Less than two weeks remain until we’ll all be back in Westeros, watching dragons take to the sky and knights joust in tourneys at King’s Landing. The long-awaited Game of Thrones prequel series promises to take us back to a different time in Westeros, nearly 200 years before the original series when peace (of a sort) blanketed the realm, the Targaryen dynasty was at the height of its power, and the White Walkers were still hitting the snooze button north of the Wall.
Of course, things won’t stay that peaceful; the show will depict the events of a civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons, which signaled the decline of Targaryen power in Westeros.
Like Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon is based on a book by George R.R. Martin: Fire & Blood, a “fake history” book that follows an Archmaester of the Citadel as he tries to get to the bottom of several conflicting accounts about this period. House of the Dragon has an enormous advantage over Thrones in that its source material is already done. Though Martin has plans to write a sequel to Fire & Blood that will cover a few hundred more years of the Targaryen lineage, the events for the Dance of the Dragons are covered in their entirety in the one book we already have.
Nonetheless, the author was understandably cautious about seeing another one of his works adapted for the screen. According to Insider, House of the Dragon showrunners Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik recently revealed that there were three details from his books that Martin insisted should be in the show: “Colorful dragons, an emphasis on bright heraldry, and the addition of King Jaehaerys Targaryen II.”
King Jaehaerys Targaryen II—the father of Aerys Targaryen, a.k.a the Mad King—was omitted from the Targaryen family tree in Game of Thrones, which apparently didn’t sit well with Martin. “David and Dan and skipped over Jaehaerys for reasons of clarity that [George R.R. Martin] really didn’t understand,” Sapochnik said. “He had a bee in his bonnet about it. He wanted us to right that wrong.”
It sounds like this stipulation has more to do with the mythology than the events of the show. Because Jaehaerys II won’t be born until many years after the end of the Dance of the Dragons, the only way for House of the Dragon to show him is if it becomes a full-blown anthology series. It’s a bit early to know if that’s going to happen, so we’ll chalk this one up to Martin wanting his painstakingly crafted Targaryen family tree to be respected.
As for the colorful dragons, this is something both Martin and the showrunners have talked about quite a bit by now, and all parties sound pretty excited. In A Song of Ice and Fire, Daenerys Targaryen’s three dragons have much more distinctive colorings; said simply, one was black, one was green, and one was white. While Game of Thrones captured that at the start, as the dragons grew bigger, their colors grew less distinct and the beasts looked more similar. House of the Dragon will rectify this, with nine dragons appearing in its first season and a projected 17 set to appear in the show overall, each with their own personalities, visual design, and colors.
Lastly we come to the heraldry, which Martin asked be bright, colorful, and prominent. “It’s such a time of high decadence and peace and wealth and prosperity for the realm,” Condal said. “Everybody would really festoon themselves in their house colors and be proud of them as they marched into the tournament.”
The season premiere of House of the Dragon airs at 9 p.m. EDT, August 21, on HBO and HBO Max.