BY NINA STARNER/OCT. 30, 2019 1:16 EDT
What is dead may never die — for some of the future Game of Thrones projects, that is.
On the heels of another Thrones prequel series’ early demise at HBO following a reportedly disastrous pilot and difficult working environment, the premium network has confirmed a full, 10-episode series order for House of the Dragon – a Game of Thrones prequel show about the tumultuous, ancient, royal Targaryen family.
This news comes to us courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter. The announcement of House of the Dragon came as the network unveiled its new streaming service, HBO Max, during an exclusive presentation on Tuesday, October 29.
Created by Game of Thrones series author George R.R. Martin and writer Ryan Condal (best known for Colony), House of the Dragon has Thrones veteran Miguel Sapochnik on board. Fans will know Sapochnik as the director behind famous Game of Thrones episodes like “The Long Night” and “The Battle of the Bastards.”
In a statement obtained by THR, HBO programming president Casey Bloys said, “The Game of Thrones universe is so rich with stories. We look forward to exploring the origins of House Targaryen and the earlier days of Westeros along with Miguel, Ryan, and George.”
The tale of the Targaryens is too intriguing to resist
Not much is known about the plot or the cast of this new Game of Thrones venture, except that it will tell the origin story of the Targaryen family, best represented on the original series by Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys Targaryen. Though they had royal blood and pure lineage (achieved through incest), the Targaryen line was famously troubled — often succumbing to madness, a condition which controversially afflicted Daenerys by the end of Game of Thrones. But they were also blessed with the ability to control and ride dragons. (Daenerys can also survive fire, though Martin has been careful to point out Targaryens as a whole are not immune to fire.)
As the original Game of Thrones series began, viewers met only a few members of the ancient family — namely Daenerys and her slimy brother Viserys — after the fall of the storied House, which ended as Houses Lannister and Baratheon rebelled against Daenerys’ father, Aerys II Targaryen (also known as “the Mad King”) and took control of the Iron Throne.
Targaryen lineage ended up playing a pretty enormous role on the original series. It turned out that, despite her insistence on the matter, Daenerys wasn’t actually the last surviving Targaryen who had significant claim to the Seven Kingdoms’ Iron Throne. Kit Harington’s Jon Snow, the alleged bastard of the highborn Northern House Stark, wasn’t Ned Stark’s illegitimate child at all — he was the legitimized son of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen (Daenerys’ brother) and Ned’s sister Lyanna Stark (Ned’s sister), giving him the most right to rule all of Westeros.
Naturally, this caused plenty of bad blood between Daenerys and Jon, who struck up a romantic relationship shortly before finding out that their DNA was way too similar for comfort, but a solution to their problem eventually presented itself. As the series concluded, Daenerys finally succumbed to the typical Targaryen madness, torching King’s Landing and murdering countless innocents in the process, which led to Jon stabbing her for the good of the realm just as she reached the Throne Room.
Though Daenerys’ descent into madness did seem inevitable given her family history, most viewers were dismayed, to say the least, at the abrupt decision to make one of the show’s heroes so unforgivably evil. Even Clarke, who received multiple Emmy nominations for the role, admitted that she was completely horrified at Daenerys’ choices when she first read scripts for the final season.
The Targaryen house might have been one of the smallest populations on Game of Thrones, but the lore surrounding them was extensive and admittedly fascinating, so it should come as no surprise that HBO was all-in on this particular spin-off.
What happened to the other Game of Thrones spin-off?
The existence of House of the Dragon confirms that at least one future Game of Thrones project is underway at HBO, but one of the network’s other Westeros-set spin-offs landed dead on arrival. On October 29 around the same time that HBO announced House of the Dragon, news broke that the cabler had passed on the untitled Naomi Watts-led Thrones prequel that would focus on the roots of the Seven Kingdoms and feature characters like Bran the Breaker and Lann the Clever (who created the Stark and Lannister dynasties, respectively). Unlike House of the Dragon, the other show was unceremoniously killed off, just like so many characters from the original Thrones series.
It seems surprising that HBO would say no to anything Thrones-related — even after dismal critical returns for the show’s eighth season, it smashed viewership records and took home several Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Drama — but apparently, the discord behind the scenes of this particular spin-off project grew to be too much, with reports of reshoots and turmoil over a less-than-stellar pilot. Ultimately, despite the fact that showrunner and writer Jane Goldman (X-Men: First Class) put in the work to improve the pilot, her efforts couldn’t convince HBO’s top brass to move forward.
However, in the aftermath of Game of Thrones’ final season, which was loudly derided by fans and critics alike, perhaps HBO wants to avoid Thrones fatigue, and it’s clearly a priority for the network to only produce the best possible Westeros content. In any case, House Targaryen’s full story will definitely be told in House of the Dragon, making it the sole remaining GoT prequel to survive a Daenerys-style massacre at HBO.