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Everything to Know About 'House of the Dragon,' HBO's 'Game of Thrones' Prequel

Set about 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon debuts on Sunday.

Rhaenyra Targaryen in regal attire in front of a glowering dragon
Rhaenyra Targaryen, a lead character in "House of the Dragon."   
HBO

In the final season of Game of Thrones, Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen obsessed over ending despotic rule in Westeros by "breaking the wheel." In House of the Dragon, which hits HBO on Sunday, we see the story of the family that created that wheel in the first place. 

We know quite a bit about the upcoming blockbuster series. It was expensive, costing around $20 million per episode, according to Variety. That's appropriate considering Game of Thrones became famous for bringing Hollywood production values to your living room. We also know that it's a prequel. Fans hoping to once again see Ned Stark or Tyrion Lannister will end up disappointed, as House of the Dragon is set 200 years prior to the murder of Jon Arryn that precipitated eight seasons of chaos.

Here's what you need to know before watching HBO's Game of Thrones prequel.

How many episodes in House of the Dragon?

House of the Dragon's first season will have 10 episodes. That makes it identical to the typical Game of Thrones season. While season 7 had seven episodes and season 8 had six, every other season of Game of Thrones had 10 episodes each. 

We don't yet know the runtimes for House of the Dragon episodes, however. It's possible that some episodes exceed an hour, as happened for key Game of Thrones episodes like The Battle of Winterfell

What is the plot of House of the Dragon?

House of the Dragon is about the Targaryen family, who ruled Westeros for 300 years. House of the Dragon begins around 100 years into House Targaryen's reign.

Viewers of Game of Thrones know the Targaryen dynasty was effectively ended by Robert's Rebellion, a civil war that saw Robert Baratheon succeed the "Mad King," Aerys Targaryen, as ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. By the time Game of Thrones begins, 17 years after the rebellion, there are only two known Targaryens: Daenerys and Viserys. In Game of Thrones, the Targaryens were a formerly great house. In House of the Dragons, we get to see them as the great House. 

At least for a while. 

House of the Dragon depicts the beginning of the end for the Targaryens. It follows what in A Song of Ice and Fire lore is called the Dance of the Dragons -- a civil war that erupts after two Targaryens voice countering claims to the Iron Throne. King Viserys raised his daughter, Rhaenyra Targaryen, to succeed him, but after Viserys' death, it's Viserys' eldest son to his second wife, Aegon, who gets crowned the new ruler.

That kicks off a war that sees many a dragon slain, and many a Targaryen killed.  

King Viserys in "House of the Dragon".

Paddy Considine as King Viserys. 

HBO

Is House of the Dragon based on a George R.R. Martin book?

Yes. George R.R. Martin, seemingly on an unending quest to procrastinate writing Winds of Winter, released a book called Fire and Blood. It's a fictional history book that chronicles House Targaryen. 

Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik, showrunners for House of the Dragon, recently told IGN the show would differ in some ways from the book.

"The fun of this show is that it plays as a bit of a companion piece to the history book," Condal said. "It communicates with the history book. In a sense that some things will line up. Other things will be told very differently. But the idea is that, in the end, the events are the same. It's just the 'why' and 'how' they happened that changes as you see the actual history."  

In an interview with SFX, Condal said the show is "like Succession, [but] with dragons."

Emma D'Arcy plays Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen and Matt Smith is Prince Daemon Targaryen.

HBO

Who's running House of the Dragon?

As noted, Condal and Sapochnik are showrunners for House of the Dragon. That makes them the rough equivalents to David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who gained great fame (and, later, criticism) for their roles as the Game of Thrones showrunners.

Condal is credited as House of the Dragon's creator. Prior to the HBO epic, Condal wrote the screenplays for Hercules and Rampage, both starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. 

Sapochnik is a name known to diehard Game of Thrones fans, as he directed several of the show's most celebrated episodes, including Season 5's Hardhome and Season 6's Battle of the Bastards. 

As an aside, Game of Thrones composer Ramin Djawadi returned to write the score for House of the Dragon. That has nothing to do with the show's creative but is worth mentioning -- because the Game of Thrones score ruled

Is House of the Dragon a prequel?

Yes! There were originally two planned Game of Thrones prequels. The other, set to star Naomi Watts, was to take place 1,000 years before the events of Game of Thrones. It was canceled in 2019 for reasons we don't yet know

If you've got an insatiable fix for all things Fire and Ice, your best bet, besides House of the Dragon, is the perennially delayed Winds of Winter. That's the sixth book in the series, one that Martin has been writing since 2011. Martin is also going to write a second volume of Fire and Blood, but not until after he completes Winds of Winter, according to a July blog post.

And finally, Martin recently confirmed that HBO is working on a sequel to Game of Thrones that would see Kit Harrington return as Jon Snow. Cross your fingers for that one. 

House of the Dragon debuts on HBO and HBO Max on Aug. 21