New ‘House of the Dragon’ Details Reveal the Tensions of Pre-‘GoT’ Westeros

What fans should expect from HBO’s Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon. HBO

One year ago, HBO handed out a full series order for the Game of Thrones prequel spinoff House of the Dragon, igniting the excitement of a global fanbase in the process. Since then, unfortunately, there’s been little in the way of official updates other than Paddy Considine being cast as King Viserys Targaryen, which reoriented the expected fictional timeline of the show. So with the caveat that the following information has not yet been publicly confirmed by HBO, here is what Observer is hearing about House of the Dragon.

The prequel series finds the Targaryen dynasty at the absolute apex of its power, with more than 15 dragons under their yoke. Most empires—real and imagined—crumble from such heights. In the case of the Targaryens, their slow fall begins almost 193 years before the events of Game of Thrones, when King Viserys Targaryen breaks with a century of tradition by naming his daughter Rhaenyra heir to the Iron Throne. But when Viserys later fathers a son, the court is shocked when Rhaenyra retains her status as his heir, and seeds of division sow friction across the realm.

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Viserys is described as a peaceful man who hates conflict, especially where it concerns his brother Daemon, his Queen, and his daughter. While amicable, open-handed and eager to please, he suffers a health condition which weakens him, making it near impossible for him to bridge the deepening divide between his wife and daughter, whose problems fester and grow into mortal wounds. Viserys is a good man but a poor king. As we’ve seen in Game of Thrones, Westeros is unforgiving to such men.

Earlier this week, it was reported that HBO may be interested in Matt Smith (The Crown) for the role of Prince Daemon Targaryen, though that remains unconfirmed at this time. As Viserys’ younger brother, Daemon wasn’t born with naked ambition for the throne despite being in line for it. He’s less methodical and more impetuous, not to mention easily bored as he stumbles from one distraction to the next. Most of Daemon’s joy is found at the edge of his sword, but even as the most experienced warrior of his time, he vacillates between vile and heroic, making him the true rogue of the series.

Rhaenyra, who is said to be in her late 20s, is the heir to the throne. She’s described as a brazen young woman with anti-establishment leanings. As such, she can’t understand why bucking tradition is met with such resistance from the nobles of Westeros. Her disregard for the rules chafes at the precarious relationship between her step-mother and step-siblings as well as their respective factions at court. Though raised to rule, her status as a woman has unsettled her position from the start, and her rule-breaking tendencies further incense those who never stood with her in the first place.

Other series regular characters said to be in the mix include Alicent Hightower, Viserys’ wife, and Corlys Velaryon, Rhaenyra’s husband. Hightower sounds like a savvy power player who maintains her public image of grace and stability but is growing increasingly skeptical of Viserys’ ability to rule. She is actively working against Rhaenyra’s ascension to the throne. Velaryon is a self-made man of new money whose financial power surpasses that of the Lannisters and Hightowers. Battle tested and the most experienced seafarer in the known world, he continually reaches for more power, position and recognition within the kingdom—even at the expense of his family.

As production is not scheduled to start until mid-2021, plot and character descriptions could change between now and then. But in the meantime, House of the Dragon is shaping up to be quite the blockbuster political battle in Westeros.

George R.R. Martin co-created House of the Dragon with Ryan J. Condal (Rampage, Colony), who wrote the 10-episode first season with Sara Lee Hess (Orange Is the New Black, House). Condal and Miguel Sapochnik, who directed several major GoT episodes including “Battle of the Bastards” and “Hardhome” will serve as co-showrunners.