For those still mourning how their watch ended on the final season of Game of Thrones, there’s a good chance House of the Dragon will avoid those pitfalls. The final season of HBO’s Game of Thrones was divisive for fans, to say the least. From episodes being too dark to illogical character choices, it seemed the HBO show kind of forgot what made it great. Now, the network has the opportunity to change the narrative with its new prequel.
House of the Dragon, set hundreds of years before Game of Thrones, is based on George R.R. Martin’s fantasy book Fire & Blood, which explores the history of the Targaryens. The series is helmed by showrunners Miguel Sapochnik, a veteran Game of Thrones director, and Ryan J. Condal, who co-created the prequel series with Martin. Among the many major Targaryen moments, the show will eventually depict the Dance of the Dragons, a Targaryen civil war that takes place around 170 years before Game of Thrones.
Fortunately for fans, House of the Dragon has the opportunity to avoid some of the most unfortunate Game of Thrones missteps. For one, Fire & Blood is more of an outline of Targaryen history. While Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series tells an intricate and detailed story of powerful families grappling over the Iron Throne in Westeros, Fire & Blood leaves a lot of leeway for Sapochnik and Condal to explore the story. To paraphrase Captain Barbossa from Pirates of the Caribbean: it’s more of a guideline, not the actual rules.
Also, unlike the Game of Thrones showrunners, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, Sapochnik and Condal aren’t being asked to complete Martin’s story. Despite first appearing in the ’90s, Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series — the inspiration for Game of Thrones — remains unfinished. In fact, his last two books in the series, The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring, still don’t have release dates. Benioff and Weiss’ show first drew major criticism when it started moving beyond Martin’s books. For the new showrunners, all the big events are already outlined in Fire & Blood. Now it comes down to execution, which is something Condal and Sapochnik have experience with.
Sapochnik was a go-to director on Game of Thrones, helming iconic episodes such as “Battle of the Bastards.” Condal is no slouch either, co-creating the series Colony with Carlton Cuse, a producer and showrunner on Lost. This experience is invaluable, especially considering Benioff and Weiss have been open about their lack of experience before becoming showrunners on Game of Thrones. From scriptwriting to working with costume designers, the pair were learning on the fly. Without being held strictly to Martin’s stories — and considering their previous experiences — the House of the Dragon showrunners have all the tools to make the series a hit. Of course, time will tell if the show catches fire or, like its predecessor, leaves fans feeling burned.