This article contains spoilers for House of the Dragon.
House of the Dragon has already proven itself to be a worthy successor to Game of Thrones. The HBO prequel series is full of gripping drama, bloody deaths, and messy characters that we sometimes love to hate and hate to love. Unlike Game of Thrones, however, the first season of House of the Dragon features many time jumps in order to set up what is likely to become the primary conflict for the series: the Dance of the Dragons.
The Dance of the Dragons, as written in George R. R. Martin’s novel Fire & Blood on which House of the Dragon is based, is a bloody civil war amongst the Targaryen family. This civil war is triggered by conflict surrounding who should succeed King Viserys I as king of Westeros – his firstborn daughter Rhaenyra Targaryen, whom he has chosen to be his successor and the first queen of Westeros, or his firstborn son Aegon. After Viserys’ death at the end of episode 8, we have essentially reached this point in the series.
If you’re like me you may be thinking “If House of the Dragon has already reached the beginnings of the Dance of the Dragons, how much story is there left for the series to tell?” Well according to a blog post by George R. R. Martin himself, he believes that “It is going to take four full seasons of 10 episodes each to do justice to the Dance of the Dragons, from start to finish.”
He also addresses the time jumps while musing on how seasons of television have decreased over the years. You can read his thoughts in the passage below (TV series formatting changed to match style).
But there are only so many minutes in an episode (more on HBO than on the network shows I once wrote for), and only so many episodes in a season. Fewer and fewer as time goes by, it seems. When I was a boy, shows had 39 episodes a season. By the time I was writing for Beauty and the Beast, it was down to 22. Cable shrunk that even further. The Sopranos had 13 episodes per season, but just a few years later, Game of Thrones had only 10 (and not even that, those last two seasons). If House of the Dragon had 13 episodes per season, maybe we could have shown all the things we had to “time jump” over… though that would have risked having some viewers complain that the show was too “slow,” that “nothing happened.” As it is, I am thrilled that we still have 10 hours every season to tell our tale. (Rings of Power has only 8, as you may have noticed, and my AMC show Dark Winds is doing 6 episode seasons). I hope that will continue to be true.
It’s hard not to agree that sometimes TV series suffer when they aren’t given enough time (or conversely too much time) to tell their story. Even though four 10-episode seasons is only half of Game of Thrones’ eight season run, if George R.R. Martin believes that that is enough to finish the story, and tell it well, then that seems like a good plan for the series to follow.