Matt Smith, who plays Prince Daemon Targaryen in the Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon has recently gone on record to claim that the prequel will not copy Game of Thrones but offer much more.
For shows which are spin-offs to international hits or cult classics, there is always the tremendous pressure of having to live up to the expectations of the mother show. If we look at some of these spin-offs, not all have been able to live up to these high expectations.
Before we delve into the question of whether House of the Dragon is going to be able to live up to our expectations and whether it will follow the Game of Thrones route, I would want to make it clear as to what I mean when I saw the “Game of Thrones route.”
As a Targaryen-crazy fan of the HBO series, it is an understatement to say that GOT was a royal disappointment with its ending. Remember the season 6 finale where Cersei blew up the Great Sept. I can bet that it was symbolic of the show going boom as well, because post season 6, it just went downhill.
So when I wonder if HOTD will take the same route as GOT, I mean if it will also end up crashing so much expectation into nothing. Technically, it is not entirely impossible. In fact I would say Game of Thrones would have a privilege in this case.
But in the Westeros universe, the fate of nothing can be so easily predictable, can it? House of the Dragon might just surprise us.
After all, “Madness and greatness are two sides of the same coin. Everytime a Targaryen is born, the gods toss the coin in the air and the world holds its breath to see how it will land.”
1. House of the Dragon Might Take the Game of Thrones Path
House of the Dragon does have a fair chance of disappointing us. Let us be real. There is a reason why I say Game of Thrones was a better position in this aspect.
When GOT premiered, it did not have any existing expectations to live upto. Yes, for people who have been familiar with the George R R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, it might have had some expectations to uphold. But it is even then nothing compared to the expectations that GOT fans have from HOTD after the international popularity of Game of Thrones.
Game of Thrones had an open slate, with less expectations. They did not have an enormous fandom waiting for them to deliver. So the pressure was much less compared to HOTD. Most of who call themselves GOT fans actually refer to the series, not the books. An adaptation gives any kind of literature a huge boost. There are so many of us who read the books after we watched the series. So, Game of Thrones has become a brand name and is way more popular than the books.
In case of HOTD, there is already too many people eagerly waiting with a huge deal of expectations. If you search up House of the Dragon on Google, the number of potential questions you see is huge. “Will HOTD have the Mad King?” “Are there dragons in HOTD?” “Is Jaime Lannister in HOTD?” “Rhaegar and Lyanna love story in HOTD” It is endless!
I myself am guilty of having searched 3 out of 4 of these questions. I am just saying that the hype is real and almost all of it is because the series is being promoted as the prequel to GOT and the story of the Targaryens.
While GOT had 6 seasons to build up its enormous fanbase which transformed it into a classic today, HOTD will already step into the battlefield with every eye looking at it. So yes, the battle of the Targaryens is a little more tough than the one faced by the makers of GOT, in my opinion.
Now coming to the royal disappointment of GOT, which was season 7 and 8. I personally did not dislike season 7 as much, but season 8 was heartbreaking. Particularly the ending. So naturally, the makers were unable to keep upto the expectations of such enormous fan following.
As a result, this is an added pressure for the makers of HOTD. I mean, think about it. If you were a salty GOT fan who sat down to watch season 8 with high hopes and ended up cursing Martin to death after the finale, will you not expect House of the Dragon to atleast somewhat TRY to make up for your experience?
It is natural. While Game of Thrones only flunked the last two seasons, House of the Dragon has that sort of a pressure from season 1 itself. With release, it will surely be constantly compared to Game of Thrones and everyone will search for similar names and plotlines in the series. It is pretty hard to keep upto that. It really is.
So there is a big chance that the Targaryens might just flunk.
2. House of the Dragon Might Also take a Different Route
There is a high chance that House of the Dragon might drive us mad, but what if it does not? The prequel to the Game of Thrones is coming to the field with an enormous scope and an already existing fan following. If the makes play their cards right, we might just end up having something to cherish as well.
HOTD is based on George R R Martin’s 2018 novel Fire and Blood, which documents the history of the Targaryens. The events that we will see in the series are set 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones. The plot should focus on the history and the beginning of the end of House Targaryen.
The causes and build up to the Targaryen civil war, better known as the Dance of the Dragons will also be an important plotline in the series. So in terms of scope, HOTD does have a lot to explore.
The first season, as per the HBO website is all set to feature characters like King Viserys Targaryen I, Princess Rhaenrya, Prince Daemon Targaryen, Alicent Hightower and Tyland Lannister.
While Fire and Blood is similar to Martin’s Ice and Fire series in various aspects, the struggle in Fire and Blood is not between houses but within houses. The focus is much narrower than the scope of Westeros politics as we have witnessed in Game of Thrones.
So, what is the most important requirement for any show with politics as such an integral theme is good writing. GOT gave us solid writing for the first six seasons and unputdownable suspense, along with brilliant cinematography. In this scene, HOTD should try to match the same standards to hold the attention of the audience.
In the book, the Targaryens are the only ones to survive the Doom of Valyria. It begins with the story of Aegon the Conqueror, who is better known as the creator of the Iron Throne. Martin tells the tale of the most fierce dynasty to have lived in Westeros and traces its gradual downfall leading to the Dance of the Dragons civil war.
So in terms of adaptation, there is a lot to adapt for the makers. BTW, the show is beginning with King Viserys I’s reign. So in the first part of Fire and Blood, featuring Aegon the Conqueror has not been included into the plot of the show.
So if the writing is as good as Game of Thrones and the subject material is well dealt with, House of the Dragon has the potential to become a treat for all of us who were Team Dany in the battle of the Iron Throne.
What is key here is to use the popularity of Game of Thrones to the show’s advantage by introducing plotlines that have potential, such as Aerys’s descent to madness or Rhaenrya’s track as the wronged princess who did not get the throne. (Dany vibes much?)
3. House of the Dragon VS Game of Thrones: Similarities and Differences
HOTD has a lot of similarities with Game of Thrones, including the Westeros set up, the presence of dragons, the sibling rivalry and I am guessing it will involve some stellar cinematography and music, since GOT composer Ramin Djawadi is composing the music for the series.
House of the Dragon will be directed by several directors who have also directed episodes of Game of Thrones and George RR Martin himself has been involved in the production. Though I have little hope from him after he let Bran be king, still helps to have the man behind it all on board.
In terms of technique, HOTD should not really disappoint. I expect way more involvement of dragons than GOT, because this show is all about one house. The teaser literally confirmed this with their chilling voiceover, “Dreams did not make us rules. Dragons did.”
There should be incest, sex and violence, which is more than just common in GOT. Since the universe is the same, locations and the society as depicted in GOT should also be the same or atleast similar.
There are also quite a few differences between GOT and HOTD though. For starters, the scope of HOTD is quite narrow. It is based on Fire and Blood, which focuses only on the Targaryens. Since GOT did not go exactly as per Martin’s books, I am guessing HOTD will also have its own inputs and not stick to the storyline of the books.
Since this time the focus is on politics within one house mainly, they will be different from the one in GOT where houses are conspiring against each other. Since Targaryens have been marrying brothers and sisters for ages, we might also see the Cersei-Jaime isque politics there.
I am expecting some great characters but speaking in terms of the book, expect less character development and character variety than GOT.
4. What to Expect and What not to Expect from HOTD
To bank on the GOT fame, I am expecting to see Lannisters and Starks in the picture as well, along with familiar positions and locations such as the Hand of the King, the Master of Whisperers and the Great Sept and Red Keep.
The series might also delve into the issue of Targaryen madness and I hope they address the fact that not all Targaryens are mad. For instance, Prince Daemon is supposed to be one of the most loved men in Westeros. GOT already gave us a glimpse of Rhaegar, Dany’s brother.
The Targaryen madness is something that has always been there and Dany’ descent into madness brought out a lot of mixed feelings along with strong debates for or against the decision. House of the Dragon might give more insight into this “madness” and what exactly is the cause of it, or how it originated.
Another mystery that I am hoping to see a resolution to is the origin of Dany’s dragon eggs.
Now I know you all are wondering whether we will see any characters who have appeared or have been mentioned in GOT in the prequel. What we have to remember is that the series is set a 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones.
Also, Fire and Blood does not really mention too many characters from GOT, such as the Mad King Aerys Targaryen, Rhaegar Targaryen or even Lyanna Stark. What we know of Targaryen history in GOT was confined to the Mad King’s madness and Robert Baratheon’s rebellion along with Lyanna and Rhaegar’s lovestory.
Since these events took place much closer to the time period of the events of GOT, it is difficult to assume that we will see any of these events in House of the Dragon. Expect new characters and new plot lines and of course, new dragons in the prequel.
But again, GOT fans would definitely love to see the history of the Mad King, his ascend to the Iron Throne, his gradual descent to madness, Rhaegar and Lyanna’s love story and Robert’s Rebellion. While Martin has expressed his interest to document more about them, he never ended up writing it, as is the case with the last two books of The Song of Ice and Fire.
I have given up hopes of Martin ever finishing his books. So the makers have to make up something like they did for Game of Thrones, if we go that far with the number of seasons. If we stick to Fire and Blood, the series should end with Dance of the Dragons civil war.
5. Final Verdict: What Should House of the Dragon do Differently Than GOT?
In my opinion, House of the Dragon will need solid plot lines and gripping writing to hold onto the huge fanbase of Game of Thrones. As Smith correctly agreed, it is hard to match up to the popularity of Game of Thrones. But the show definitely has potential to make its own mark.
What it should do differently is not try to imitate Game of Thrones yet be able to bank on the potential plot lines mentioned in GOT and focus on creating its own brand of politics. The GOT connection is both a blessing and a curse for the series and we can only hope the makers are able to conquer it.
It should not raise the stakes higher than required. This is easy to slip considering the vast universe that the makers are dealing with. It is tempting to introduce too many small plotlines but that might mess things up for bad.
We have the classic example of disappointment with the last season of Game of Thrones itself. What the show can improvise on is the character development and writing. Daemon or Rhaenrya have a lot of potential that can be explored.
Last but not the least, they should not crown kings based on their storytelling abilities and ability to stare into space with white eyes and break fans’ hearts like its predecessor. Duh!
6. About House Of The Dragon
House of the Dragon is the prequel series to HBO’s blockbuster Game of Thrones based on George R. R. Martin’s book Fire & Blood.
Set three hundred years before the events of Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon will show Westeros under the Targaryen family’s rule before the dragons went extinct. It will follow the Dance of the Dragons, the Targaryen civil war between siblings Aegon II and Rhaenyra, who fought for the throne after the death of their father, Viserys I.
Directed by Ryan Condall and Miguel Sapochnik, the show stars Paddy Considine as Viserys I Targaryen, Emma D’Arcy as Rhaenyra Targaryen, Olivia Cooke as Alicent Hightower, Matt Smith as Daemon Targaryen, Tom Glynn-Craney as Aegon II Targaryen, Rhys Ifans as Otto Hightower, Steve Toussaint as Corlys Velaryon, Eve Best as Rhaenys Velaryon, Sonoya Mizuno as Mysaria, Fabien Frankel as Criston Cole, and Graham McTavish.