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HOTD Showrunners Explain How They Dealt With The Stories’ Complexity

By Mabel Judith Andrady
August 21,2022

The debut of House of the Dragon is only a few hours away, and with it, readers of George R. R. Martin’s Fire and Blood will finally understand the truth behind the brutal civil war that the novel depicts. The new show begins with House Targaryen at its strongest, but the legitimacy of King Viserys’s decision to make his oldest daughter Rhaenyra his successor quickly comes into doubt.

House-of-the-Dragon-Rhys

House-of-the-Dragon

House of the Dragon is an HBO fantasy adventure series co-created by HOTD showrunners Ryan J. Condal and Miguel Sapochnik, who also directs many episodes of the first season. Paddy Considine plays King Viserys, and Matt Smith plays Prince Daemon Targaryen. Still, a cast of excellent performers portrays the royal family and their supporters (or enemies). Milly Alcock and Emily Carey portray little Rhaenyra Targaryen and Alicent Hightower, respectively, while Olivia Cooke and Emma D’Arcy play their adult counterparts.

The plot takes place on the fictional continent of Westeros, which centers on a war between two rival houses of the powerful Targaryen family. The series follows King Viserys I Targaryen’s life in the time of the noble House Targaryen. Viserys appoints his daughter Rhaenyra as his successor, placing her ahead of his brother Daemon after the loss of his wife during delivery and all of his male offspring dying as infants.

HOTD showrunners

Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik

On the other hand, Viserys remarries and has three boys and a daughter with Alicent Hightower. The death of Viserys sparks a civil war between Rhaenyra and Viserys’ children and Alicent. In a recent interview with Screenrant, HOTD showrunners Condal and Sapochnik were asked when they first started working on House of the Dragon, how they developed the characters, and how they simplified the complexity from George R.R. Martin’s books

Complexity Explained

Those who have read the books will know that there are so many characters’ points of view that it may be impossible even to receive the whole truth. Upon posing a similar fact to HOTD showrunners, the first question that comes to mind is, does the narrative POV distills history to its real form for this era? Here’s their response:

Ryan Condal: That’s the plan. It’s such a complex story and takes place over such a long period of time. The first season in particular, because it’s the story of this generational war. You need the young women to get married, and then to have children, and then those children grow up. And then they’re eventually the ones that climb on dragons and go off and fight each other.

Ryan Condal further talks about the complex structure and how they intended to take people through it as simply as possible, so they wouldn’t “get lost”:

It just required a very specific, complex structure, so we wanted to take people through that as simply as possible so that they didn’t get lost. We found a linear way through this very complex structure.

The ‘Rashomon’ style is left to the book. The creator confirms that instead, they tried to define the “objective truth of this actual history” while hoping the book fans will be fascinated with the show’s storyline:

As fun as that Rashomon style of storytelling is, we left that to the book and decided to instead try to define what we thought the objective truth of this actual history was, as we saw it. Certain historians are right and certain historians are wrong; sometimes they all get it right, sometimes they all get it wrong. I think that was the fun of the adaptation; getting to really interplay with the book as a companion piece. I think people who have read the book and watch the series will hopefully be fascinated. “That’s interesting how they spun that event,” or “George wrote this little seemingly throwaway line, but there’s this big thing that happened, because the historians didn’t see it or didn’t know what actually happened.”

The importance of legacy and the question of succession have always been central to Game of Thrones. However, it has risen to the center of many discussions thanks to House of the Dragon. House of the Dragon will trace the history of House Targaryen from its zenith under Viserys to the ashes and ruins from which we saw Daenerys emerge at the opening of Game of Thrones. Inevitably, the result will likely be a lot of violence which will be seen very soon.