For the first time in more than three years, I actually want to revisit Westeros.
That’s the thought I had after watching the new trailer for House of the Dragon, the Game of Thrones spinoff series that will premiere August 21. HBO dropped the first teaser for the show back in October, but on Thursday we got our first real trailer:
A bit of history for those of you who, like me, spent the past three years trying to wipe the nauseating memory of Season 8 from your minds and in the process lost a great deal of knowledge about Westeros and its lore: House of the Dragon is set about 200 years before the events in Game of Thrones and will tell the story of how the Targaryen dynasty began to crumble.
It’ll include a cast of characters that will feel somewhat familiar to anyone who watched Thrones: King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine) is a gentle, friendly man who rules over a kingdom that is largely at peace—but that doesn’t make him an effective king. Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D’Arcy) is Viserys’s named heir—which as you may have picked up from the trailer, will cause some problems—and pines to sit the Iron Throne. Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith), her uncle and commander of the gold cloaks, believes he should be the heir to the throne. There will be more Targaryens as well, but for now it appears the show is keeping them under wraps.
Filling out the cast in King’s Landing is a host of high Westerosi lords who, of course, have ambitions of their own. Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke) is a Margaery-like political schemer who hails from the Reach but grew up in King’s Landing. Her father, Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), is the hand of the king and frequently butts heads with Daemon. Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) controls the largest navy in the world and is married to Rhaenys (Eve Best), the cousin of Viserys, whom she doesn’t see eye-to-eye with. Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno) is Rhaenyra’s Viserys-like mistress of whisperers.
Oh, and there’s also Caraxes (CGI), Daemon’s dragon, who appears at the end of the trailer:
Not to spoil how the show will go, but the series is based on George R.R. Martin’s Thrones prequel, Fire & Blood, and there will be fire and blood. (Don’t worry on the source material front, either; while Martin still needs to finish F&B’s second volume, among other volumes we won’t mention now, this show will be based only on the first.) Viserys is getting older, and his decision to name a woman as his heir is causing unrest. That unrest won’t be solved without some violence, and while we almost certainly won’t get there in the first season, House of the Dragon is expected to conclude with the Targaryen civil war—the Dance of the Dragons—that brings about the decline of dragons (and Targaryen power) in Westeros and leaves an opening for Robert’s Rebellion more than a century later. It won’t include any characters from Thrones, but it is a prequel of sorts, sowing the seeds for what would grow into the Westeros that HBO brought to life in 2011. And if the trailer and cast of characters is anything to go off of, it will feel very Thrones-y.
Thrones was always at its best in the heart of King’s Landing, with schemes layered on top of plots layered on top of witty barbs. In House of the Dragon, all of those things will be layered on top of … dragons. The spectacle of this show is bigger than that of early Thrones, with a budget somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million per episode allowing the series to splurge on multiple dragonriders with mounts the size of houses—ones that will dwarf the smaller, adolescent dragons Daenerys cared for through much of Thrones. But the scope of this series is smaller. Where Thrones had to split its time between the politicking and fighting of Westeros’s great houses and the imminent threat of an icy, mystical apocalypse from the north, House of the Dragon will focus solely on that first thing. This is a fight for the Iron Throne alone—and that doesn’t seem like a bad thing, even if, unlike last time, we have a better idea who will win.
That is to say, House of the Dragon is the real game of thrones. And that’s something I very much want to return to.
An earlier version of this piece incorrectly called Daemon Rhaenyra’s half brother; he is her uncle.