'Game of Thrones' Prequel 'House of the Dragon' Draws From Real-Life History But Also Includes 17 Dragons

'This show was based on an earlier part of history called the Anarchy,' George R.R. Martin said at SDCC. 'I don't think Westeros is more anti-woman or misogynist than real-life history.'
by Lauren Piester — 

Matt Smith in 'House of the Dragon'


San Diego Comic-Con has returned, and with it came Hall H staple Game of Thrones, though this time things were a little different. There is still a game of thrones afoot, but now it's called House of the Dragon. It serves as a prequel to the first show, and chronicles the downfall of the Targaryens. Or as executive producer Ryan Condal put it during the Saturday panel, "This series begins at the pinnacle of the dynasty, the height of power and wealth and influence, with the most dragons they'll ever have. It's just before the bloom starts to come off the rose." 

This time, the Targaryens aren't outcasts, or at least not yet. And as Condal said, they have a lot of dragons — 17 to be exact, with more to come in future seasons. 

The dragons even have personalities, and when the cast were asked to pick their favorite dragons, a war almost started on stage between Matt Smith, who plays Prince Daemon Targaryen, and Eve Best, who plays Princess Rhaenys Velaryon, who both claim that their dragon is the best dragon. The show once again shows a group of families fighting to figure out who is next in the line of succession: the king's daughter, who is a woman, or the king's brother, who is a man but not directly next in line. At this point in the history of the realms, a woman has never sat on the Iron Throne, but luckily Game of Thrones mastermind George R.R. Martin was on hand to answer Best's question about why Game of Thrones hates women. 

"My books are fantasies obviously, but I do follow history a lot, I take elements of history and turn it up to 11," he said. "Game of Thrones, as many people observed, was based very loosely on the War of the Roses. This show was based on an earlier part of history called the Anarchy." 

The Anarchy was a civil war in England and Normandy in the 1100s that happened after the death of King Henry I's only son. His only other child was a girl named Matilda. King Henry made Matilda his heir and made all the lords promise to honor that, but by the time he died, they ignored her in favor of Henry's nephew, Stephen of Blois. Matilda then invaded, and it became a war between the two rulers. 

So, Martin concluded, "I don't think Westeros is more anti-woman or misogynist than real-life history." 

In this story, the daughter is named Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, and she's played as a young girl by Milly Alcock, and as an adult by Emma D'Arcy. The presumptive male heir is Prince Daemon Targaryen, played by Smith, the younger brother of King Viserys. Viserys himself, played by Paddy Considine, sounds like the nicest man who has probably ever sat on that throne of swords. 

"He's a good man, he's a kind man," Considine said. "He's trying to keep the kingdom going. … He's a man who cares about many things. There's great tragedy in him. He loves his family, he loves his kingdom, but there's a great secret in him that will be revealed later in the show." Smith explained that for Prince Daemon, everything is about his brother, even if their relationship is complicated. 

Another standout moment of the panel came when Steve Toussaint got a chance to talk about his character, Lord Corlys Velaryon. He's a famed nautical man who, when this story starts, is extremely wealthy thanks to all of his adventures. He's also Black, which is a small step up from the known lack of diversity in the first series. Toussaint acknowledged that not everyone appreciates diversity on screen, but that's not for him to be concerned about. "There are people on the outside who find it hard to stomach someone who looks like me playing this role, but that's something that they have to deal with and I don't," he said.

As many fans will have grown used to thanks to the first series, there were not a lot of secrets to be spilled ahead of time. But those same fans will also be happy to know that the show looks and sounds exactly like the show they fell in love with in the first place, plus a lot more dragons. While the extended trailer that was shown during the panel is currently an SDCC exclusive, it will air during Shark Week on Discovery beginning July 24 at 9 p.m. 

House of the Dragon premieres Sunday, August 21 on HBO and will also stream on HBO Max.