For eight seasons of Game Of Thrones, fans waited to see a Targaryen take on King’s Landing – and when that moment finally arrived, it was more explosive than anyone might have expected. Literally. Because, though Emilia Clarke’s dragon-rearing Daenerys was in many ways a sympathetic underdog for much of that series – rising to power, gathering forces, and trying to figure out how to be a fair ruler – she quickly became tyrannical when she returned to Westeros. In one of the series’ most divisive episodes – penultimate instalment ‘The Bells’ – she laid waste to King’s Landing with the fire-breathing Drogon, burning its people alive and reducing half the city to ash.
For some viewers, Daenerys’ descent into destruction was a difficult pill to swallow. But it wasn’t totally unexpected, since Targaryens have a long history for tipping the scales between greatness and madness – a notion that will further come into play in House Of The Dragon, the upcoming prequel series set 200 years before Thrones, depicting a time where Targaryens in Westeros (and their dragons) were plentiful. “Daenerys resurrected this idea that, when you’re the only person in the world with nuclear weapons, you can either be a force for peace, or you can be a tyrant,” House Of The Dragon co-showrunner Ryan J. Condal tells Empire, referencing her turn in ‘The Bells’, and gesturing towards what that means for the new series. “The line between those two things is very thin. That’s definitely something this show will explore.” While the new series begins with the Targaryens in power, the series will depict the civil war that led to their downfall.
For House Of The Dragon co-showrunner Miguel Sapochnik – who directed ‘The Bells’, among many other acclaimed Thrones episodes – the divided reaction and backlash around Daenerys’ devastation of the kingdom hasn’t factored into how they’ve approached this show; there’ll be no playing it safe, and no easy endings. “Life doesn’t end the way you want it to!” he tells Empire. “I think we very much wanted to pay attention to not that.” Condal agrees: “It doesn’t really factor in at all. I think the minute you as a creator start playing defense, you’re just taking the ground from beneath your feet. Should we be so lucky to have such a large and passionate fanbase that will debate our show! I think that in itself is a sign of success.” One thing’s for sure – with this many hot-headed Targaryens on the board, House Of The Dragon is going to bring much more in the way of both greatness and madness.
Read Empire’s full House Of The Dragon feature – speaking to showrunners Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik, plus stars Paddy Considine, Emma D’Arcy, Olivia Cooke, Matt Smith, and Rhys Ifans, and packed with exclusive images – in the upcoming issue, on sale Thursday 4 August and available to pre-order online here. House Of The Dragon airs on Sky Atlantic / NOW from 22 August.