Think how alarming stumbling upon the House of the Dragon on Rightmove would be. Or Airbnb. A house to strike fear into the hearts of postmen, door-to-door salesmen and trick-or-treaters. But here comes the first teaser for the new spin-off from HBO’s fantasy colossus Game of Thrones – to answer, we hope, questions left lingering after the main series wrapped up in 2019. Like, do the Westeros branches of Pets at Home stock “Beware of dragons” signs? And to introduce Europe to HBO’s very own streaming service, HBO Max.
Not that the only purpose of the House of the Dragon is to shift subs. There’s also a hope that it will eradicate the sour taste left in the mouths of a fanbase so incensed by the main show’s final season (though in truth, the rot had begun at least a season prior) that thousands turned to Change.org in an attempt to get the final season rewritten and reshot. Petty and entitled this may well have been. But it was bobbins. So much so that some of the cast came close to signing the petition themselves.
“Gods. Kings. Fire. And blood,” says Matt Smith as Prince Daemon Targaryen on the voiceover to the trailer. Given this is a series which digs into the powerful Targaryen dynasty (riffing on the events of GRRM’s 2018 novel Fire & Blood, specifically the Targaryen civil war), some 200 years before we ever got to meet Jon, Cersei and Daenerys, it’s feasible that Matt’s VO could have been punctuated with “and incest”. But let’s not dwell on that too much for the time being. Here be dragons!
Except there’s not, give or take a few roars, a skull and flashes of fire. They didn’t want to blow their load too quickly, perhaps – and with 17 dragons said to be in the forthcoming series, perhaps that’s wise. We also get to see Daemon’s niece/future wife Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy, last seen in Amazon Prime’s cruelly cancelled Truth Seekers) – we think, in Blackwater Bay on Dragonstone, the seat of House Targaryen in Westeros from the days of Aegon the Conqueror. Much of the series will hang around their icky romance.
We see the lapels of Otto Hightower (played by Rhys Ifans), the Hand of the King to Jaehaerys I, and later Viserys (played by the enduringly affable Paddy Considine). Otto is the nemesis of Daemon and is obsessed with securing a path to the throne for his daughter Alicent (played by Olivia Cooke). So far, so backstabby. And there’s a glimpse of what we presume to be Blackfyre, one of House Targaryen’s great steel swords, and the former weapon of one Aegon the Conqueror. Later we see the sword Dark Sister, which belonged to Aegon’s sister/wife Visenya, later passing to Daemon. If you like that sort of thing, the Targaryen weaponry and armour looks sick. Even later, we see what we think is the catspaw dagger, which Arya Stark uses to kill the Night King (thanks to Sam Tarly being a boffin at the Citadel, we know it’s a weapon that’s linked to the Targaryens).
Perhaps most exciting is the appearance of Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint – last seen in Russell T. Davies It’s A Sin), also known as the Sea Snake. The Velaryons are a house, like the Targaryens, that originated in Valyria. We know from the book that Corlys marries Rhaenys, the Queen Who Never Was, and the granddaughter of Jaehaerys (played by Eve Best). It’s rumoured that HBO are developing a series that tells the story of his naval exploits. We also see one of Daemon’s lovers, Lady Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno), his “Mistress of Whisperers”. So far so scheming.
We see some jousting – and a big banner for House Tarly. We see one for the Starks too, though we don’t imagine they’ll be prominent for much of the series. It’s a long time, in the known chronology, before they come anywhere near King’s Landing. And there is, of course, a glimpse of the Iron Throne. Not quite the giant, gnarly, nightmare contraption of George R. R Martin’s books, but closer than what we know. We also know, by the way, that over in Dorne they have cushions. There’s a business opportunity there for anyone who wants to ferry comfort across the sea.
Are we excited about the new series? We are. And we’re not alone – at the time of writing, the teaser has been viewed more than six million times, while less than 10 per cent of ratings on YouTube are negative. There’s also no involvement of the much-maligned David Benioff and D.B. Weiss duo, who helmed the original show. The House of the Dragon showrunners are instead Ryan J. Condal (who created the much under-appreciated sci-fi drama Colony) and Miguel Sapochnik, who won an Emmy Award for directing standout Thrones season six episode Battle of the Bastards, so there are people involved here who are both competent and know what the show felt like at it’s very best.
Most importantly, with House of the Dragon being adapted from an already-completed George R. R. Martin work, this time around, nobody is flying blind.