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If the flying, fire-breathing lizard of mass destruction ain't broke, don't try to fix it.
That was the guiding philosophy of the creatives behind HBO's first Game of Thrones spinoff project: House of the Dragon (slated to premiere on HBO and HBO Max later this month). With "Dragon" right there in the title, co-showrunners and executive producers — Ryan Condal (Colony) and Miguel Sapochnik (a veteran director on GoT) — couldn't afford to drop the scaly egg when it came to the most important trademark of the royal Targaryen family. And while House takes place several hundred years before the death of Jon Arryn plunges the Seven Kingdoms into utter chaos, it couldn't help but look to the children of Daenerys Targaryen for a little inspiration.
"I've got a book which has hundreds of dragon [concept] designs," Sapochnik revealed to Empire for the magazine's September 2022 issue (now on sale). "The first thing you want to do is not to do Drogon. So I came up with a whole theory about how there were three different kinds of dragons, based on their different skulls. We came up with all kinds of stuff. But in the end, we ended up back at Drogon. There's something about Drogon, it's like the Millennium Falcon. It hit something."
Appearing at San Diego Comic-Con in late July, Condal (who co-created the prequel series with Ice and Fire architect, George R.R. Martin) teased a total of 17 dragons, although viewers will only get to see nine of them in the 10 episodes of Season 1. "Each new dragon has its own personality," Sapochnik continued during his chat with Empire. "That's what's going on now in our last part of the animation — we're applying personal character traits to each of the dragons. One of them's got a gimpy leg. Another one's much more like an eagle because she's kind of neurotic. And another one's like a curmudgeonly old granny."
A bloody war for control of the Iron Throne becomes even bloodier (or should we say crispier?) when massive dragons are thrown into the mix. Swords, poisons, and every other mode of death in Westeros pales in comparison to a winged demon of the skies capable of turning human beings into steaks that have been left on the grill for too long. But before you can burn the masses en masse, you need to learn how to train your dragon.
"There's a very symbiotic connection between the dragon rider and the dragon," explained Doctor Who alum Matt Smith, who steps into the shoes of power-hungry Prince Daemon Targaryen. "You've got to master it from an early age, and it's a death-defying experience trying to tame it. For want of a better analogy, it's a bit like Avatar," he added, referring to the rare bond between Na'vi and the great leonopteryx (aka toruk).
"Daenerys resurrected this idea that, when you're the only person with nuclear weapons, you can either be a force for peace, or you can be a tyrant," Condal said. "And the line between those two things is very thin. That's definitely something this show will explore."
House of the Dragon lights up HBO and HBO Max Sunday, Aug. 21 at 9 p.m. ET.
Looking for some fantasy content to tide you over? Click here for our list of the best fantasy films available on Peacock.