House of the Dragon is coming to HBO in 2022 – and the first spin-off of Game of Thrones is finally filming now, two years after the fantasy drama ended. Official images of the series have already been released by HBO, along with cast information and detailed character synopses that give us an idea of what to expect from the story.
Based on George RR Martin’s Targaryen-focused 2018 book Fire and Blood, the series is set 300 years before the events of Game of Thrones. It’s a Targaryen-centric show that will tell the story of that bloodline, and it takes place after a new king of Westeros, Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine), assumes the throne.
HBO has been unusually candid about the show, even though filming only started in April 2021. That’s possibly because the series’ location shooting has made it prone to set photo leaks – but it means we’ve already seen the show’s first official images, which you’ll find throughout this piece.
After Game of Thrones crashed and burned in its finale, can House of the Dragon turn sentiment on A Song of Ice and Fire around? Here’s everything we know about this new spin-off so far, including the release date, cast and story.
House of the Dragon release date: 2022
Fire will reign 🔥The @HBO original series #HouseoftheDragon is officially in production. Coming soon to @HBOMax in 2022. pic.twitter.com/tPX8n2IvGWApril 26, 2021
There is no more firm release date on House of the Dragon except 2022, which is the timeframe HBO has committed to. Given the amount of effects work required on a show that’ll feature fire-breathing dragons, we’d be surprised to see it arrive any time before next spring.
As well as launching on HBO and HBO Max in the US, the series has been confirmed for release on Sky and Now in the UK, following a new deal Sky TV signed with HBO in October 2019 that will keep HBO shows on the platforms “for many years to come”.
House of the Dragon cast: who’s confirmed and who’s rumored
- Paddy Considine as King Viserys Targaryen
- Olivia Cooke as as Alicent Hightower
- Emma D’Arcy as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen
- Matt Smith as Prince Daemon Targaryen
- Steve Toussaint as Lord Corlys Velaryon – or The Sea Snake, as he’s known
- Eve Best as Princess Rhaenys Velaryon
- Rhys Ifans as Otto Hightower
- Sonoya Mizuno as Mysaria
- Fabien Frankel as Ser Criston Cole
- Graham McTavish – character unknown
Now that House of the Dragon has begun filming, HBO has been pretty open about who’s in the cast, and who’s playing which characters. This will no doubt head off leaks about the show – though there’s one additional cast member who’s confirmed his involvement in the series before an official announcement, which we’ll detail below.
We’re going to be careful on spoilers, here, because if you go digging into the events of Fire and Blood, you might end up ruining part of the show’s story. Below, we’re going to stick to what HBO has revealed so far, so you only know how the characters are starting off in the show.
First up, Paddy Considine is playing King Viserys Targaryen, who’s selected by the lords of Westeros as the successor to the previous king – Jaehaerys Targaryen. HBO describes him as a ‘warm, kind and decent man’, whose main goal is to continue his grandfather’s way of doing things. Now, since when does being a ‘decent man’ ever get you anywhere in Westeros, except dead?
Let’s go to the highest-profile piece of casting in the show. Playing Viserys’ younger brother Prince Daemon Targaryen is Matt Smith of The Crown and Doctor Who. Described as an unmatched warrior, he’s the heir to the throne of Westeros – he’s also capable of riding dragons, and he sounds like trouble waiting to happen. Not everyone in Westeros seems to be a fan of Daemon, as we’ll touch on below.
Let’s flip to another Targaryen. Emma D’Arcy plays Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, Viserys’ first-born child – it sounds like her only big drawback in this show is being a woman, when the world around her favors men in positions of power. But hey, she’s also capable of riding dragons, and she’s of pure Valyrian blood.
Olivia Cooke plays Alicent Hightower. She’s politically savvy, and is closely aligned with the king and his allies – and she’s the daughter of Rhys Ifans‘ Otto Hightower, the Hand of the King. Hightower doesn’t trust Daemon, and regards his status as heir to the throne as a fraught state of affairs.
Steve Toussaint plays Lord Corlys Velaryon, also known as the Sea Snake. He’s got big nautical energy, possessing the largest navy in Westeros, and being a famous adventurer on the high seas himself. The Velaryon bloodline is as old as House Targaryen, HBO says. Interestingly, in March 2021, it was reported by Deadline that HBO was considering a spin-off that focuses specifically on this character.
Eve Best plays his wife, Princess Rhaenys Velaryon. Now, she was in contention to rule Westeros, except the Great Council bypassed her status as heir to elect her cousin, Viserys, as king. The reason? He’s a man, and she is not. That’s bound to be the source of some major tension on the show.
Other characters include Devs’ Sonoya Mizuno as Mysaria, who HBO says has been “sold more times than she can recall”. She’s escaped a life of degradation, however, and now finds herself as the closet ally of Prince Daemon Targaryen, making her a fairly powerful figure in Westeros.
Last of the officially announced cast is Dornish lad Ser Criston Cole, played by Fabien Frankel. He’s a commoner, but since HBO notes he kicks ass with a sword, you can expect him to play a key role in the larger story of House of the Dragon.
Finally, The Hobbit actor Graham McTavish confirmed to Stylist that he’s part of the cast for the show, after he was reportedly spotted on-set. Who he’s playing, though, remains a mystery, since he hasn’t been officially added to the cast by HBO yet.
We’ll update this cast list as we learn more about who’s participating in this enormous show.
House of the Dragon: what’s the story about?
The new Game of Thrones prequel series focuses on House Targaryen, so expect ambition, incest and, of course, winged, fire-breathing reptiles. George RR Martin confirmed the latter on his blog, admitting, “I can say there will be dragons. Everyone else has said that, so why not me?”
As mentioned, the new show is based on Martin’s 2018 book Fire and Blood, which managed to annoy a section of the fanbase by not being the long-awaited sixth novel in the A Song of Ice and Fire saga. Instead the book is a history of the dragon-riding Targaryen family – the author himself has described it as the “GRRMarillion”, a nod to the dense JRR Tolkien non-novel that recounts the pre-Lord of the Rings history of Middle-earth.
In terms of chronology, House of the Dragon will be set 300 years before Game of Thrones. The series promises to tell the story of House Targaryen – but nothing else has been shared about the plot, other than what we’ve learned in the character descriptions above.
There’s likely to be plenty of familial in-fighting – the Targaryens were dysfunctional long before Viserys and Dany came along – alongside origin stories of other major Westerosi houses like the Baratheons, Tyrells and Lannisters.
In other words, House of the Dragon looks set to have the same mix of epic battles, political intrigue and betrayals as Game of Thrones, with one major difference – this being a prequel, we know exactly where it’s heading.
Who’s making House of the Dragon?
A Twitter announcement in October 2019 revealed that George RR Martin created the new Game of Thrones prequel series with Ryan Condal. Condal is best known for showrunning USA Network alien invasion drama Colony, and scripting Dwayne Johnson-starring game adaptation Rampage.
Condal will write the show and share showrunning duties with Miguel Sapochnik. Sapochnik directed some of Game of Thrones most epic episodes – including season 6’s ‘Battle of the Bastards’ and season 8’s ‘The Long Night’ – and will helm multiple episodes of House of the Dragon, including the pilot.
Other confirmed producers include Vince Gerardis, Sara Lee Hess and Ron Schmidt. Directors Clare Kilner, Geeta V Patel and Greg Yaitanes are also working on the series.
Composer Ramin Djawadi returns from Game of Thrones to score House of the Dragon.
Is there a House of the Dragon trailer?
With filming only having just begun, don’t expect any official House of the Dragon trailers to appear for a good while yet. Any you’ll see out there on YouTube are fan edits, made up of old footage. We’d expect to see a first look at House of the Dragon towards the end of the year, when HBO previews its coming attractions for 2022.
What happened to the Game of Thrones prequel series Blood Moon?
The other prequel series looked set to be massive. One of five potential spin-off shows ordered into development by HBO, a show set 8,000 years before the events of Game of Thrones looked the most likely to get a greenlight. HBO even shot a pilot episode over the summer of 2019.
Scripted by Jane Goldman – who boasts Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class and Kingsman on her impressive resumé – the untitled series would reportedly have told the story of the First Men, the Children of the Forest, and the creation of the White Walkers. Naomi Watts headed up an impressive cast that also included John Simm (Life on Mars, Doctor Who), Miranda Richardson (Blackadder II, Good Omens), Jamie Campbell Bower (The Twilight Saga: New Moon, King Arthur) and Naomi Ackie (Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, The End of the F***ing World).
All looked promising until October 2019, when it turned out HBO had decided not to pick up the show. So what gave the broadcaster the fear?
“In development, in pilots, sometimes things come together, sometimes they don’t,” HBO President of Programming Casey Bloys told Deadline. “One of the things I think Jane [Goldman] took on beautifully, which was a challenge, there was a lot more world creation because she set hers 8,000 years before the [parent] show, so it required a lot more. One of the things about House of Dragons [sic], there is a text, there is a book so that made it a little bit more of a road map for a series order.
“I think Jane did a beautiful job, it was a big challenge but there was nothing that I would point to and say, ‘Oh, that one element did not work.’ Just overall it did not quite gel.”
As for whether House of the Dragon will eventually be joined on HBO by more shows set on Westeros, Bloys simply said: “For me for right now, I think getting House of the Dragon on the air will be the number one priority. There are no other blinking green lights or anything like that. Sometime down the road who knows, but there are no immediate plans.”
In February 2021, Bloys again weighed in on the franchise’s future beyond House of the Dragon. “I’ve never wanted to do this with a mandate that you must have three series by this time or you must exploit adult animation or you must do that,” he told Deadline. “It’s really coming from, would that be interesting, is that good, do we have a writer we believe in. That’s kind of the approach we are taking. I think you have to because if you don’t do that, it would lead to putting shows on for the sake of it.”
For now, then, House of the Dragon is the only Game of Thrones spin-off you need to worry about.
Should you care about House of the Dragon?
By the time House of the Dragon arrives, we think curiosity for a Game of Thrones prequel series will be higher than it would’ve been two years ago, when the show ended divisively. The big names in the cast and shift in timeframe do make the series sound intriguing – the pressure will just be on to make the stakes feel as grand as they were in the main series, which is tough when we ultimately know what happens to House Targaryen.
Still, we have missed seeing CG dragons destroy stuff over the past couple of years. If nothing else, hopefully this series will have plenty of that.