On August 21, 2022, HBO is finally releasing its prequel to Game of Thrones. House of the Dragon details “The Dance of the Dragons,” a civil war in Westeros that takes place about 170 years before the events of the original TV show. HBO appears to be making the same drastic mistake they made the first go-round. Let’s get into it.
The Dance of the Dragons: A Targ Civil War
Before Robert Baratheon becomes king of the Seven Kingdoms, the Targaryen royal line runs the continent for 280 years. Aegon Targaryen invades with his dragon, his two wives/sisters, and their dragons. They raze the continent and unite seven disparate kingdoms under the dragon banner. Dragons are few and far between even then; it’s not exactly clear, but it seems that only Targaryens can ride them as well. So, with the equivalent of a few fighter jets dropped into medieval Europe, the Targaryens manage to control the entire continent for hundreds of years.
About 130 years after Aegon’s conquest, King Viserys I has a daughter but no son. He names his daughter his heir to the throne. Eventually, he remarries and has a son with his new wife. When the king dies, both his daughter and her younger half-brother declare for the throne. The Targaryens and the entire continent all choose sides.
Targaryens fight other Targaryens on dragonback, hence the name, The Dance of the Dragons. At the beginning of The Dance, there are about fifteen dragons in Targaryen control and five wild dragons. Seventeen die in the civil war. The fiery destruction of that many dragons does some kind of magical damage to dragon fertility, dragons eventually die out, and Robert Baratheon is able to overthrow the dragon-less Targaryens.
So, that’s the whole premise. Now, why’s the show going to be awful?
They Don’t Have GRRM
All of the above is based on George RR Martin’s (GRRM) book, Blood and Fire, which is an in-universe historical account of the Targaryen dynasty. The first book was published in 2018. It was intended to be one volume but brevity is a young man’s game. The book is 736 pages long and only covers half of the history of the Targaryens. Half!
Furthermore, it’s written like a history book. Some parts are vague, some are suppositions, and some are contradictory. The entire thing is fairly dry as well. I absolutely loved it, but it’s not very compelling prose.
So, that means HBO has an outline of what happens in the Dance of the Dragons. They’ll be required to fill in characterizations, subplots, and dialogue. We’ve danced this dance before. That’s what they did with the Sand Snakes and Dorne. That’s what happened with the last three (or so) seasons. That’s what happened with Jon Snow after he gets killed. (There’s no spoiler alert for that because it was published 11 years ago. Get your head out of your ass.)
I think everybody of good moral character will tell you that those seasons sucked a little. Some of them sucked a lot. Now, there’s going to be a whole show that’s only those seasons?
The only hope HBO has for saving House of the Dragon from being trash is by making it fan-service trash. A proper adaptation requires an understanding of the heart of the story. The heart of the Targaryen story is beautiful silver-haired incesters riding dragons. If House of the Dragon is to be watchable, it needs to have at least two dragon fights per episode, comprising at least half of the episode. Don’t even bother with a plot. We know HBO plots anyway: some beautiful person whispers to some other beautiful person and they’re topless. No need.
Just dragon fights. Lots of dragon fights. Dragons silhouetted by the setting sun, silver hair flowing in the wind, swords gleaming. I don’t trust HBO with plotting, dialogue, or characterization. I can, however, trust them to spend lots of money. So, just spend money on making cool dragons.
What’s that, you say? They spent $20 million per episode, $30 million fewer than Amazon spent on each episode of the Lord of the Rings prequel? Nevermind. It’s hopeless. Rings of Power debuts on Amazon on September 2, 2022. Just watch that instead.
The first three episodes of House of the Dragon have premiered on HBO. And the verdict? I was correct. Much like Melisandre, I seem to have the ability to see the future. Also, much like Melisandre, I made my prediction while topless (it’s part of the creative process).
In seriousness, though, HotD is trash in the best way. There are aforementioned silver-haired incesters, and there are dragons. We have yet to see a good dragon fight, but the war is still a few years away. The plotting is more straightforward than Game of Thrones, which is good. Juggling that many storylines is a task that’s likely beyond most showrunners. So, they’re smart to keep it simple. There’s a bad Targaryen, a good Targaryen, and a monstrous evil guy who doesn’t talk. Solid work.
The only remaining question is one of the utmost importance: in which episode do the Targaryens have sex on a dragon? C’mon, you know it’ll happen.