S1 ‘House of the Dragon’: sets the stage for a Targaryen civil war for the iron throne


Ollie Upton | HBO | Warner Media

Daniel Li

Family drama, political feuds and dragons took over HBO Max on Sunday evenings for ten weeks.

The long-anticipated series, “House of the Dragon,” which was announced in 2019, teleported fans back to Westeros while inviting new viewers to come along on this journey.

As a prequel to “Game of Thrones”, the writers’ team and showrunners, Miguel Sapochnik and Ryan Condal, were tasked to adapt George R. R. Martin’s novel, “Fire and Blood.” The book consists of biased views and hearsay about the Targaryen civil war, which Sapochnik and Condal turned into a show that told the story objectively.

Attempting to stay faithful to the text, there are two significant time jumps, one after episode five and the other after episode seven. The first jump consists of a decade as the younger actors, Milly Alcock and Emily Carey, who play Rhaenyra and Alicent respectively, depart while the older actors, Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke,  take the artistic reins. The second jump consists of six years in which the actors that play the children get swapped for their teenage versions.

The lightning-fast pace is not safe from criticism as fans complained about the lack of time or depth to connect to the characters which did not happen during the first season of  “Game of Thrones.”

That is a valid critique; however, these shows are based on different source materials. The inspiration for “Game of Thrones” is the novels in Martin’s series, “A Song of Ice and Fire.” These books narrate the story in the third person omniscient as they display a set journey for each character. Readers understand their motives and have a holistic view of the fantasy world.

On the other hand, “Fire and Blood” is set as a history book about the Targaryen family, where there are several perspectives on one event. The purpose of the show is to explain the start of the downfall of the Targaryens during the so-called “Dance of the Dragons.” To even get to that point, the backstory is needed, which does include several time-jumps to get to the main dance. Season one covers this backstory.

Dragons make their return on TV as they define the power and strength of House Targaryen. In “Game of

Thrones,” there were only three of them left — Viserion, Rhaegal, and Drogon — as their mother, Daenerys Targaryen, brought them out of extinction with blood magic. All three dragons are the same species.

“House of the Dragon” is set to introduce 17 to 19  dragons from three different species as teased at Comic-Con by Condal. One of the dragons, Caraxes, can be set apart as a fourth species due to its genetic deformities.

As fans get to see the variety of dragons, they begin to question the origins of Daenerys’s dragons. From “Fire and Blood,” it is understood that the eggs belonged to Dreamfyre, a silver and blue beast over a hundred years old. She will play a bigger role in the story.

The first season debuted the art of dragon keeping and the dragon keepers who spoke High Valyrian.

According to Sapochnik, he said that the dragon keepers have “been around for thousands of years…They just treat the dragons like deities and really big horses and they do everything for dragons.”

By the time of Daenerys, the secrets of dragon keeping cease to exist due to the extinction of the dragons. Alone in the world after bringing dragons back from extinction, she rides Drogon, without a saddle which is seen extensively throughout the new show. Viewers understand the detrimental effect the upcoming civil war will have on Daenerys’s ancestors and can feel sympathy as it leaves her without any knowledge of how to control her dragons.

The new show also takes long-time fans of Martin’s series back to familiar locations before they were abandoned. The dragon pit from “Game of Thrones” which is about two centuries in the future looks nothing like the one in “House of the Dragon.” An old crumbled structure is shown as a furnished piece of architecture meant to house dragons. Even a subtle detail like the painted table map at Dragonstone is different. The table glows with the heat of candles which is not seen two centuries later with Stannis Baratheon and Daenerys.

As the tension between the factions reaches a boiling point, season two is promised to be more dramatic and exhilarating as the dance begins.