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SDCC ’22: House of the Dragon panel talks history and dragons

The panelists discussed the upcoming Game of Thrones prequel series for HBO and HBO Max

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By Ani Bundel

The House of the Dragon panel was the second item on the Hall H docket for San Diego Comic-Con. The prequel series is a follow-up to the top-rated Game of Thrones, set in author George R.R. Martin’s Targaryen history covered in the novel Fire & Blood. Game of Thrones was set at the moment of Westeros’ major upheaval; after the successful rebellion again, Targaryen rule collapsed. House of the Dragon is set at the pinnacle of Targaryen power.

After opening with an extended trailer of the series, which debuts on HBO and HBO Max in August, the panel, hosted by Jason Conception, introduced most of the main cast. That includes Olivia Cooke, Matt Smith, Paddy Considine, Emma D’arcy, Emily Carey, Milly Alcock, Steve Toussaint, Fabian Frankel, and Eve Best. Co-showrunner Ryan Condal and Author Martin were also on hand; Miguel Sapochnik sadly was not, as he tested positive for COVID and could not leave the U.K. to be there. (He said this was par for the course, as he forgot his passport on his first trip to work on GoT and couldn’t get into the U.K.)

The show, which is Dragon-and-Targaryen-centric, will have 17 of the giant flying beasts, which Cordal admitted would not all make it into Season 1, hinting that HBO has already provisionally greenlit Season 2. As for the Targaryens, the distinctive wigs were not a favorite. Smith grumbled if he ruled Westeros, he’d make it so Targaryen could legally die their hair.

Martin, as always, was adorable, chattering on about how the critical things kings and queens do as rulers are not the glamorous parts we imagine. It’s not about winning wars and looking regal; it’s about building roads and sanitation, clean water and food, and sewage maintenance. Paddy Constantine, who plays Viscerys I, the man on the throne when the story starts, says he considers his character a modern ruler. Someone who appreciates those smaller skills, not the toxic masculinity that most glorify. (He also never road a dragon in this show; he says the only one he’s ever ridden is the one from The Neverending Story.)

The author also talked about his historical inspiration for the new series. If Game of Thrones was the War of the Roses, House of the Dragon is Henry I and the anarchy of his succession. He only had a daughter, who was seen as not fit to rule by the men around them. Martin admits that his Targaryen women are stronger stuff, but he likes turning the bigotries of these eras up to eleven

That being said, the show has promised it will turn down the sex, the rape, and the sexual violence that was a hallmark of GoT. (Also, Westeros is way more diverse now.) That might seem almost impossible, considering this is The Civil War of Westeros, known as The Dance of Dragons. But maybe it will all just stay off-screen.

When asked which characters audiences should view as evil, Martin said none. “We don’t have a Lord Villain or Mr. Atrocity (in the show). All humans are capable of good and evil.” This is a story where no one is wholly right, no one is entirely wrong, and audiences will have to decide who they are rooting for. (He also wondered if the audience shouldn’t be divided into black and green, the two opposing colors of the Targaryen Civil War, but Condal hurried to stop that in its tracks before a Hall H battle could happen.)

House of the Dragon premieres on Sunday, August 22, 2022, on HBO at 9 p.m. ET and streams simultaneously on HBO Max.

Miss any of The Beat’s earlier SDCC ’22 Coverage? Find it all here!

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