Get Ready Game of Thrones Fans, Winter is Coming…in August

Published: Aug 9, 2022  |  

Multi-award winning journalist, author and screenplay writer

Ambition, incest, bloodshed and dragons are all elements of the highly anticipated Game of Thrones prequel series storming onto TV screens this month. Three years after the original epic bowed out now comes House of the Dragon, set nearly 200 years earlier and dramatizing the bloodiest civil war in Westeros history.

New Thinking was there for the launch at San Diego Comic-Con and the premier at the Academy Museum in Los Angeles, and can report that the show is full of flash and fire. So it should be, with a budget of almost $20 million per episode as HBO takes a big bet that fans are hungry for more battles and betrayals, despite a generally poorly-received Game of Thrones finale.

House of the Dragon starts in America on August 21 on HBO and HBO Max, and August 22 in Britain on Sky Atlantic. Based on GoT creator George R. R. Martin’s book, Fire and Blood, a prequel that pitted Targaryen against Targaryen, the show is a timely story of powerful men trying to stop women from claiming what should rightfully be theirs.

House of the Dragon starts during the reign of King Viserys Targaryen (played by Paddy Considine) who controversially names his firstborn daughter as his heir in a patriarchal era, where the idea of a woman on the Iron Throne was anathema. That decision sparks a family conflict over the succession plan, which involves the unleashing of fire-breathing dragons by male and female relatives, who each think they should be wearing the crown.

Speaking at Comic-Con, George R.R. Martin said: “My books are fantasies, obviously, but I get inspiration from history. Games of Thrones was based very loosely on the Wars of the Roses, and this show is based on an earlier period of English history called the Anarchy. When King Henry I’s only legitimate son drowned, he made his legitimate daughter Matilda his heir and made the lords of the kingdom swear their fealty to her. But some years later when he died, most of those lords forgot that oath and Matilda’s cousin Steven got himself crowned king, setting off a two-decade long bloody battle. I pilfered from history. I don’t think Westeros is more misogynistic than real life or what we call history.”

Within this fictional world, among those with his nose put out of joint are the king’s brother Prince Daemon, a rogue played by Doctor Who and The Crown’s Matt Smith. Fellow Brits Rhys Ifans and Olivia Cooke are also part of the cast of the show, which was mainly shot in England and Spain. They know they have big shoes to fill, coming after the ratings-grabbing and award-winning sensation that was Game of Thrones.

Olivia told an audience of thousands at Comic-Con: “Because of this behemoth that we are following, there’s a massive pressure we feel to give you guys what you want, but also make it different and put our own stamp on it. We worked our bums off for a year on this and we hope you like it.”

Certainly, the first reviews make encouraging reading, with critics calling the new show, variously, “really well done,” “cool,” “awesome,” and “a worthy successor” to Game of Thrones.

George R. R. Martin has endorsed it too saying: “It’s pretty amazing, I’m really very happy.”

HBO bosses will be sharing that happiness—and a huge sense of relief—if the ratings and reactions are both positive, because they have spent a huge amount of money trying to create the perfect successor to the show that was their most successful ever.

Five different Game of Thrones spin-off series were in various stages of development before House of the Dragon became the chosen one. HBO even went to the time and expense of filming a pilot episode for another series, Blood Moon, which was set 8,000 years before GoT. That series starred John Simm, Naomi Watts, Miranda Richardson and Jamie Campbell-Bower, but did not receive the green light, with HBO President of Programming Casey Bloys explaining it “failed to gel.” House of the Dragon was picked up for a first series of ten episodes with hopefully many more to follow—Game of Thrones chalked up eight series on the air.

Maybe by the time this new series ends, George R. R, Martin will finally have finished the long-awaited final book in his Game of Thrones literary saga. But fans shouldn’t hold their breath. They’ve been waiting 11 years and counting for that book, of which George sheepishly admits: “It’s a little late.” At least now with this prequel, they’ll have something to sate their appetites.

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