After “Game of Thrones” was a Hall H staple for the series’ run, HBO used the first in-person Comic-Con in three years to showcase the anticipated “Thrones” spinoff “House of the Dragon” on Saturday, tackling everything from the show’s number of dragons to why Westeros is so opposed to having a Queen.
The panel kicked off with an extended trailer that finally unveiled much of the show’s plot, which – much like “Game of Thrones” – revolves around a dispute over who’s going to take over the Iron Throne: this time from King Viserys (played by Paddy Considine). The choice is between his brother Daemon (played by Matt Smith) and his daughter Rhaenyra (played by Emma D’Arcy).
What can fans expect from this new show? “Fire and blood,” co-showrunner Ryan Condal said. “And dragons!” George R.R. Martin added.
When asked why this was the story they wanted to tell in a spinoff series, adapting Martin’s “Fire and Blood” book, Condal answered: “It delves into the history of the Targaryen dynasty, and that’s something that we hear about in ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ in the pages of the book and [‘Game of Thrones’], but we never really get a sense of it… It’s just before the bloom starts to come off the rose.”
“It’s quite a complicated relationship,” star Matt Smith said of Daemon’s relationship with his brother, teasing the complexity that he and Considine got to play as King Viserys is caught between two family members.
And what drives Rhaenyra? “Fire? I think Rhaenyra is fueled by that old Targaryen stuff. And I think her journey in this series is working out when to let that fire burn and when to dampen it.”
And while D’Arcy and Milly Alcock both play the same character, Alcock revealed that the two performers have only ever met a couple of times before, so they didn’t quite trade notes on playing their characters. “I started watching you and it was like watching Targaryen home video or something,” D’Arcy quipped.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Martin said of seeing this work come to life. “Of course you’re always nervous at the beginning because these books, these characters are like my kids… I’ve been very, very fortunate here. I think Ryan has done a great job of adapting the book so far.” Martin said he’s seen nine of the 10 episodes and called them “pretty amazing,”
Although one major difference between “Game of Thrones” and “House of the Dragon” was time spent on set. Due to COVID, Martin never got to visit the set of “House of the Dragon” while it was filming.
Given the central conflict of the series, the panel was asked why the world of Westeros is so opposed to a female ruler. Martin took the opportunity to reiterate a point he made throughout “Game of Thrones,” which is that his books are based on real history.
“My books are fantasies, obviously, but I do follow history a lot. I get inspiration from history and I take elements from history and I turn it up to 11. ‘Game of Thrones,’ as many observed, was based loosely on the War of the Roses. This show was based on a period called The Anarchy.”
Martin added, “I don’t think Westeros is particularly more anti-woman or more misogynistic than real life, or what we call history.” Condal then chimed in: “People fear change.”
D’Arcy took the opportunity to note that history hasn’t changed much despite advances in other regards, saying, “I think one of the questions of the series is if you are [a woman] looking to rule, how do you convince male subjects that you are fit to rule?”
And what about the dragons of the title? “There are 17 [dragons] at the height of this,” Condal revealed. “So it was really important to differentiate them not only in the way they looked, but in the way they behaved… We worked with a couple of conceptual designers and we just went through this very iterative process. And of course George, who writes very detailed books, gave us the gift of specifying color and size and age.”
Condal said he and co-showrunner (and director) Miguel Sapochnik (who was unable to attend due to testing positive for COVID, but relayed a message to fans via D’Arcy) were developing the dragons for a full year. They added personalities to the dragons that sometimes compliment their writers, and they’ve had so much fun designing the creatures that they’ve designed dragons that we won’t even see in Season 1.
When asked what makes a good king in Westeros, Martin offered up a somewhat surprising answer.
“I think one of the fundamental things in a good king is someone who regards being king as a duty rather than a privilege that they’re entitled to. A duty to the realm, to dispense justice, and occasionally to do boring things like building roads and sanitation and things… I do think, if you actually looked in Westeros, you might like a king who’s more concerned with building roads than fighting wars.”
Martin noted that these are sort of Viserys’ goals too, adding “he’s not driven by glory.” Condal spoke about how Considine was the perfect fit for the role, saying, “The thing that Paddy brought to Viserys is this real inner fire and his passion for being a people pleaser… I actually think Paddy’s Viserys is a very modern ruler that is a bit of an anathema in a period like this.”
Unlike “Game of Thrones” which had White Walkers as well as tyrannical rulers like Joffrey, “House of the Dragon” lacks a clear cut villain, and that’s something Martin was excited to delve into. “We’re not gonna have anyone who’s called the word evil or Mr. Atrocity or anything like that,” he said. “We don’t have orcs or trollics or anything like that. But there’s certainly evil. I’ve always believed the most interesting characters are gray characters.”
Martin said a quote from William Faulkner has served as a guiding force in his life: “The only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself.”
He hopes viewers will be split over who they’re rooting for in the series, adding, “All of these characters have good in them and evil in them.”