You don’t have to be a superfan to know that, when Game of Thrones ended in 2019, things got ugly. The finale was so poorly received that, for a while, it was unclear whether or not HBO would move forward with their prequels. Despite doubts and concerns, last night, House of the Dragon premiered on HBO and HBO Max.
There’s some poetry in a show about the Targaryens coming to reclaim the throne as HBO’s most-watched program, but some fans are still wary. If you’re on the fence about watching, here are some things you should know.
You can watch House of the Dragon without watching Game of Thrones.
Starting a new show can be intimidating, especially when its predecessor has eight lengthy seasons and seventy-three episodes. We’re here to tell you: you can breathe easy. A layman’s knowledge of Game of Thrones will give you enough context to understand the new show.
House of the Dragon takes place 172 years prior to the death of the Mad King, the last Targaryen king to sit on the Iron Throne. Even that is about a decade and a half before the events of Game of Thrones’ pilot episode. With roughly two centuries unfolding between the two shows, the plot of Game of Thrones has very little bearing on the events in House of the Dragon. You might miss a few jokes and references, but the show still does a decent job of world building and explaining current circumstances.
If you’re looking to dabble in the fantasy world of Game of Thrones without committing to the original, House of the Dragon is a good way to get your feet wet. And if you’re a fan of the original series, know that you don’t need to do an eight-season rewatch before embarking on this new journey…but marathons are always fun.
It’s rated TV-MA for a reason.
Even if you’ve never watched an episode of Game of Thrones, you probably know these two things: it had a lot of gore and a lot of nudity. If you loved that aspect, then House of the Dragon will be a treat. If you don’t…well…brace yourself.
The pilot episode of House of Dragons is pretty tame when it comes to nudity—at least, by comparison. There is one scene that takes place in a brothel and one short sex scene. Based on interviews with the cast, there are plenty more to come, which isn’t much of a surprise.
As far as gore, there are a few flinch-worthy moments of battle between irate knights in a tournament. After that, a long scene where the city guards pillage and brutalize the citizens of King’s Landing, featuring a lot of dismemberment and beheading. By far the worst scene is a medical procedure that will make you immensely thankful for modern medicine. No spoilers here, but I personally muted my television and averted my eyes.
There’s no incest…yet.
Would it really be a Game of Thrones prequel if there wasn’t at least a little bit of incest? The answer is no.
The Targaryens were well-known in Westeros for their long-standing tradition of inbreeding in order to keep their bloodline pure. The first king of the Targaryen dynasty, Aegon I, was actually married to both of his sisters. While most major houses of Westeros didn’t approve, it was never something that the Targaryens had to hide. That makes for a very different climate than the incest in Game of Thrones. While the pilot episode immediately established the relationship between Cersei and Jamie Lannister, it was something they had to keep secret. Chances are that, in House of the Dragon, most characters will take the incest in stride.
The pilot doesn’t actually contain any outright incest, but they’re definitely laying the groundwork. If that sort of thing bothers you, maybe you can just…pretend it’s not really incest. That’s what people did when Jon and Daenerys got together, anyway.
Matt Smith is no Doctor in this show.
If you’re a Whovian jumping on the bandwagon to see Matt Smith, be warned: there will be no fish sticks and custard here.
Matt Smith, who plays Daemon Targaryen, is most well-known for his breakout role as the Eleventh Doctor on the long-running sci-fi series, Doctor Who. It’s a part that couldn’t be more different from the character he plays in House of the Dragon.
Daemon is a typical Shakespearean antagonist—brother to the king, reckless, violent, power-hungry, and resentful that he isn’t sitting on the throne himself. He commands the City Guard and enjoys the pain and fear they evoke in the citizens of King’s Landing. He picks a fight with anyone and everyone who defies him, and never turns down a chance to show off.
Then again, the Doctor was also a showoff and a war criminal, so maybe the roles won’t be so different after all.
There are plenty of dragons in House of the Dragon.
I know—what a shocker! But if you’re a fan of dragons, fantasy, and special effects, House of the Dragon is here to deliver. In Game of Thrones, dragons were actually extinct. The three dragons in the show —Drogon, Viserion, and Rhaegal— were all raised from eggs by Daenerys Targaryen, the first dragons in generations.
House of the Dragon takes place two centuries earlier, when dragons were still a well-known tool of the Targaryen dynasty. The show promises more than a dozen different dragons, so hopefully, they’ll get a lot more screentime.
House of the Dragon already has an ending.
This should be reassuring for anyone who was burned by the original series. One of the many reasons Game of Thrones saw a decline in its later seasons was because it got ahead of its source material. HBO was putting out new seasons faster the George R. R. Martin could write books. At some point, the show that was meant to be an adaptation head to turn into an original series. George R. R. Martin has openly stated that the book series won’t end the same way the show did.
It’s a problem that House of the Dragon won’t have to deal with. The lore of the Targaryen dynasty is already fully established with battles and dates and increasingly confusing character names. If you don’t want spoilers, make sure to tread carefully online. If you’re curious, a few minutes of clicking through the Game of Thrones Wiki will tell you everything you might want to know about the events to come. That means this adaptation can stay an adaptation and, hopefully, give fans a unified story they can truly enjoy.