• Entertainment
  • Television

Everything We Know About the Game of Thrones Prequel House of the Dragon So Far

8 minute read
Updated: | Originally published:

Game of Thrones fans will finally get to return to Westeros in 2022 when House of the Dragon hits HBO Max.

Fantasy fans have been eagerly awaiting one of the many planned Game of Thrones spinoffs. In the wake of HBO cancelling a Game of Thrones prequel series that was set to take place during the infamous winter known as the Long Night, the network announced that it’s moving forward with a separate successor show that will center on House Targaryen’s rule of Westeros 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones. And now we finally have a trailer for House of the Dragon, which will air on HBO’s streaming service, HBO Max.

A Song of Ice and Fire author George R. R. Martin has been attached to the project, while showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have not yet been involved with the show. Here’s everything we know about the Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon so far.

What do we know about the new Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon?

Steve Toussaint in the Game of Thrones prequel House of the DragonHBO Max

The new Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon will chronicle House Targaryen’s rise to power roughly 200 years before, as the trailer puts it, “the fall of the throne.” That presumably means the show will be set two centuries before the destruction of the iron throne in Game of Thrones’ series finale. That should mean that House of the Dragon will tackle the Dance of Dragons civil war oft referred to in the books. The first season will be 10 episodes.

The Dance of Dragons pitted Rhaenyra, the eldest child of King Viserys, against her younger half brother, Aegon II, in a fight for the throne. The trailer suggests that the show will span at least a decade of time, hopping back and forth between Rhaenyra’s childhood and the civil war in her adult life.

House of the Dragon was co-created by A Song of Ice and Fire author George R. R. Martin and Colony executive producer Ryan Condal, who will also serve as co-showrunner alongside Miguel Sapochnik, the Emmy-winning Game of Thrones director responsible for pivotal episodes like “Hardhome,” “Battle of the Bastards” and “The Long Night.” Sapochnik will direct the pilot episode from a script by Condol.

The series is based on Martin’s 2018 book Fire & Blood, a comprehensive history of how House Targaryen conquered Westeros with the help of dragons. However, in an Oct. 30 blog post, Martin wrote that he wouldn’t take on any scripts for the show until he had finished and delivered the long awaited sixth book in his A Song of Ice and Fire series, The Winds of Winter. “Winter is still coming, and WINDS remains my priority, as much as I’d love to write an episode of HOUSE,” he wrote.

In addition to Fire & Blood, he also suggested that fans read the two anthologies he compiled with Gardner Dozois, Dangerous Women and Rogues, ahead of House of the Dragon’s debut.

A poster for the series featuring the tagline “Fire Will Reign” offered a hint that this series, true to its name, would involve many fire-breathing dragons. In fact, Martin confirmed on the podcast, Stuff Dreams Are Made Of, that HBO has upped its CGI creature budget: The writer says House of the Dragon will feature 17 dragons, far more than Daenerys’ three baby dragons.

Who will star in the prequel?

Emma D'Arcy and Matt Smith in the Game of Thrones prequel House of the DragonHBO Max

Emma D’Arcy plays Rhaenyra, daughter of King Viserys and would-be Queen. She will eventually fight her half-brother Aegon for the right to rule Westeros.

Matt Smith, who wooed genre fans as the titular time traveler in Doctor Who and drama aficionados as Prince Philip on The Crown, stars as Daemon Targaryen, a great warrior with a violent streak. Daemon has a complicated relationship with his brother, King Viserys and a red-hot rivalry with the Hand of the King, Otto Hightower. He eventually marries Rhaenyra, who also happens to be his niece (which, ick, but typical for that family).

Rhys Ifans will plays Otto Hightower, an intelligent but arrogant man jockeying for political influence. He marries off his daughter, Alicent Hightower, to King Viserys after the king’s first wife dies.

Paddy Considine portrays King Viserys, who (unlike many kings of Westeros) is a pretty decent guy. The kingdom really only falls into chaos after he dies and the battle for succession begins. (Daenerys’ brother from Game of Thrones, Viserys II, shares this Viserys’ name, though not his generous nature.)

Olivia Cooke plays Queen Alicent Hightower, Viserys’ second wife and mother to Aegon, Viserys’ other potential heir. She supports Aegon’s bid for the throne and comes into conflict with Rhaenyra.

Another key player in the show is Corlys Velaryon, aka the Sea Snake. Steve Toussaint plays the renowned sailor whose adventures become the stuff of legend. A bunch of Velaryons marry various Targaryens, which means the fates of the two powerful families are intertwined.

Sonoya Mizuno also joins the cast as Lady Mysaria, the Mistress of Whispers and a lover of Daemon. Like the eventual Master of Whispers, Varys, Mysaria uses her network of spies for various schemes.

When will the show premiere?

HBO Max has announced that the show will premiere sometime in 2022.

What do we know about the plot?

Olivia Cooke and Rhys Ifans in the Game of Thrones prequel House of the DragonHBO Max

HBO MaxOlivia Cooke and Rhys Ifans in the Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon

The show looks to center on the Dance of Dragons, the massive civil war of succession that was fought between two rival branches of House Targaryen 170 years before the War of the Five Kings.

The show’s early seasons will likely build up to the war itself. We will likely meet King Viserys, his children and his advisors when he’s ruling peacefully over Westeros. Viserys struggled to bear a male heir with his first wife and named his daughter, Rhaenyra, as his heir and even groomed her for her role as queen.

But after Viserys’ first wife died, he remarried the daughter of his Hand, Alicent Hightower, who bore him a son named Aegon II. Typically, Aegon II as the eldest male heir would succeed his father as king, even if he had an older sister. So when Viserys died, Alicent made the claim that her son Aegon should ascend the Iron Throne, despite the fact that Viserys had made it clear earlier in his life that he wanted Rhaenyra to succeed him. Alicent’s claim jumpstarts a civil war. (The conflict isn’t all that different from the conflicting claims to the throne made by Jon Snow and Daenerys at the end of Game of Thrones.)

Rhaenyra and Alicent will likely be the two main players in the show, each battling one another for power (or, in Alicent’s case, power by proxy through her son). The trailer even shows a glimpse of the tournament before the war in which tensions between the two women came to the fore. Rhaenyra wore black and red to the tournament, while Alicent wore green, and when conflict broke out the supporters of Rhaenyra dubbed themselves the blacks, while those who backed Aegon named themselves the greens.

Will Daenerys or any other familiar House Targaryen members make an appearance?

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen.
Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen.Courtesy of HBO

Considering House of the Dragon is set to take place two centuries before the events of Game of Thrones, it seems all but certain that neither Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) nor any of the other Targaryens who played a role in Thrones‘ plot — Aemon (Peter Vaughan), Rhaegar (Wilf Scolding in flashbacks), Aerys II “The Mad King” (David Rintoul in flashbacks), etc. — will make an appearance in the prequel.

However, the trailer does contain several Game of Thrones easter eggs, including a flash of the Stark sigil at a tournament, and an appearance of the Valyrian steel catspaw dagger that Arya used to kill the Night King in the hands of Alicent.

What happened to the other prequel?

Hours before HBO announced that House of the Dragon had been given a full series order, the news broke that the network was scrapping the other Game of Thrones successor show it had in development. The Jane Goldman-helmed series, which was set to take place thousands of years before the rise of Daenerys Targaryen and chronicle Westeros’ descent from the Age of Heroes into the Long Night, is officially no more.

Naomi Watts was slated to star in the prequel, which shot a full pilot episode directed by S.J. Clarkson (Jessica Jones) in Northern Ireland earlier this year. A Song of Ice and Fire author George R. R. Martin co-created the project with Goldman.

“I do not know why HBO decided not to go to series on this one, but I do not think it had to do with HOUSE OF THE DRAGON,” Martin wrote on his blog. “This was never an either/or situation. If television has room enough for multiple CSIs and CHICAGO shows… well, Westeros and Essos are a lot bigger, with thousands of years of history and enough tales and legends and characters for a dozen shows.”

At TCA, Bloys said that all other Game of Thrones spinoffs are currently on hold.

“For me for right now, I think getting House of the Dragon on the air will be the number one priority,” he explained. “There are no other blinking green lights or anything like that. Sometime down the road who knows, but there are no immediate plans. We are all focusing on House of the Dragon.”

More Must-Reads from TIME

Write to Megan McCluskey at megan.mccluskey@time.com and Eliana Dockterman at eliana.dockterman@time.com