House of the Dragon, HBO's latest hit TV series, is living up to the legacy of Game of Thrones and its earlier seasons. There's plenty of political intrigue, morally gray characters, and lots of awesome dragons.
This prequel series is based on George R. R. Martin's Fire & Blood novel about the rise and fall of House Targaryen, set 172 years before the birth of Daenerys and centering on the Targaryen civil war that would later be known as the "Dance of the Dragons."
So far, House of the Dragon has proven to be a success and is helping to restore the tarnished reputation that was left behind by the disastrous final season of Game of Thrones.
Here are several surprising facts about House of the Dragon and its production that you probably didn't know!
1. It Wasn't Supposed to Be the First Game of Thrones Spin-Off Series
The first Game of Thrones spin-off to be developed was a show called Bloodmoon, created by Jane Goldman and starring Naomi Watts and Jamie Campbell.
Set during the Age of Heroes—about 8,000 years before the events of Game of Thrones—the show was intended to depict the events of The Long Night and the origins of the White Walkers.
But Bloodmoon was ultimately canceled after its pilot episode—which cost more than $30 million to produce—received negative reception at HBO, clearing the path for House of the Dragon to become the first official Game of Thrones spin-off to make it to air.
2. The Events Depicted in House of the Dragon Are Loosely Based on a True Story
As any hardcore fan of Game of Thrones might know, the original TV show and the originating novels were loosely inspired by the War of the Roses, a period in English history where several royal houses fought over the English throne in a war that lasted almost three decades.
Similarly, the Targaryen civil war depicted in House of the Dragon is loosely inspired by an earlier period of English history called The Anarchy.
In 1120, after King Henry I's son accidentally drowned, he named his daughter Matilda as his heir and he made all the Lords of the Kingdom swear an oath to her. But after his passing in 1135, his nephew Stephen of Blois seized the throne, which unleashed a civil war for control of the kingdom.
3. The First-Season Budget Is Higher Than Any Season of Game of Thrones
According to reports, the approximate cost of each House of the Dragon episode in its first season was $20 million. That's approximately $200 million for the entire first season.
It might not sound like a lot compared to the cost of other recent hit TV shows like Stranger Things ($30 million per episode in season four) or The Rings of Power ($465 million for the entire first season), but it's certainly one of HBO's most expensive shows ever.
By comparison, the first few seasons of Game of Thrones only cost about $6 million per episode to produce, while the final season had a price tag of $15 million per episode.
4. House of the Dragon Will Feature Up to 17 Different Dragons Across the Series
Even though in pop culture Game of Thrones is basically synonymous with dragons, the original show only featured three of these winged beasts. Daenerys's children—Drogon, Rhaegal, and Viserion—stole the show and left audiences wanting more.
Fortunately, House of the Dragon will live up to its name and feature up to 17 dragons in total. These flying creatures will come in all shapes and sizes, from relatively small dragons (like Vermax) to the biggest dragons the world of Westeros has ever seen (like Vhagar).
Much of the huge production budget is going towards giving each dragon their own distinct looks and personalities. Prepare to see a lot of dragons flying around Westeros!
5. Alicent and Rhaenyra Weren't Childhood Friends in the Fire & Blood Novel
House of the Dragon has made a lot of changes to its source material, but one of the biggest has been aging down Queen Alicent Hightower to make her a childhood friend of Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen.
Originally in Fire & Blood, Alicent is nine years older than Rhaenyra and she first came to the Red Keep to help care for King Jaehaerys (the predecessor to the current King Viserys).
In the book, it's never mentioned that Alicent and Rhaenyra were close prior to her marriage to Viserys. Fortunately, this change has proven to be a smart decision as it gives more depth to Alicent and Rhaenyra's rivalry.
6. The Showrunners Couldn't Imagine Anyone Else as Daemon Targaryen
For book readers, Daemon's rebellious attitude and bad-boy personality made him one of the most popular Targaryens in the franchise. So, naturally, there was a lot of expectation regarding his casting.
When news broke out that Matt Smith was chosen to play the rogue prince Daemon Targaryen, many fans were quick to express their outrage and disappointment. They'd expected someone more traditionally handsome and muscular, like Henry Cavill or Alexander Skarsgård.
But in just his first episode, Smith proved why he was the right choice—by giving one of the best performances of the show so far.
It's not so surprising in hindsight to learn that Matt Smith was always the showrunners' first choice to play the rogue prince. Ryan Condal (one of House of the Dragon's showrunners) revealed that Matt Smith was the only actor in discussion for the role of Daemon Targaryen.
7. Co-Showrunner Miguel Sapochnik Isn't Returning for Season Two
Miguel Sapochnik is no stranger to the world of Game of Thrones. He directed some of the best and most iconic episodes of that show, including "Battle of the Bastards," "The Winds of Winter," and "Hardhome."
Fans were relieved when he was announced as co-showrunner of House of the Dragon, along with Ryan Condal. And with this first season, he's proven why he was the right person for the job.
However, shortly after the series premiered, he announced that he wouldn't be returning for season two, leaving Condal as the sole showrunner.
Although he will remain as an executive producer for the rest of the series, he was reportedly exhausted after three years of intense planning and development for House of the Dragon. Alan Taylor, another Game of Thrones veteran, will step in as director for the next season.
8. The Series Is a Huge Ratings Success
The first episode of House of the Dragon was watched by almost 10 million viewers on its first day, becoming the most-watched TV series premiere in HBO's history.
After its first full week, approximately 25 million viewers had seen the first episode across all official platforms (which led HBO to officially renew the series for a second season only five days after its premiere).
The average viewership of the first five episodes has been 29 million viewers, which is massive for a premium cable show. By comparison, Game of Thrones averaged 9 million viewers across its first season and 44 million viewers per episode across its final season.
Several Other Game of Thrones Spin-Offs Are in Production
Unsurprisingly, after the huge success of Game of Thrones and now House of the Dragon, HBO is seeking to develop more spin-off shows based on the world created by George R. R. Martin.
As of right now, several other shows are being developed:
- A series about Jon Snow's adventures beyond The Wall after the events of Game of Thrones;
- A series centered around House of the Dragon's Corlys Velaryon;
- A series adaptation of Tales of Dunk and Egg, a set of novels set before the events of Game of Thrones;
- Three other animated shows with few details as of yet.
Will they have the same level of critical acclaim that House of the Dragon has gotten so far? Only time will tell! But given the success of House of the Dragon in the face of overwhelming skepticism, it seems okay to be hopeful now.