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The ‘House of the Dragon’ Entrance Survey

We return to Westeros this Sunday. What are we most excited about?

HBO/Ringer illustration

Fire, blood, and incest, oh my! Westeros returns to our screens this week, with House of the Dragon premiering this Sunday on HBO. Let’s talk about our hopes, dreams, and expectations heading into the new series.

What are you most hyped for heading into House of the Dragon?

Megan Schuster: Honestly, the chance to get optimistic about the Thrones universe again! I’ve missed the appointment-viewing aspect of the original series’ final few seasons, and I’m (cautiously) hopeful we’ll get back to that with HotD. Maybe they’ll even stick the landing this time.

Zach Kram: The dragons and King’s Landing politicking should rule—but I might actually be most excited to hear new music from composer extraordinaire Ramin Djawadi. After all, I’ll be listening to his “Light of the Seven” and “The Night King” scores as I answer these questions.

Arjuna Ramgopal: DRAGONS. BLOOD. POLITICAL INTRIGUE. I’m excited to be returning to Westeros! As bad as the final season of GoT was, the show was such a thrill for a long time. Sundays at 6 p.m. PT were appointment television. The world is so compelling and detailed, I’m just hyped to be back again.

Riley McAtee: It’s the palace intrigue. While I did like many of the story lines that revolved around the White Walkers and the more fantastical elements of Thrones, I was always happiest when the camera was on King’s Landing. This show will be almost entirely about the Iron Throne.

Khal Davenport: Dragons. I just hope one of them doesn’t have a bleached-white mane.

Alison Herman: Game of Thrones may have been the end of the monoculture, but I’m hoping House of the Dragon comes close enough that it brings back the water-cooler effect. It’s so rare for everyone to be watching the same show at the same time, and even rarer for that show to merit in-depth discussion the way we know this one will. I’m gonna enjoy it while I can.

Jonathan Bartlett: Two words: palace. intrigue. If the trailers have given me one feeling, it’s that medieval politics are back, and I’m here for it. Battles are cool and dragons are dope, but give me smart people in robes and crowns sitting around trying to outmaneuver each other!

Kai Grady: I just can’t wait to be back in Westeros for the first time in three-plus years. As much as I have enjoyed my fourth and most recent Thrones rewatch, it’s incredibly exciting to have a whole new batch of characters, stakes, and of course, dragons be introduced into my life. I’m all aboard the hype train and ready to be hurt again.

Andrew Gruttadaro: The best things about Game of Thrones were always the political maneuvering—the backstabbing, the people talking in rooms—and the sense of deep, deep history. Now we’re going to be inside a part of that history, when political maneuvering was at a fever pitch. I can only hope the show delivers on its promise.

Katie Baker: I’m looking forward to forming and sharing sincerely held opinions like “that dragon is a real tramp.” Anyway, my bigger answer might be corny, but I’m really just excited to return to Westeros, wherever and however the setting! I’ve missed all those lush expanses and all those insecure bastards! I haven’t been this excited to return to a beloved and messed-up world since they did a spinoff of The Good Wife. (Speaking of which, let’s get Christine Baranski to play some sort of Olenna Tyrell predecessor in the Westerosi extended universe; please and thanks!)

Ben Lindbergh: The opportunity to talk about something related to this franchise other than the disappointment of Thrones Season 8, the absence of a successor series, or the long wait for The Winds of Winter.

It’s been three years since the Thrones finale. Does Season 8 still haunt the back of your mind?


Kram: I’d say it still haunts the front of my mind. But Dragon is a conscious return to the traits that epitomized Thrones at its best, so as long as the creators learned from Season 8’s missteps, I’m more optimistic about the prequel’s direction.

Gruttadaro: The bitterness has kind of curdled into dark humor. Like, I can now only laugh at how Benioff and Weiss so egregiously and arrogantly fumbled the conclusion to one of the most important shows in television history. I guess the silver lining here—as HBO has so desperately made clear—is that Benioff and Weiss never laid a finger on House of the Dragon.

Ramgopal: Not really. As bad as it was, there’s been so much #content in the intervening years that I can look back on Thrones and think of all the good seasons and moments. Season 8 is only a piece, it’s not the whole thing.

McAtee: Every once in a while I remember something so egregiously stupid and lazy—like Daenerys showing up to a suddenly desert-located King’s Landing with a birthday party’s-worth of soldiers—and I get exhausted all over again. Luckily, I believe this series is in much better hands.

Lindbergh: In the sense that I still think it was bad, yes. (Admittedly, I haven’t seen it since 2019, because, well, it was bad.) But I don’t think a justifiably pilloried ending should obscure how good Game of Thrones was for most of its run. And given that George R.R. Martin is much more involved now than he was then, that David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were nowhere near the new production, and that I liked coshowrunner Ryan Condal’s Colony, I’m not letting the last season of Thrones affect my expectations for the prequel.

Grady: Although Season 8 was (and still is) shockingly bad, it never completely detracted from my overall experience with the show. Whether it was the unparalleled excellence that is Season 4, unforgettable moments in episodes like “Battle of the Bastards” and “The Rains of Castamere,” or just the community that developed around the show as it had its yearslong run of dominance, nothing compares to Thrones.

Davenport: Only if I think about it. To be honest, there’s entirely too much television to be that hung up on one very bad season, but I’m also not as close to this series as others.

Schuster: Weirdly no, though maybe that’s because I haven’t gone back and rewatched it. Choosing to remember the good times, etc., etc., and wiping the phrase “King Bran” from my memory.

Bartlett: Not one bit.

Herman: I have a tight five at this point on the pitfalls of showrunner auteur theory and the virtues of accepting even the most voice-driven show can go on without its creator(s). Even Aaron Sorkin left The West Wing! Armando Iannucci didn’t finish Veep! So if—you know what? Yes.

Prequels are all the rage. What does it take to make a good one?

Herman: The best prequel of all time just aired its finale, so I’ll apply some of its lessons. A great prologue uses our knowledge of the future to its advantage, and finds new corners of its world to explore out of dogged curiosity. If you’ll excuse me, I’m craving Cinnabon now.

Davenport: Study Better Call Saul, honestly. Figure out what stories are worth exploring from the series’ past, then find a decent way to flesh out that backstory without heavy doses of fan service.

Lindbergh: Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould.

McAtee: Above all else, a good story. Some of the prequels coming out feel like they are just being made as a way to drive streaming service subscriptions—like the ideas are coming from suits rather than creatives. The idea has to come first, not the marketing.

Schuster: A healthy level of attachment to the original material, along with a willingness to create a semi-separate story. Obviously this prequel is a bit different, since it’s based on a previously written book, and the characters from this series wouldn’t overlap with any from Thrones until much, much later. But really, centering any series on a family who rides dragons and has multiple members go mad because of inbreeding seems pretty hard to mess up.

Gruttadaro: Quite simply, the contents of the prequel need to matter just as much as, if not more than, the source material it’s working toward.

Baker: I think it helps when they feel more tangential than directly linear, with motivations that are expansive rather than explanatory in scope. But if that’s not possible, I’ll take Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.

Bartlett: A good prequel is one that doesn’t constantly make viewers think of the original, but rather uses it as the entry point and then captivates audiences enough to become its own thing.

Kram: Above all else, a solid prequel must stand on its own as a worthwhile story, rather than serve mainly as a vehicle to make references and hide Easter eggs that connect to the original everyone loved. The Pointing Leo meme can’t actually carry a story very far.

As this notion pertains to Dragon, it’s probably a benefit that this show takes place almost two centuries before Thrones. There won’t be nearly as much opportunity for forced cameos or retcons.

Grady: The most successful prequels refine elements from the original source material, while also adding a fresh perspective to the pre-existing world. For Dragon, bringing back some of the most influential creatives from the first go-round (director/showrunner Miguel Sapochnik, composer Ramin Djawadi, and of course George R.R. Martin) is a good sign. The expectations for this show as a prequel are seemingly insurmountable. Living up to—let alone surpassing—one of the most celebrated shows of all time would be no small feat. But, who knows? Look at how Better Call Saul turned out.

Ramgopal: It’s all about having a good story. If it’s a good story, it’ll work, no matter what. The magic ingredient is connecting it to the mothership show without destroying continuity and elevating the story that came before, all without alienating a new audience. It’s not easy, but it is doable!

Book readers: Without spoiling anything, what is something specific you are looking forward to seeing on screen?

Kram: Look, I love world-building and palace intrigue as much as the next fantasy fan. But even I have to say my gut answer when reading this question was, simply, DRAGON FIGHTS.

McAtee: In the books, Alicent and Rhaenyra are roughly 10 years apart in age. But for the show, they’re about the same age—and close friends. Without saying any more, I’m really excited for their dynamic.

Herman: It’s obvious—the show is called House of the Dragon—but I’m excited to see a world where dragons are almost normal, not a once-in-a-lifetime miracle. Game of Thrones kept magic to a minimum in its early seasons; I think House of the Dragon can blend that pragmatic approach with some jaw-dropping special effects to create a lived-in world.

Lindbergh: Vhagar vs. Caraxes.

Non-book readers: What’s your prediction for the wildest thing that could happen on a Targaryen prequel show?

Gruttadaro: I keep thinking of objectively shocking things—creepy incest, people getting burned alive, Prince Philip having a head of silken blond hair—and, amazingly, they’re all pretty basic as far as House of the Dragon goes. Honestly, the most shocking thing a Targaryen could do on this show is NOT crave ultimate power and sex with one to several family members.

Grady: I would be pretty shocked if one of the Targaryens turned out to have ancestors from a different house entirely. Similar to how the lineage for some characters in Thrones turned out to be more than meets the eye. I think it would be a nice twist to have one of the characters find out that one of their parents was actually a Stark or a Lannister.

Bartlett: Matt Smith’s character killed off before Episode 5.

Ramgopal: The Targaryens don’t make out with each other.

Davenport: A dragon with a bleached white mane will start singing.

Baker: I hope there’s an ancient iteration of Maggy the Frog who delivers a haunting premonition like “your heir’s head will hang from a golden crown / and his sister’s character will let the whole world down” and then turns and winks at the camera.

Schuster: It’s messed up that the word “incest” here is wouldn’t even crack the top 10 wildest things that will happen in this show. But I digress: A peaceful transfer of power to a woman? LOL, imagine that.

Lindbergh: Book reader here, chiming in to say that you’re all underestimating the audacity and depravity of Targaryens.

Finish the sentence: “Matt Smith as Daemon Targaryen looks …”

Schuster: AMAZING. That’s it; that’s really all I have to say.

Gruttadaro: … resplendent. Four months ago my dude was dancing in Morbius—this is a real step up.


Baker: … like a man about to have “slightly too much” sex, I reckon!

Lindbergh: Not necessarily like someone who would be giving interviews about how many sex scenes he has? To be fair, Smith seems to agree, telling Rolling Stone U.K. that he appears in the series’ sex scenes “slightly too much, if you ask me.” (The Daemon I know wouldn’t understand the concept of “too much” sex.)

Herman: Like Legolas’s Wario. I’m into it.

Davenport: Like Vigo from Ghostbusters II got a LOT of work done.

Bartlett: Like a silver weeping willow tree that sways gingerly in the wind … siggghhh …

McAtee: Really promising. I know a lot of fans wanted a bigger, more physically intimidating actor here, but I think Smith will knock the role out of the park.

Ramgopal: Cool. As a huge Whovian, I’m happy to see Matt Smith back on our screens (Morbius doesn’t count). He was an excellent Doctor, and I’m glad to see him flex his acting chops in a very very different role here. There aren’t any bowties or fish sticks in Westeros.

We’re about to see a lot of dragons. What is your favorite dragon from any pop culture property?

Ramgopal: Smaug. The Hobbit was one of the first books I remember reading as a kid, and I loved all the scenes with Smaug. He was such a cool dragon that was more than a giant, terrifying beast. His brains and ability to manipulate others made him scary in a completely different way.

Davenport: Falkor from The Neverending Story. King Ghidorah is a close second, though!

Lindbergh: Apologies to Falkor, but I’ve gotta go with Edge’s dragon from Panzer Dragoon Saga. A deep cut, I know, but I’m not a big dragon guy—dragons tend to be OP, as they were for Aegon and Daenerys. On House of the Dragon, though, there are dragons on both sides, which should help balance the scales. (So to speak.)

Herman: I was raised on Toonami — the dragon from the Dragon Ball franchise holds a special place in my heart.

Bartlett: I was a Magic: The Gathering player in the mid-’90s and always thought the most badass card was the Shivan Dragon. A 5/5 flying creature that brought the heat. As a 10-year-old, if you dropped that card it was game over!

Kram: Does Dragon Army count? Probably not. I’ll go with Trogdor the Burninator, with all his consummate Vs, instead.

Schuster: I’ve always had a soft spot for Mushu in Mulan—but maybe that’s because he spends more time playing matchmaker than attempting to breathe fire.

Baker: Elliott the dragon was the mumblecore of my youth. On the other end of the spectrum, shout-out to this incredible encyclopedic tome my kids found at the library that goes so much harder than you can imagine, literally: the book includes “tactile samples of dragon wings, dragon scales, and dragon skin.”

McAtee: I want to say Toothless, but I’ll go with Saphira from Eragon instead. My first-ever screen name was dragonrider444 thanks to The Inheritance Cycle. (I was in fifth grade, OK??)

Grady: Spyro, hands down.