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House of the Dragon: release date, casting news, story details, and more about the Game of Thrones prequel

House of the Dragon
(Image credit: WarnerMedia)

The Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon is finally looking like a reality, with official casting news flowing for multiple key roles. After a few different Game of Thrones prequels were optioned, the Targaryen-focused House of the Dragon has emerged the clear favorite at HBO, with principal production on House of the Dragon set to begin in 2021.

The series is based on George R.R. Martin's Fire & Blood novel, which reads like a history book documenting the early history of the Targaryen dynasty, from founding King's Landing and establishing it as the royal capital of Westeros to the fabled Targaryen civil war. Expect plenty of dragons, executions by fire, and of course political intrigue, backstabbing, and sex. 

HBO has yet to confirm this, but it's likely the pandemic is having some sort of ill effect on House of the Dragon production. And despite things still being very early in development, we actually know a fair bit about House of the Dragon. That's thanks to a few official snippets of information, but mostly because we know the series is based on George R.R. Martin's Fire and Blood, which tells us a ton about what to expect.

Whereas the other Game of Thrones prequel, which was canceled last year, was to focus on events that took place thousands of years before Game of Thrones and aren't particularly well-documented, House of the Dragon is an adaptation of a novel that's already out. Having read that book, it's safe to assume that House of the Dragon will blend medieval political intrigue with fantasy elements like dragons and magic, somewhat similar to Game of Thrones.

The Game of Thrones prequel will tell the long and winding saga of how the Targaryens came to power, with some familiar names coming to life on the show. For example, Peaky Blinders' Paddy Considine is reportedly set to star. Need to know more? You're in the right place. With the news of three new key cast members, here's everything we know so far about the Game of Thrones prequel series The House of the Dragon.

When is the House of the Dragon release date?

Don't expect House of the Dragon to reach our screens for at least another couple years. Before the pandemic threatened to delay production, HBO's Casey Bloys speculated it would release "sometime in 2022," adding that the script was already being written. But as lockdowns around the world pose significant production hurdles, there's a good chance it releases later than that.

Not that it's a direct equivalent, but for comparison sake: the idea for a Game of Thrones TV show was originally conceived in 2006 and development began in 2007. The pilot episode of Game of Thrones premiered in 2011, roughly four years later. With that timeline in mind, it wouldn't be without precedent to see House of the Dragons release around the 2024 mark. Though, again, that's 100% speculation, and with any luck, we'll be watching the Game of Thrones prequel well before that time. After all, HBO will want to keep George R.R. Martin's golden goose hatching eggs.

Who's in the House of the Dragon cast?

Image credit: Getty

Image credit: Getty (Image credit: HBO)

The most recent casting news came straight from HBO, which revealed three key roles have been filled. 

Emma D'Arcy and Matt Smith join the House of the Dragon cast as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen and Prince Daemon Targaryen respectively, while Olivia Cooke has signed on to play Alicent Hightower.

The two Targaryen royals play key roles in the climactic Dance of the Dragons, the Targaryen civil war that takes up a large chunk of George R.R. Martin's Fire & Blood, the novel on which House of the Dragon is based. Expect to see these characters play major roles in the events of House of the Dragon, and given their lasting presence in the book, it's likely we'll see them across several seasons. Though, as Game of Thrones proved, TV series aren't always 100% faithful to their source work. 

In October, the series' lead was announced: Paddy Considine as King Viserys I, an ancestor of everyone's favorite Mother of Dragons, Daenerys Targaryen. Viserys is chosen by the Lords of Westeros to succeed the Iron Throne and apparently wants to innocently carry on his grandfather's legacy. However, as the original series showed us, good men don't always make good leaders.

Fire & Blood features a lineup of Targaryen rulers from Aegon I to his sons, Aenys I and Maegor I, all the way up to Aegon III. We expect even more silver-haired dragonriders to take the reign as casting details continue opening up in the (presumably) near future.

When is the House of the Dragon set?

Image credit: HBO

Image credit: HBO (Image credit: HBO)

The beginning of House of the Dragon will date back to roughly 300 years before the events of Game of Thrones. That might seem like a while back, but it's actually much more recent history than the canceled Naomi Watts prequel, which was set to take place "thousands of years" before Game of Thrones and explore the early history of ancient houses as well as the origin of the White Walkers.

Considering Westerosi societies were very much thriving, and turbulent as ever, during the timeline containing House of the Dragon, expect to see political interworkings akin to Game of Thrones explored in the prequel series. Whereas the canceled prequel would've more likely focused primarily on fantasy elements, House of the Dragon is based on a book very much centered around ancestral hierarchies, warring nations, and a massive civil war. That should equate to a prequel series more tonally similar to Game of Thrones, a show as much about dragons as the dark underbellies of society and the ruling class.

For the uninitiated, House Targaryen is very much affiliated with dragons, going all the way back to Aegon the Conqueror's fire-breathing conquest over the seven kingdoms where House of the Dragon picks up.

What's the House of the Dragon story?

Image credit: HBO

Image credit: HBO (Image credit: HBO)

House of the Dragon is based on Fire and Blood, a novel by George RR Martin covering the rise and fall of the Targaryen dynasty as recorded by a maester in pre-Game of Thrones time. Since that book has been out for about two years, we have a pretty good idea of what we can expect to see from House of the Dragon's plot.

The book picks up with Aegon's Conquest, which marked the very beginning of a new world order, the establishment of King's Landing as the world capital, and the physical formation of the Iron Throne. 

Together with the help of his twin sisters, Rhaenys and Visenya (not to mention their three dragons), Aegon Targaryen I successfully subdued six of the seven kingdoms of Westeros, whether by conquest or their voluntary submission. Dorne was the only kingdom to successfully resist Targaryen rule. The only kingdom to prevail unconquered was Dorne, which Rhaenys left unharmed after finding its castles abandoned and only women and children occupying its seat.

Image credit: HBO

Image credit: HBO (Image credit: HBO)

From there follows a turbulent run of Targaryen kings and queens; good, evil, and everywhere in between; leading up to the great civil war between Aegon II and his half-sister Rhaenyra over their father Viserys I's throne. That long struggle endured for two years, through which several large-scale battles were fought until both Aegon II and Rhaenya died mysterious and grizzly respective deaths.

The resulting power void fell to the young Aegon III to occupy, which resulted in the death of "the last dragon." The end of Fire and Blood doesn't lead directly into the events of Game of Thrones, closing out roughly 150 years before the fateful day Robert Baratheon shows up at King's Landing to enlist Ned Stark as Hand of the King. The gap between the end of Fire and Blood and the beginning of Game of Thrones hasn't been written about in depth, but Martin has said he plans on writing Fire and Blood part 2 when he's finished the A Song of Ice and Fire series.

Game of Thrones followed the books closely and with little deviation for the first four seasons, after which substantial changes to the characters and plot were made at least partly due to the source work not being finished at the time. For those reasons, it's hard to tell how faithfully House of the Dragon will tell the stories from Fire and Blood. With Martin at the helm and Fire and Blood published in its entirety, it's a good bet the show and book will align quite nicely.

Who is the Game of Thrones prequel TV show showrunner?

Image credit: HBO

Image credit: HBO

George RR Martin will be heading up the Game of Thrones prequel as showrunner, along with Ryan Condal and Game of Thrones alumn Miguel Sapochnik. Sapochnik directed some of Game of Thrones' most pivotal episodes, including "Hardhome" and "Battle of the Bastards," while Condal is an established screenwriter and producer well familiar with Martin's work.

What's happened to the other Game of Thrones prequel TV shows?

An image from Game of Thrones

Image credit: HBO (Image credit: HBO)

The Game of Thrones prequel starring Naomi Watts was canceled late last year, despite filming its pilot episode. And before that, HBO commissioned five writers to have a crack at their own Game of Thrones prequel, with some of the finest talent around ready to present their vision of Westeros. Inevitably, only one was chosen.

So, what about the other three? Martin was kind enough to update us all with a blog post about the Game of Thrones prequels before the most recent cancellation. In it, he says that, of the five prequels, one has been shelved, with three more in "active development." Now that the one starring Watts has been cancelled, that leaves us with another two Game of Thrones prequels alongside House of the Dragon potentially still in early development.

The author has expressed his interest to create another Game of Thrones show called Spear Carriers, inspired by the Tom Stoppard play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. "[It] would actually be set during the events of Game of Thrones", explained Martin in an interview with The New York Times, "but it wouldn’t be following Dany, Tyrion, and Jaime."

"They would all be there in the background like Hamlet, and it would be more like, 'Here's a story about a guy in the City Watch; here's a story about a prostitute at one of Littlefinger's brothels; here’s a story about a mummer who's in town to do juggling and tricks.' And they all get caught up in the events. I think that kind of show would be a lot of fun to do. Maybe I’ll be able to convince them to do it!" It sounds amazing, George, but best of luck getting HBO to greenlight that one!

House of the Dragon concept art

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House of the Dragon

(Image credit: WarnerMedia)
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House of the Dragon

(Image credit: WarnerMedia)
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House of the Dragon

(Image credit: WarnerMedia)

Here's some concept art HBO revealed for House of the Dragon. It isn't much, but it does give us our first look at what the dragons might look like. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they look pretty similar to the winged beasts we saw in Game of Thrones. The last one in particular looks a lot like Drogon with the redish hue to its scales. And we've seen it before, but that last shot is probably the official House of the Dragon title screen/logo.