‘House Of The Dragon’ Showrunner On S2: It’s ‘Nuclear War’ With Dragons

It’s been nearly two years since House of the Dragon graced our screens but showrunner Ryan Condal and company are wasting no time tossing audiences back into the thick of what’s been billed as the bloodiest war in George R.R. Martin’s canon.

“We’re moving from one tragedy to the next,” Condal tells UPROXX of the pace of season two, hoping to set expectations early on for just how deep the show is prepared to dive into Martin’s Fire & Blood novel. If HotD’s initial outing made dramatic work of setting the board, its follow-up is primed to move its main players with dizzying speed. In the first four episodes provided to critics, armies are raised, assassinations are attempted, power transfers are made, and bodies burned. Each episode is an exercise in cause and effect, chaos, catastrophe, and consequence as Emma D’Arcy’s chosen heir hunts the crown that was promised, foiled at turns by enemies familiar and foreign as the show makes good use of its supporting cast (Matt Smith, Olivia Cooke, Eve Best, and Rhys Ifans are unsurprisingly brilliant but Tom Glynn-Carney, Ewan Mitchell, Phia Saban, and Harry Collett easily embrace bigger responsibilities this time around.)

In Martin’s world, dragons have always been the draw, but more and more, HotD seems to understand the real thrill of a dynastical fall happens on the ground, not in the air.

UPROXX spoke with Condal about plotting the show’s highly anticipated season two, the criticisms of season one he took to heart, and why Daemon Targaryen apologists have their work cut out for them.

One of the criticisms of season one was the lighting of specific scenes. Did you make any changes to the look of the show for season two?

The only thing I want to be too dark on the show is the mood. Yeah, we did take that to heart. Making a season of television is a collaborative effort. There are a lot of voices in that mix and there are different voices in the aesthetic mix when you’re trying to create the visual look of a show in season one. There are things that I heard from the audience and I don’t disagree with certain things. That was definitely something that was on our minds, on HBO’s minds. We went into season two making sure that the beautiful things — the costumes that we’ve made and the sets that have been built and the performances, we want to be able to see them in all the glory that they deserve to be seen in.

Were you surprised by the fan reactions to certain characters in season one?

I mean, look, Matt Smith has charisma for days, but I was just surprised at how many people out there are willing to make excuses for Daemon’s awful behavior. I think that speaks to Matt’s amazing portrayal of the character and the character that George wrote, that we adapted for TV. He’s fascinating and you just want to see what he’s going to do next. I’m ready to hear all the support for Daemon and his war crimes.

This season feels a bit like The Cold War but with dragons. How did you find balance between the action fans expect and the character-focused work that made season one so interesting?

You’re trying to move the story forward and what is the thing that moves the narrative ahead? Oftentimes in a war, it is tragedy. Medieval war moves very slow. We have these armies who are spread all over this continent who now have to raise arms, get on the march and make their way to King’s Landing in order to either challenge or defend the throne, depending on which side you’re on. Dragons of course move much faster. But as you pointed out, this is kind of a nuclear cold war where, ‘Yes, I have a dragon, but if I launch it, I know that it could result in my kingdom getting burned down. I have to be very careful about how I deploy those things.’ So you’re seeing a lot of very tense character machinations as people are stressing and straining over those council tables, trying to figure out the strategic moves that they can make to pick things off and to gather banners and strength in a way that isn’t risking the crown. They’re trying to build to a critical mass where either their power is undeniable and the other side has to surrender, or where they can just, by brute force, have enough people and dragons to either defend or take the throne.

In terms of where the season is going as a whole, are there any chapters from the book that we’re going to be spending a lot of time in?

I mean, certainly we’re following the narrative as laid out in Fire and Blood. I would say I’m very interested, very excited for the audience to see Daemon’s story in the River Lands. That story is only covered in a couple of lines in the book. So we had to create a story for him there, and I’m very proud of the one that we did. And I think it’s really compelling because it’s a great external challenge for Daemon in trying to raise the largest army of an undeclared host in the Seven Kingdoms. And the internal story that he experiences there, which I won’t talk about, is a fascinating one and really lets Matt Smith shine as an actor.

‘House Of The Dragon’ season 2 premieres Sunday, June 16 on HBO.