Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, sweepstakes, and more!
George R.R. Martin wanted ‘House of the Dragon’ to start ‘earlier’ in his ‘Fire & Blood’ timeline
Viserys isn’t the only Targaryen ruler to ever inherit a succession mess.
Viewers still reeling from House of the Dragon’s sweeping first season could immediately re-binge the entire thing and probably pick up on plot threads (and characters) they didn’t quite catch the first time around. In George R.R. Martin’s tangled, generation-spanning skein of people, places, and incestuous alliances, it takes some commitment to stay oriented — even if you’re a seasoned Game of Thrones fan.
Thanks to some crucial star swaps that kept its lead characters looking their age over a story that spans decades, House of the Dragon already had struck a high-investment; high-reward bargain with viewers to command their close attention. But if the author himself had gotten his way, fans might’ve been asked to absorb even more of the condensed Targaryen history outlined in Martin’s Fire & Blood, the 2018 novel on which the HBO Max show is based.
That’s because Martin would have started the GoT prequel series at a different point in the House Targaryen timeline than the episode-one ascendance of King Viserys (Paddy Considine). Speaking with fellow fantasy author David Anthony Durham (via Entertainment Weekly), the grandest of Game of Thrones grand maesters said he’d have reached even farther back into the dynastic Dragonriders’ past.
Joking that his starting-point pick was liked by “no one…except for me” among the show’s writers, Martin said he’d have kicked things off with a very specific and pivotal Targaryen family moment; one falling decades before Viserys first sits the Iron Throne, and highlighting how his grandfather (King Jaehaerys I, played briefly in episode 1 by Michael Carter) solved his own succession mess.
“I would've begun it, like, 40 years earlier, with an episode I would've called ‘The Heir and the Spare,’” said Martin. ”Jaehaerys’ two sons, Aemon and Baelon, are alive, and we see the friendship — but also the rivalry — between the two sides of the great house. Then Aemon dies accidentally when a Myrish crossbowman shoots him by accident on Tarth.
“Then Jaehaerys has to decide who becomes the new heir. Is it the daughter of the son who's just died? Or the second son who has children of his own and is a man where she's a teenager? You could've presented all that stuff — but then you would've had 40 more years, and even more time jumps and recastings. I was the only one who was really enthused about that.”
Jaehaerys is something of a legendary figure even within his own line, as his descendants’ ancestor-invoking references throughout House of the Dragon frequently suggest. Starting the series with Jaehaerys still in mid-reign would have at least covered more of Martin’s novel: In the book, the first-episode convening of the Great Council — the one that places Viserys atop the throne — takes place all the way at (roughly) the midway point.
Martin said the writing team bounced around even more ideas about when to begin the series, with most of the writers picking moments that fall still later down in the timeline. But in a saga that has so much to tell, one starting point might be just as serviceable as another, he added — so long, that is, as you stick the landing. “There are many ways you can approach these things,” he said. “And if you do it well, it can work.”
All episodes of House of the Dragon’s fiery debut season are ready to stream now at HBO Max.
Looking for more fantasy? Stream the Harry Potter saga right now on Peacock.