The latest news about HBO’s Game of Thrones spinoff, House of the Dragon, suggests that almost all the series’ major players have been cast. Emma D’Arcy, Matt Smith, and Olivia Cooke have joined the show—as two Targaryens and a Hightower, respectively.
Cooke’s role is Alicent Hightower, daughter of Hand of the King Otto Hightower. She’s beautiful and clever; being raised in the Red Keep means she knows a thing or two about life at court, despite not being a royal.
D’Arcy gets the plum role of Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, a dragon-riding, pure-blooded Valyrian who is her father’s first-born child. But as we know, being first-born rarely means squat in this world if you’re not a man.
Smith plays Prince Daemon Targaryen, and let’s just pause for a moment to note that basically no one named any variant of “Daemon” has been good news in the history of filmed entertainment. Daemon is the younger brother of King Viserys (Paddy Considine) and heir to his throne.
(The rest of this post could be considered spoilers, so read at your own risk.)
House of the Dragon is expected to explore the era of the Dance of Dragons, the civil war among the Targaryens that breaks out in the wake of Viserys’ death. What these character descriptions don’t tell you is that Alicent Hightower becomes the second wife of King Viserys. Her position—and her brood of children—are a threat to both Rhaenyra and Daemon, who also eventually marry.
After his death, Viserys’s small council splits over whether the crown should go to Rhaenyra as the eldest, or to her half-brother, Prince Aegon the Elder, who is Alicent’s son. One of those council members is, of course, the Hand of the King, and Otto Hightower clearly has a considerable interest in keeping his family in power. (Also, it’s likely that Rhaenyra would murder all threats to her position.)
Some on the council argued that Daemon would be the true ruler anyway if Rhaenyra were crowned (Westeros isn’t exactly famed for its respect for female rulers). Ultimately, they crown Aegon—skipping over Rhaenyra and dismissing Viserys’s wishes. Naturally, Rhaenyra is furious, and sets up her own council at Dragonstone. Everything, inevitably, leads to war. With dragons!
This all seems like a lot of plot, but there’s even more backstory if you start digging into the years before Viserys married Alicent, when she and Rhaenyra were friends, before everyone was on to their second marriages and naming all their children from the same pool of a dozen names. (There’s a Joffrey in this era too. Sorry?)
House of the Dragon will have ten episodes, and the latest news also filled out the director list: Clare Kilner, Geeta V. Patel and Greg Yaitanes (who is also an executive producer) will join co-showrunner Miguel Sapochnik in the director’s chair. Production will start next year, but we won’t see any dragons onscreen until 2022.