The first stills from House of the Dragon, the new series within George RR Martin’s fantasy universe, promise more of the same but also a tease of something new
Game of Thrones might have hurt us again and again, but it knows that it only has to throw us a few scraps and we’ll come crawling back for more. Photograph: HBO
The Guardian-Stuart Heritage
Game of Thrones currently has a bit of an image problem. The sense that George RR Martin will never actually complete his saga has taken all the fun out of reading the books, and the dismal Crayola scribble of a final season has obliterated the reputation of the TV series.
But HBO knows how easily pleased we are. Game of Thrones might have hurt us again and again, but it knows that it only has to throw us a few scraps and we’ll come crawling back for more. And the first of these scraps has just arrived, in the form of some official House of the Dragon photographs.
House of the Dragon is, of course, HBO’s first attempt at creating a kind of Westeros MCU. It’s a Game of Thrones prequel, set 300 years in the past and revolving around the madcap adventures of House Targaryen. It’s being co-showrun by Ryan Condal (best known for writing a film where The Rock wore a wig and another film where The Rock had a giant monkey for a best friend), and it stars the likes of Matt Smith, Paddy Considine and Rhys Ifans. And now, ahead of its premiere next year, we finally get to see what it’s actually going to look like. So, what can we learn from the House of the Dragon’s pictures? Let’s take a look.
This is the most classically Targaryen picture of the lot. It’s the one that looks like the messy aftermath of a semi-ironic Emilia Clarke cosplay party. It’s the one where you realise that every single member of House Targaryen has looked identical for centuries, and that the whole clan is probably horribly inbred, and that there’s a good chance that the reason why Daenerys turned into Dragon Hitler at the end of Game of Thrones was because she suffered from a severe genetic deficiency. It’s the one where you think “Ooh, who is that sexy young lady?” and then realise that it’s actually Matt Smith.
Smith and Emma D’Arcy are playing Prince Daemon Targaryen and Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, respectively. She’s upset about not being a boy, he’s probably a lunatic. Here they are, dressed impractically for their day at the beach.
This is a slightly more interesting photo, because neither of the characters are wearing wigs that look like fire hazards in the making. Also, good news for anyone who might be dreading the sexual politics of House of the Dragon, because Ifans is actually playing Olivia Cooke’s father and not her husband. This automatically makes him about 50% less creepy than this image might first suggest.
Ifans’ character is named Otto Hightower. As you can see from his brooch, he is the Hand of the King. According to the press notes, he thinks that the biggest threat to House Targaryen is Daemon Targaryen. This means – and this is pure speculation on my part, but I bet I’m right – that he will be executed in the penultimate episode of the first season. Meanwhile, Cooke plays Alicent Hightower, “the most comely woman in the Seven Kingdoms”. This seems unlikely, because you try sighing “Oh Alicent” in the throes of pleasure. Anyway, here they both are, dressed impractically for their day at the beach.
Finally, we have the most exciting picture of the lot. According to HBO, Toussaint is playing Lord Corlys Velaryon; the most famed nautical adventurer in the history of Westeros. He has amassed the largest navy in the land, and boasts a fortune greater than even the Lannisters. But that isn’t why the picture is exciting. It’s exciting because Lord Corlys is Black.
A Black main character in a George RR Martin property. Who thought this day would come? Until now, the best any non-white character could expect from a Game of Thrones casting was a peripheral role as a slave girl or a soldier whose penis had been lopped off. But Lord Corlys is a man of great authority. It’s proof that Westeros does contain Black people, albeit only 300 years ago. And the fact that there aren’t any now suggests that some form of deeply troubling ethnic cleansing has taken place in the intervening years. But forget that for now. Lord Corlys looks fun. Here he is, dressed impractically for his day at the beach.
- House of the Dragon will premiere in 2022