Fire and Blood. These are the words of House Targaryen, and they were made famous by Game of Thrones, the HBO adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s book series “A Song of Ice and Fire.” Yet part of the appeal of that original series is, at least initially, the story of House Targaryen is a myth—a legend passed down about a once great dynasty that’s now fallen to ruin. There aren’t even any dragons for most of the first season, which makes the birth of three such creatures a monumental event during the finale.
Three dragons is nice. But what about 17? That’s the kind of visceral reframing of this fantasy that Ryan Condal offered to the Hall H faithful at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday. We’ve of course heard before that House of the Dragon—the new prequel series co-created by Condal and Martin—is about a different, grander time in Westeros, with the show picking up about 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones. While speaking to Den of Geek magazine last month, Condal even teased, “This is a very decadent time. It’s a moment of high wealth and greatness. The Targaryens have been in high power for a hundred years, and they’re really beyond reproach.”
Yet that sentiment never seemed so striking as when Condal told Hall H there will be more than a dozen flying reptiles in House of the Dragon. Also unlike Drogon, Rhaegal, and Viserion in Game of Thrones, the new dragons from showrunners Condal and Miguel Sapochnik will appear vastly different from one another.
“There are 17 of them at the height of this,” Condal said. “So it was important to differentiate them in not only the way they look and behaved and acted, [but also] the way they bonded with their riders. That was one of the earliest things Miguel and I started [conceptualizing] on. This is probably about a year before we started filming, and it was a very organic process. We worked with a couple of conceptual designers and we just went through this very iterative process. And of course George, who writes very detailed books, gave us the gift of specifying color and size, and age.”
Condal went on to further suggest that each dragon will somewhat mirror the attitudes and temperament of its Targaryen rider. For instance, the dragon Caraxes will be the mount of Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith), a roguish bad boy and younger brother to King Viserys (Paddy Considine). As a consequence, Smith’s Daemon will have spent years flying Caraxes into battles of glory and conquest. Conversely, his niece and the tentative heir to the Iron Throne, Princess Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock and Emma D’Arcy at various points in the character’s life) will fly a young female dragon she named herself: Syrax.
On comparing the creatures, as well as other serpents of the sky, Condal said, “We really took all those things that are given to us in the book and tried to extrapolate them and add personalities to them. Like Caraxes is very cantankerous and agitated. He’s always moving and flexing, and he never sits still, much like his rider. And yeah, we built from Syrax and Caraxes, and Vhagar, who is the biggest dragon alive right now, a behemoth, and then went on to the second tier and third tier dragons.”
Condal added, “We designed dragons you won’t even see yet in season 1 because we’re having such a great time with the designers, so we’re very excited to show you. We’ve seen some teases from the trailer, but there’s much yet to come, and I think you guys will like it a lot.”
Sitting further down the panel table, Matt Smith felt obliged to later quip that “Caraxes is the best dragon. He’s the most handsome.”
The idea of giving each dragon a more distinct personality and appearance, especially since the age of the dragon will greatly influence their various sizes when the new civil war starts (this is “the Dance of the Dragons,” after all) is a fresh one that departs from the original GoT series. And as with apparently many decisions, Martin seems pleased with the results.
“Of course you’re always nervous at the beginning because these books, these characters are like my kids,” Martin told SDCC. “And when you give your kids to people for adoption, you wonder how they will be treated. Will you recognize them when they come back to you? All that. But I’ve been very, very fortunate here. I think Ryan has done a great job of adapting the books, so far, and our cast here is amazing… I’ve seen nine of the 10 episodes and it’s pretty amazing. I’m really very happy.”
House of the Dragon premieres on HBO on Aug. 21.