When the Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon premieres late next month, it has two big hurdles to overcome. One, it has to carry on a very popular brand, with a whole new cast and different showrunners. Two, a lot of people did not like the way Game of Thrones ended. Are those involved in House of the Dragon aware of these two issues? You betcha.
In a splashy new look at the show by Entertainment Weekly, showrunners and actors alike are very open about the pressure they’re under to deliver something as rich and rewarding as the show that started it all.
“We have to come out of the box with a greater resource pool than David and [D.B.] did when they were starting Game of Thrones,” says co-showrunner Ryan Condal. “They had to build an audience and earn it. We’re standing on the shoulders of giants”
“My tactic is called, ‘Don’t think about it,'” says Emma D’Arcy, who plays Princess Rhaenyra Targarys, an ancestor of Daenerys and fam and heir to the Iron Throne. “At the moment, we’re in quite a special place. None of it is in the ether yet, and no one knows who I am.”
Olivia Cooke, who plays Rhaenyra’s best friend Alicent Hightower, actually jokes (or not) that she hopes House won’t be as big as its predecessor. “I love my life, and I love the anonymity that I’ve managed to hold onto, even after having a decade’s worth of credits,” she says. “But I am excited for people to see all the hard work that everyone’s done because, God, people slogged for a year, and it is f*cking great.”
How is Team House of the Dragon hoping to win hearts and minds? Partly by listening to fan feedback and correcting what they didn’t like. For instance, Game of Thrones was regularly criticized for how it treated its female characters. That inspired the show’s writers to put women front and center, having it revolve around Rhaenyra and Alicent as Westeros is torn apart. “Their relationship is at the center of a chasm that threatens to tear Westeros apart,” writes EW, “for reasons that are already clear to book readers.”
There’s also more of another aspect that was thin on the ground the first time around: dragons. As per EW:
Just about every Targaryen has their own to mount, a stark contrast to Thrones, which saw Daenerys as one of the last remaining Targaryens and dragons virtually extinct. “I wanted to tell a story about the height of Rome before the fall and see the Targaryen dynasty at its very apex so that we can understand the thing that was lost when it all fell apart,” Condal explains.
Anyway, even if you feel House of the Dragon falls short of its mothership show, at least there be dragons. The show premieres on HBO on August 21.