During its eight-season run from April 2011 to May 2019, the HBO series Game of Thrones commanded huge viewing figures and an international fanbase. After it ended, viewers were clamoring for more, and that wish is now being granted in the form of House of the Dragon, a prequel series that is currently in production.
The story so far
A Song of Ice and Fire is a series of epic fantasy novels based in the imaginary kingdom of Westeros. The author, George RR Martin, had planned the series to be a trilogy, but so far, he’s published five books out of an anticipated seven. Over 90 million copies have been sold worldwide, and the novels have been translated into 45 different languages.
When the books proved immensely popular, HBO approached Martin’s agent in January 2006 to discuss making a series. Martin agreed and the project kicked off in 2007. Eventually, it got to the point where the storyline in the series outpaced the published novels. When that happened, Martin gave the writers (headed by DB Weiss and David Benioff) the plot outlines for the books he had planned but not yet written.
This created the unusual situation that the TV series tied up storylines that had yet to be resolved in the books and eliminated various characters, some of them fan-favorites. While the first six seasons had generally been very well received, the last two earned more dubious feedback. Fans and reviewers thought there were good aspects to season seven but disliked some of the plot developments.
Season eight caused huge controversy. The music, the visual effects, and the actors were all praised, but the writing was torn apart. Some fans were so upset with how the series had turned out that they started a petition on Change.org to get the final season remade with a different writing team.
HBO’s president of programming Casey Bloys responded to the move by saying that “the petition shows a lot of enthusiasm and passion for the show but it wasn’t something we seriously considered.”
What is the House of the Dragon about?
While many fans are distraught that George RR Martin hasn’t written the final books of A Song of Ice and Fire, he has written other books set within that world. One of these, Fire and Blood, was published in 2018. It is set 300 years before the events in Game of Thrones and charts the history of House Targaryen, one of the crucial political players.
Despite being based on an existing book, details of the series’ plot are being kept under wraps. Sources suggest that viewers will get to see a little of how the other houses from Game of Thrones came to power and also how King’s Landing was built. It will likely chart the civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons.
When he wrote Fire and Blood, Martin had planned it to be the first of two books. But following publication in 2018, there has been no indication that a second volume will be arriving on bookshelves anytime soon.
The HBO series was given the go-ahead in October 2019. It is jointly written by Martin and Ryan Condal, with Condal also acting as showrunner alongside Miguel Sapochnik. Fans are delighted at the appointment of Sapochnik who filmed some of the best-received Game of Thrones episodes such as “Battle of the Bastards” and “Hardhome.” Season one of House of the Dragon will have 10 episodes and is currently scheduled to air in 2022.
Casting began in July 2020, and by October, it was announced that Paddy Considine would be playing Viserys I Targaryen. Two months later, Olivia Cooke, Matt Smith, and Emma D’Arcy were all given roles. February 2021 saw Rhys Ifans, Steve Toussaint, Eve Best, and Sonoya Mizuno being added to the cast.
A Twitter channel has been set up specifically to provide updates on this new series. In April 2021, fans were treated to photos of the first cast read-through as well as details of which character each actor will portray.
Paddy’s character of Viserys I Targaryen has been described as “warm, kind, and decent.” Emma D’Arcy will play his daughter, Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, while Matt Smith will play his younger brother, Prince Daemon Targaryen. Sonoya Mizuno has been cast as Mysaria, an ally to Prince Daemon, and Eve Best will be Princess Rhaenys Velaryon.
Rhys Ifans will play the Hand of the King, and Olivia Cooke will be his daughter, Alicent Hightower. Steve Toussaint is playing legendary seafarer Lord Corlys Velaryon (nicknamed The Sea Snake).
Filming began in April 2021, primarily in the U.K., but locations in Spain and California will also be used. Online sources have suggested that Leavesden Studios in Watford (where some of the Harry Potter films were shot) will be a primary set location.
By May 2021, pictures were emerging of the actors on set and in costume. The picture of Matt Smith, who has previously starred in Doctor Who as well as playing Prince Phillip in The Crown, is the one that seems to have created the most excitement. Pictures emerged of him and co-star Emma D’Arcy walking along a Cornish beach.
The controversy of the wig
While fans are excited about the new characters, it seems that Matt Smith’s Targaryen wig has created an unexpected storm on social media.
Back when season seven aired, there was a flashback scene showing Rhaegar Targaryen’s marriage to another character. Fans were certain that the wig worn by the actor was the same one worn by Harry Lloyd when he portrayed Viserys Targaryen in season one. Some fans are now joking that the producers have merely ironed out the same wig so that they can reuse it once again.
But one Twitter feed run by an Emilia Clarke fan had a different theory. @bestofclarkes tweeted that Emilia, who played Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones, allegedly responded to photos by saying it was “glorious” and “trippy” to see her wig everywhere. “That’s why they didn’t give it to me when I left,” she added. “Matt Smith is wearing it.”
NEW 💬 | Emilia Clarke on seeing the Targaryen wigs on ‘House of the Dragon’ pic.twitter.com/xJ5X2yAILw
— best of emilia clarke (@bestofclarkes) June 8, 2021
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Many fans have their fingers crossed that HBO will release more pictures while they await the 2022 premier. In the meantime, those interested in updates can follow the Twitter channels @GameOfThrones and @HouseofDragon for more updates.
For the time being, these exclusive pictures can only serve to whet the appetite of fans who will now be clamoring for more, as well as eagerly awaiting a trailer.