s happened.”

“So yes, he’s Machiavellian but he’s also a pragmatist. He also has the struggles and doubts that come from being a father in this world and, in a position like his, if it means manipulating his own daughter into a position of power he will do it, whatever the potential cost to their well-being.”

As the rift with her friend deepens, so does Princess Rhaenyra’s bond with her wayward uncle Daemon. “I think Daemon is the man that Rhaenyra wishes she could have been had she been a boy,” says Milly Alcock who plays the young princess. “He’s unpredictable, he doesn’t listen to anyone, he does what he wants and there’s something that’s quite seductive about that for her, about having that
power.

“I think they are kindred spirits, they are both outsiders within a world of suits, within a world of royalty, they are both the outcasts and so they both lean on each other.” That underlying connection will play out, with devastating consequences for the Targaryens, later in the story when Rhaenyra, now in her 20s, is played by Emma D’Arcy, and Alicent by Olivia Cooke.

“There’s a key line of dialogue when Rhaenys, the Queen Who Never Was, says to Rhaenyra ‘men would rather put the realm to the torch than see a woman ascend the Iron Throne.’ And that proves prophetic,” says Jocelyn Diaz.

“That’s what the Targaryens are,” says Matt Smith, “they are a family at war. And that’s a story that happens again and again throughout history. In some ways they are a normal family but in others they are a very strange family – with dragons.”

House Of The Dragon Characters

Paddy Considine as King Viserys Targaryen, chosen by the lords of Westeros to succeed the Old King, Jaehaerys Targaryen, at the Great Council at Harrenhal. A warm, kind, and decent man, Viserys only wishes to carry forward his grandfather’s legacy. But good men do not necessarily make for great kings.

Matt Smith as Prince Daemon Targaryen, younger brother to King Viserys and heir to the throne. A peerless warrior and a dragonrider, Daemon possesses the true blood of the dragon. But it is said that whenever a Targaryen is born, the gods toss a coin in the air…

Olivia Cooke as Alicent Hightower, the daughter of Otto Hightower, the Hand of the King, and the most comely woman in the Seven Kingdoms. She was raised in the Red Keep, close to the king and his innermost circle; she possesses both a courtly grace and a keen political acumen.

Emma D’Arcy as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, the king’s first-born child, she is of pure Valyrian blood, and she is a dragonrider. Many would say that Rhaenyra was born with everything… but she was not born a man.

Steve Toussaint as Lord Corlys Velaryon, “The Sea Snake.” Lord of House Velaryon, a Valyrian bloodline as old as House Targaryen. As “The Sea Snake,” the most famed nautical adventurer in the history of Westeros, Lord Corlys built his house into a powerful seat that is even richer than the Lannisters and that claims the largest navy in the world.

Eve Best as Princess Rhaenys Targaryen, a dragonrider and wife to Lord Corlys Velaryon, “The Queen Who Never Was” was passed over as heir to the throne at the Great Council because the realm favored her cousin, Viserys, simply for being male.

Fabien Frankel as Ser Criston Cole, of Dornish descent, the common-born son of the steward to the Lord of Blackhaven.  Cole has no claim to land or titles; all he has to his name is his honor and his preternatural skill with a sword.

Sonoya Mizuno as Mysaria, who came to Westeros with nothing, sold more times than she can recall.  She could have wilted… but instead she rose to become the most trusted — and most unlikely — ally of Prince Daemon Targaryen, the heir to the throne.

Rhys Ifans as Otto Hightower. The Hand of the King, Ser Otto loyally and faithfully serves both his king and his realm. As the Hand sees it, the greatest threat to the realm is the king’s brother, Daemon, and his position as heir to the throne.

House Of The Dragon Dragons & Dragonkeepers

In total, there will be 17 dragons that will ultimately feature in the story, from Princess Rhaenyra’s Syrax, who swoops and dives like a golden eagle, Prince Daemon’s unpredictable, moody Caraxes to a cantankerous grand old dame called Vhagar, who is, says visual effects supervisor Angus Bickerton, at 130 years old “the size of a 747 aircraft” and the biggest of them all.

As Ryan Condal, co-showrunner explains, the dragons each have their own character. “There is a humanity in the dragons and they form a bond with their riders and they have a connection with them and each has a distinct personality. At the height of our story there will be 17 dragons and you need to be able to differentiate them and identify them by colour, silhouette, size and age.”

Sapochnik adds: “I remember we had a big conversation with George (R. R. Martin) about the dragons where he said ‘please, please can we make the dragons colourful because that’s how I always imagined them, that you could see them from afar, up in the sky, and know exactly which dragon it is.’ And that’s exactly what we’ve tried to do.”

Months before the cameras started rolling Angus Bickerton and his team were hard at work. First, concept artists Constantine Sekeris and Kirill Barybin, were commissioned to design the dragons.

“They are not worrying about skeletons or muscle architecture,” explains Angus. “They are just creating the shapes of the dragons, like sculpting in clay but in the computer. Miguel and Ryan were very involved at every stage in the process, they had great ideas about how the dragons should look – we had ages and character traits that played into it – and there were a couple of rules. One is that a dragon just keeps on growing, the older it is the bigger it is.

So at the end of that process we had a Usual Suspects line up of our dragons ranging from a very junior animal like Arrax, who is Luke Velaryon’s dragon, and is still quite small, up to our grand old dame called Vhagar who is 130 years old. And the older dragons are heavier and baggier – Vhagar is the size of a 747 – and they are struggling to bear their weight. And they have growths on them and they have symbiotic, parasitic creatures living on them. Obviously we referenced a lot of creatures, especially various types of lizard, and we looked at the symbiotic creatures who live on them, and the growths you see on whales when they have barnacles growing on them. All these things were incorporated into the designs of our dragons.”

As always, Sapochnik and Condal would also refer back to George R. R. Martin’s books as they worked with the special effects crew to develop the dragons and flesh out those individual characters.

“There was a certain amount of information that George has written and then there was a certain amount we had to make up along the way. It’s world-building and that’s what we love to do,” says Sapochnik. “And in our world, there are different kinds of dragons: there are workhorse dragons and more canine-like dragons and there are more dinosaur-like dragons. And we had to come up with their backstory too – how dragons live and what happens to them and whether they ever stop growing.”

And we came up with this idea that dragons continue growing until they die and the reason they die is they simply get too big. Our oldest dragon, Vhagar, is like a cantankerous old lady and she’s grumpy.

So it was all about adding character to the dragons all of this is done in the design process and the animation work. For example, Caraxes, who is Prince Daemon’s dragon, is called a blood worm, and she has a deformed, abnormally long body, which presents all sorts of issues in reality of what would happen if that dragon could actually fly because the bottom half would be drooping. So, along with the animators, we had to look at the laws of physics for that one! Eventually, we put little wings on its feet. Caraxes also has a limp and simple things like that immediately give a dragon character.”

In a world with dragons, there must also be those who take care of the dragons. These are the Dragonkeepers in House Of The Dragon.

Sapochnik also said:

“This show really is a family drama and the dragons are for the most part domesticated. It’s 200 years before Game of Thrones and dragons were at their height — they were their weapons of mass destruction and they also used them to ride around. So it was like having a really cool car that had nukes in it. We approach the dragons as we did in the original show, which is they’re not fantasy, they’re large animals.

But we do go a bit further into dragon lore: we have a group called the Dragonkeepers who basically look after dragons. They’ve been around for thousands of years. They’re almost not affiliated to anything. They just treat the dragons like deities and really big horses and they do everything for dragons. They’ve all got dragonglass daggers on them because if they get burned in the line of duty they can cut their own throat. Basically they’re monks, they only speak Valyrian and then each older Dragonkeeper has an acolyte with them who interprets for them and speaks English.

They all wear clothes that have been handed down over generations so they are really dirty. It’s all about mythology but it has inklings of magic. So we’ve kept the magic alive in that sense, in the mythology of fire and ice, but there’s less magic in this show than there was before.”

He also revealed more about the dragons themselves:

“We spent almost a year working with concept artists, designing each dragon. The dragons are connected to their riders and so we wanted them to both have an aspect of them but also be individually unique in their own way.

Daemon’s dragon Caraxes, for example, is like this deformed dragon. Vhagar, who’s the largest dragon in the world is this cantankerous old lady who is the most powerful dragon there is — but really she just wants to sleep. She’s just a grumpy old sod.

Syrax, who is Rhaenyra’s dragon is this slightly kind of eagle-like, built-for-speed dragon. She’s far more twitchy and fidgety and Rhaenyra has carved stuff in her horns, like jewellery.

So there was a chance to play out this idea that the rider and the dragon have this symbiotic relationship. The rider chooses their dragon. And once a rider has chosen they are paired for life until one of them dies.”

Where To Stream Or Watch House Of The Dragon

You can stream or download House Of The Dragon starting from 22 August 2022 on HBO GO by subscribing online here or the mobile app via the App Store or Play Store for RM23.30 per month. You can also access HBO GO via Astro. HBO GO is also available on Android TV, Apple TV, LG TV and Samsung Smart TV – and comes with AirPlay and Google Cast functionality.

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