A great number of prequels have risen and died in the three years since Game of Thrones came to an uneasy conclusion, but one has survived the long night of HBO pre-production: House of the Dragon, from co-creators George R.R. Martin and Ryan Condal. (Miguel Sapochnik, who directed a number of Game of Thrones episodes, including the fan favorite “The Battle of the Bastards,” serves as show-runner alongside Condal.) And now, its late-summer debut looms.

After a night as long and dark as anything the Night’s Watch ever faced, we received a full-length trailer this summer. Streaming above, and featuring stunning shots of battles, King’s Landing, and airborne dragons, the clip tees up the central conflict of the series: the battle for succession to the Iron Throne, which plays out between Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen and Prince Daemon Targaryen. Traditionalists aren’t ready to see a woman take the Iron Throne, but Rhaenyra is bound and determined to “create a new order” from the back of her dragon. Meanwhile, members of Houses Stark, Velaryon, Lannister, and Baratheon plot against those in power, but the Targaryens have unmatched firepower.

Ready to get your dragon on? Buckle up for everything we know about the show thus far, including what we learned from House of the Dragon‘s Hall H panel at San Diego Comic-Con this year.

What Did We Learn at House of the Dragon’s Comic-Con presentation?

Saturday’s House of the Dragon panel kicked off with the extended trailer for the series, which showed a whole lot of Game of Thrones-y antics: the (then-) latest and greatest battle for the Iron Throne, a longer tease of the battle for succession at the show’s center, and a look at the time “when dragons ruled as one.” This included, yes, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it teases of the dragons. As for the panel itself, Matt Smith, Steve Toussaint, and Olivia Cooke kept up a pretty non-spoilery conversation about the making of the series.

Of course, Martin showed up, too, revealing that he’s already seen nine of House of the Dragon‘s 10 episodes. The verdict? “I’m very happy,” he quipped. (We all know the guy is never shy to speak his mind.) Oh, if you were curious—because we know you are—House of the Dragon‘s cast revealed who spoke the best High Valyrian. It’s none other than Rhaenyra Targaryen herself, Milly Alcock. Our favorite moment, for what it’s worth is when a fan grabbed a microphone to ask a question and blurted, “Hey, Matt, it’s Morbin’ time!”

When Is the House of the Dragon‘s Release Date?

House of the Dragon‘s ten episode season will begin on August 21, 2022. It’ll go head-to-head with another fantasy juggernaut, Amazon’s The Rings of Power, landing on September 2. Two fantasy series enter the streaming thunder-dome—who will win?

Who Is in the House of the Dragon Cast?

A lot of people, but don’t expect to find anyone to root for in this cast of characters. Martin warned that there won’t be fan favorites like Game of Thrones had, telling The Hollywood Reporter, “It’s powerful, it’s visceral, it’s dark, it’s like a Shakespearean tragedy. There’s no Arya—a character everybody’s going to love. They’re all flawed. They’re all human. They do good things. They do bad things. They’re driven by lust for power, jealousy, old wounds—just like human beings. Just like I wrote them.” Nonetheless, these new characters sound pretty interesting. In the official press materials, HBO describes them as follows:

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.

house of the dragon

Emma D’Arcy stars as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen.

OLLIE UPTON/HBO

Matt Smith as Prince Daemon Targaryen

The 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…

house of the dragon

Matt Smith as Prince Daemon Targaryen.

OLLIE UPTON/HBO

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.

house of the dragon

Steve Toussaint as Lord Corlys Velaryon and Eve Best as Princess Rhaenys Targaryen.

OLLIE UPTON/HBO

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

house of the dragon

Olivia Cooke as Allicent Hightower.

OLLIE UPTON/HBO

In an interview with Collider, Cooke revealed key clues about what to expect from Alicent Hightower, saying, “She’s very complex and I think people are going to want to see the worst in her.” Collider notes that Alicent’s familial relationships will likely undergird much of the show’s dramatic architecture, given that she is married to King Viserys I Targaryen, which makes her stepmother to Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen. Alicent wants the throne for her sons, while Princess Rhaenyra wants it for herself, setting up a battle for the ages.

Cooke believes it will “take some time” for viewers to understand Alicent’s motivations. “What’s amazing about Game of Thrones, like we saw in the past series, is that one season, you hate a character, and the next, you absolutely love them and will go to the ends of the earth for them,” Cooke said. “You just don’t know what you’re gonna get with these characters. They’re so well-written. Such is the human condition, you can do some horrendous things, but then you can also do some wonderful things as well. It’s very complex, and it’s not black and white at all.”

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.

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Steve Toussaint as Lord Corlys Velaryon, The Sea Snake

HBO

The cast also includes Sonoya Mizuno as Mysaria, Paddy Considine as King Viserys I Targaryen, and Eve Best as Princess Rhaenya Velaryon. Deadline announced seven more cast members and brief descriptions of their characters, including Ryan Corr as Ser Harwin ‘Breakbones’ Strong, said to be the strongest man in the Seven Kingdoms. Jefferson Hall will play twins: Lord Jason Lannister, lord of Casterly Rock, and Ser Tyland Lannister, a calculating politician. David Horovitch will play Grand Maester Mellos, a trusted advisor to King Viserys. Graham McTavish joins the cast as Ser Harrold Westerling, a distinguished member of the Kingsguard. Gavin Spokes will play Lord Lyonel Strong, Master of Laws to King Viserys, while Matthew Needham will portray his son, Larys Strong. Bill Patterson will play Lord Lyman Beesbury, Master of Coin, a court role fans will remember well from the Littlefinger days.

Who’s the Creative Team?

Miguel Sapochnik and Ryan Condal will serve as show-runners, while Martin, Vince Gerardis, Sara Lee Hess and Ron Schmidt will executive produce. But don’t look to see D.B. Weiss and David Benioff in the credits—the original Game of Thrones showrunners have no plans to return in any capacity, perhaps because they’re busy ruining another literary adaptation for Netflix, The Three-Body Problem (too soon?).

Game of Thrones and Westworld composer Ramin Djawadi will return to score the series.

What Is House of the Dragon About, and What Do the Trailers Reveal?

Adapted from Martin’s Targaryen history book Fire & Blood, House of the Dragon is set 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones. The show will focus on an infamous event in Westeros history known as the Dance of the Dragons. This is a civil war that took place between siblings Aegon II and Rhaenyra over the throne after the death of their father Viserys I. The war pit all of Westeros against itself, with other houses such as the Starks and Lannisters joining either side. Many of House Targaryen’s powerful dragons perished—and soon afterward would go extinct until Daenerys Targaryen would hatch three eggs hundreds of years later.

“Nobody alive in this story has ever seen a war or a meaningful conflict,” Condal tells EW. “Yes, there have been skirmishes and tournaments, but we’re living in this society based on conflicts for power. We’re watching a period of time where every man has been trained for battle since birth, but battle doesn’t happen. That pent-up energy leaks out between the cracks and starts to wear on itself where you almost need the release of war in order to keep the whole thing from boiling over.” We glimpse bits and pieces of all this action in House of the Dragon‘s extended trailer, with some classic, GOT-style sword-fighting, jousting, and dramatically running down long hallways.

How Will House of the Dragon Be Different From Game of Thrones?

Glad you asked. Even though House of the Dragon is a prequel with a different agenda, the creative team still wants it to feel of the Game of Thrones world. As Sapochnik told The Hollywood Reporter, “I think we were very respectful of what the original show is. It wasn’t broken so we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. House of the Dragon has its own tone that will evolve and emerge over the course of the show. But first, it’s very important to pay respects and homage to the original series, which was pretty groundbreaking. We’re standing on the shoulders of that show and we’re only here because of that show.”

Despite wanting to honor their roots, the House of the Dragon team isn’t looking to make a carbon copy of Game of Thrones. That’s good news for fans, who can expect something both similar and surprising. “That said, we can’t say, ‘Well, when we did Thrones, we did it this way…,'” Sapochnik continued. “If you start every sentence with that, you’ve lost. This is something else, and should be something else. It’s a different crew, different people, different tone. Hopefully it will be seen as something else. But it will have to earn that — it won’t happen overnight. Hopefully fans will enjoy it for the thing that it is. We’ll be lucky if we ever come close to what the original show was, so we’re just putting our heads down and getting on with it and hoping what we come up with is worthy of having a Game of Thrones title.”

Smith echoed Sapochnik’s comments, describing the challenge of approaching existing storytelling from a new angle as “throwing some paint at the wall and see what sticks.” He went on to highlight how chasing the high of Game of Thrones is a futile endeavor, saying, “We’re trying to make a show that’s entertaining on lots of different levels and has a similar scope and ambition to the previous show, in many respects. But obviously, you’re never going to be able to re-create the success of Game of Thrones, because that was a very particular point in time. It was its own unique entity.”

Just as the show takes a different approach to its source material, it may even improve upon it. Martin hinted as much, writing on his blog, “For years, as some of you may recall, I have been saying the TV version of Shae, as portrayed by Sibel Kekilli, was a deeper, richer, and more nuanced characters than the Shae in my novels. In a similar vein, I am vastly impressed by the show’s version of King Viserys, played by Paddy Considine, who gives the character a tragic majesty that my book Viserys never quite achieved. Kudos to Paddy, Ryan and his writers, and Miguel and the other directors.” We love a guy with humility.

House of the Dragon‘s showrunners have also sought to right some of Game of Thrones’ original sins—namely, its lack of diversity and its shoddy treatment of female characters. House of the Dragon has reimagined the powerful Velaryon family as wealthy Black rulers marked by flowing silver dreadlocks. According to Condal, Martin toyed with this depiction of the Velaryons while writing the series, envisioning them as Black conquerors who came to Westeros from the far west. “It was very important for Miguel and I to create a show that was not another bunch of white people on the screen,” Condal said. “We wanted to find a way to put diversity in the show, but we didn’t want to do it in a way that felt like it was an afterthought or, worse, tokenism.”

For the first time ever, female characters are at the forefront of the show, and the story plans to confront gender inequities head-on. In the trailer, Princess Rhaenys Targaryen turns to her niece, Princess Rhaenyra, and says, “Men would sooner put the realm to the torch than see a woman ascend the Iron Throne.” Eve Best, who plays Princess Rhaenys, said of the show, “Effectively, it’s about the disillusionment of the patriarchy, of this system that has been going and going for hundreds and hundreds of years.”

Game of Thrones was always known for its incredible production value, but House of the Dragon is poised to take its production to the next level with new technology. The prequel will use new virtual production stage technology to create the perfect settings for its scenes, as exemplified in an image of a virtual cave set. A leaked on-set photo from a crew member (view it on Reddit here) offers another glimpse of the virtual stage—this time, it’s a big blue sky, which would look mighty fine with some dragons soaring through it.

What Does the Original Cast Think?

As for the OG Game of Thrones cast, the departure from what’s familiar is bittersweet for them, too. Kit Harington, who played Jon Snow, noted that there would be just enough similarity in tone for him to feel FOMO. “I think to see people get into outfits and costumes, that resemble what we wore for all those years, and it [has] the same music and style and tone, but not be in it… there’s going to be a rawness there,” Harington told Insider. “Of course, I’m going to watch it and I’m going to support Miguel [Sapochnik], who’s helming the show. I wish them all the best, but it’s so close to my heart, that story, that of course, there might be a bit of pain there.”

But Peter Dinklage, who played Tyrion Lannister, is happy to sit back and experience House of the Dragon as a spectator. “I think the trick is not to try to recreate Thrones,” Dinklage said. “If you try to recreate it, that feels like a money grab. With a lot of sequels, the reason for them is that the first one made a lot of money, which is why they aren’t as strong. But I am excited to watch the House of the Dragon, purely as a viewer, not knowing what will happen next.”

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who played Jamie Lannister, thinks House of the Dragon has its work cut out for it:

It’s a very different show. It’s its own show. I just hope it’s great. I hope the success of Game of Thrones won’t get in the way for people when they experience this new show. For us, it took a while for people to get into Game of Thrones. I remember the first season, people were saying, ‘There are too many characters. I don’t know what’s going on!’ I don’t think they have the luxury we had. They have to start with where we were in Season Four or Five, because that’s what they will be compared to. But I really hope that it’s a massive hit for them.

John Bradley, who played Samwell Tarley, is ready to enjoy the Game of Thrones universe from his couch, for a change, but echoes his co-stars’ comments about bittersweetness:

It’s going to be very strange. It’s a bit like when you move house, and you go back to your old house. You see other people have moved in and what they’ve done with it and the way they’ve changed it. It’s going to be a strange experience, but it’s going to be a happy experience. I’m so happy to see that universe expanding.

And it’s in great hands with Miguel Sapochnik, who did so many of our great episodes of the show. So, I think it’s going to be a bittersweet experience. But I really hope it does well, because there’s so much potential for that universe to expand in all sorts of directions. Miguel is the right man to do it. Great cast there, Matt Smith and so many other fun people, so I think it’s going to be great. But there’s going to be a tinge of sadness that none of us are involved, I think.

What’s Going On with the Other Game of Thrones Spinoffs?

After Game of Thrones ended, HBO went all-in on a number of spin-offs. In Tinderbox: HBO’s Ruthless Pursuit of New Frontiers, a new oral history, Martin remembers the moment when HBO creatives swarmed his IP:

I suddenly found out that they had put four prequels in motion. The Dance of the Dragons idea was just one of them. And the other three were ideas that had come from other people who I guess had read my books or had some of the documents at HBO. They didn’t like the Dunk and Egg idea because they were familiar with the novellas—somebody there had read them—but it was too soft, but they did respond to the Dance of the Dragons idea. It surprised me, I’ll admit that. I’d never heard of that before. I thought we’d be going ahead with one, with one development, with the one that I pitched to them, the Dance of the Dragons idea. I met with all four of the writers. They came to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I lived, and I had meetings with them, discussed their idea, did workshops, tried to fill them in on any questions and all that.

What Martin refers to as “the Dance of the Dragons idea” is, we now know, House of the Dragon. As for “the Dunk and Egg idea,” that’s The Tales of Dunk and Egg, one of many spin-offs floating in the development ether. Now, in a new post at his blog, Martin offered an update on this sea of spin-offs. Rome showrunner Bruno Heller is currently writing the pilot for The Sea Snake (formerly called Nine Voyages), a series about Corlys Velaryon, the greatest seafarer in the Seven Kingdoms. Ten Thousand Ships, the story of warrior queen Nymeria, is moving forward with Amanda Segel as showrunner; Segel has delivered a few draft scripts, Martin reports. The Tales of Dunk and Egg may soon fly under a different name, as creatives are batting around A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms and The Hedge Knight, according to Martin (The Hedge Knight would make sense, as Martin confirms that Season One will be an adaptation of the same-titled novella).

As for the animated series (which Martin reveals will run on HBO Max, not HBO), one will take place in a landscape we never visited during the original television series: the Golden Empire of Yi Ti, also known as simply Yi Ti. Located on the continent of Essos, near the south-eastern limits of the known world, Yi Ti is considered one of the oldest and most advanced realms in Martin’s fantasy sandbox. Inspired by imperial China, the region had only a brief reference in the television show, when Lord Varys famously sailed to Yi Ti. This will be called The Golden Empire, Martin reveals.

If you’re wondering when Martin finds the time to work on all these spinoffs while finishing the Game of Thrones novels, you’re not alone. In fact, the author seems a little salty about it. “Yes, of course I am still working on The Winds of Winter,” Martin writes on his blog. “I have stated that a hundred times in a hundred venues, having to restate it endlessly is just wearisome.” As he finishes the novels and presides over the on-screen adaptations like an elder statesman, it sounds like the author is thinking about his legacy. “Sometimes I sit around trying to figure out who the hell I am in this whole scenario,” he said in a new interview.” Am I George Lucas? Am I Gene Roddenberry? Am I Stan Lee? How do I relate to this IP? Because those are three different stories as to where they wound up—which would you want to be? I don’t know. Not Stan Lee at the end. He had no power, no influence. He wasn’t writing any stories. He couldn’t say, ‘Don’t do this character.’ He was just a friendly person they brought to conventions and who did cameos. To be sidelined on the world and characters that you created, that would be tough.” You hear that, HBO? Martin will not go quietly into that good night.

Game of Thrones hive, we have a lot to look forward to. Watch this space for updates as we continue to learn more.

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