HBO’s "House of the Dragon" has reinvigorated a flailing franchise. A prequel to "Game of Thrones," "House of the Dragon" follows the royal Targaryen family 172 years before they are ousted from the throne by Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy). Brought to life are King Viserys I (Paddy Considine), Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock/Emma D’Arcy), Viserys’ dastardly brother Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith), and the scheming Hightowers; Queen Alicent (Emily Carey/Olivia Cooke) and Ser Otto (Rhys Ifans).
"House of the Dragon" is already popular with audiences, and the premiere episode posted jaw-dropping viewership numbers. It seems as though fans are finally ready to forgive the franchise for the controversial final season of "Game of Thrones." Chock full of divisive and disappointing moments, Season 8 soured what was, until then, an incredibly successful series. Many fans went so far as to swear off "Game of Thrones" completely, and nearly 2 million people signed a Change.org petition to request that Season 8 be remade. Thankfully, "House of the Dragon" looks to be healing those wounds.
"House of the Dragon" is rebuilding trust with its audience by including more lore from the books and adhering to author George R.R. Martin’s work rather than diverting from the source material. Still, it could be even more than that. With the inclusion of certain storylines — such as Aegon the Conqueror’s prophecy about the White Walkers — "House of the Dragon" could be retconning the final season of "Game of Thrones" altogether. Here’s how.
The rise and fall of Game of Thrones
"Game of Thrones" took a heavy hit following Season 8’s release. Packed full of polarizing moments, the final season was panned by fans, many of whom criticized the rushed pacing and attempts to subvert expectations. After eight seasons of build-up, the White Walkers were defeated in one episode. If you thought the Night King’s stare down with Jon Snow (Kit Harington) in Season 5’s "Hardhome" guaranteed an epic final fight between the two, well, think again. Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) is the one to take out the Night King (Vladimir Furdik) with a Valyrian steel dagger given to her by Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright), while Jon is preoccupied with the undead dragon Viserion.
That’s not all. The revelation that Jon was actually Aegon Targaryen, trueborn son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, ultimately led to nothing. Jon never ascended the Iron Throne or fulfilled the Prince That Was Promised prophecy. Meanwhile, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) flipped from Mhysa to Mad Queen in one harrowing episode, "The Bells," which saw her slaughter the civilians of King’s Landing with Dragonfire — after the city had surrendered.
In the end, Bran Stark emerges from the ashes as the new King of Westeros. Jon kills Daenerys before being banished to the Wall for his crime. Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) abandons Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) to die with his sister and lover, Queen Cersei (Lena Headey), all of which led many "Game of Thrones" vowing to never forgive the fantasy franchise for its controversial finale.
House of the Dragon is restoring the franchise’s legacy
Fortunately, "House of the Dragon" seems to be rebuilding bridges with its spurned audience. A prequel to "Game of Thrones," "House of the Dragon" takes place 172 years before Daenerys Targaryen’s birth and documents one of the most turbulent times in her family’s history — the period of civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons. For fans who loved the political drama and scandals of "Game Of Thrones," this is the perfect successor show to scratch that itch.
Strangely, during its premiere episode, "House of the Dragon" places as much emphasis on the Song of Ice and Fire as it does the Game of Thrones. In "The Heirs of the Dragon," King Viserys informs his daughter Rhaenyra about a prophetic dream of their ancestor Aegon I’s that spurred him to conquer Westeros with his dragon, Balerion the Black Dread, his sister wives, Rhaenys and Visenya, and their dragons Meraxes and Vhagar. King Visery passes on Aegon’s vision of a "terrible winter, gusting out of the distant North" which prompted the conqueror to create the Iron Throne and unify the kingdoms under Targaryen rule, preparing for a fiery fight against the icy Others.
It’s an interesting tidbit that further fleshes out the story. Still, why did the showrunners, Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik, choose to include a prophecy about the White Walkers in a show about House Targaryen — particularly in its premiere episode?
George R.R. Martin is heavily involved with House of the Dragon
Aegon the Conqueror’s prophecy comes from none other than George R.R. Martin, the creator of the series. In fact, the author of the "A Song of Ice and Fire" novels on which the "Game of Thrones" series is based, Martin confirmed his involvement with "House of the Dragon" on his official blog. Meanwhile, showrunner Ryan Condal spoke to Esquire about collaborating with the author, explaining that "George hired me, and I came to this as a fan. He was very involved with the beginning of the show. Obviously, it does not exist without him. He wrote the original source material."
Condal continues, "This was the successor show that I think he was most interested in, of all the ones that HBO was considering and exploring. Certainly, the very beginning in conceptual phase, George was very involved."
During an interview with The New York Times, Martin compared his involvement with "House of the Dragon" to "Game of Thrones," remarking how he was kept "out of the loop" during the later seasons of "Game of Thrones," stating, "By Season 5 and 6, and certainly 7 and 8, I was pretty much out of the loop. I don’t know [why] – you have to ask [showrunners] Dan and Dave." With Martin at the helm, "House of the Dragon" has an opportunity to be more faithful to the books, as well as a second chance at a finale.
House of the Dragon could be slowly retconning Season 8 of Game of Thrones
Thanks to George R.R. Martin’s involvement, "House of the Dragon" seems to be bridging the gap between show and book canon. Aegon’s prophecy makes no mention of anything to symbolize Arya Stark as the savior of humanity. The last scions of House Targaryen barely phased the Night King in "Game of Thrones," as Daenerys and Drogon "Dracarys" him only to discover the ice villain is fireproof, while Jon is overwhelmed by undead Unsullied soldiers before he can take a swing at any White Walkers with Longclaw, his Valyrian steel sword.
However, maybe Aegon’s prophecy in "House of the Dragon" isn’t supposed to foreshadow the "Game of Thrones" finale. In 2019, before Season 8 aired, Martin revealed to Entertainment Weekly that he hadn’t read any scripts for the final season, stating: "There’s a lot of minor-character [arcs] they’ll be coming up with on their own. And, of course, they passed me several years ago. There may be important discrepancies."
More recently, Martin confirmed on his blog that his ending will be different, adding: "Not all of the characters who survived until the end of ‘Game of Thrones’ will survive until the end of ‘A Song of Ice and Fire,’ and not all of the characters who died on ‘Game of Thrones’ will die in ‘A Song of Ice And Fire.’"
Will HBO remake Game of Thrones?
With this potential retcon of the series finale, HBO could be planning to remake "Game of Thrones" in the future. "House of the Dragon" could be a platform for another, more book-accurate show set in Westeros. Why not wait for George R.R. Martin to complete "The Winds of Winter" and "A Dream of Spring", the final two books of the "A Song of Ice and Fire" saga, before remaking the original series that made Martin’s work a worldwide sensation?
For some viewers, remaking "Game of Thrones" would be a jarring experience. The cast and crew of "Game of Thrones" helped make the show a success, and seeing another actor playing Ned Stark instead of Sean Bean, or a Tyrion Lannister who isn’t portrayed by Peter Dinklage, could be a bitter pill to swallow. On the other hand, remaking "Game of Thrones" would be a great opportunity to spotlight new actors while learning from the mistakes of its predecessor.
"House of the Dragon" doesn’t sever all ties with the original series. The settings for King’s Landing and Dragonstone are the same. The Red Keep is still the Red Keep, haunted by the (future) ghost of Cersei. The Iron Throne, while similar to the seat seen in "Game of Thrones," has been embellished with more swords to make it look more like its book counterpart. This makes the Iron Throne featured in the new series faithful to the books and the original HBO show, reconciling the two mediums.
More spin-off shows are coming
"House of the Dragon" isn’t the only "Game of Thrones" spinoff show HBO has planned. During his interview with The New York Times, Martin confirmed that he and HBO are "developing a number of other spinoffs" for the "Game of Thrones" franchise. HBO has big plans for their George R.R. Martin-verse: "There’s ‘Ten Thousand Ships’ about Nymeria — that’s like a thousand years before and about how the Rhoynar came to Dorne. That’s an ‘Odyssey’-like epic. There’s the nine voyages of Corlys Velaryon, the Sea Snake. That would take us to places in the world that we’ve never seen."
Viewers of "House of the Dragon" will recognize Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) as the Master of Ships for King Viserys I’s small council. Corlys is married to Viserys’ cousin, Rhaenys (Eve Best), with whom he shares two children: Laenor Velaryon (Theo Nate/John MacMillan) and Laena Velaryon (Savannah Steyn/Nanna Blondell).
The Sea Snake’s voyages would be a great way to expand the history of House Velaryon, another family to escape the Doom of Valyria, while exploring new places in the "Game of Thrones" universe, such as the far reaches of Essos and the jungle continent of Sothoryos. Likewise, Nymeria’s potential prequel is a perfect opportunity to spotlight one of Westeros’ most legendary figures, as well as a brutal era with Valyria at the height of its power. Arya Stark names her direwolf Nymeria during "Game of Thrones" in honor of the warrior queen who fled from the dragonlords to Dorne.
House of the Dragon wasn’t the first prequel to make it to production
Before "House of the Dragon," HBO almost greenlit another prequel to follow Season 8 of "Game of Thrones." The planned series, titled "Bloodmoon," took place 8,000 years before "Game of Thrones" during an era known as the Age of Heroes. What was "Bloodmoon" about? In summary: the White Walkers. This prequel would have depicted the first Long Night eight centuries before the Night King’s defeat at Winterfell, with the White Walkers descending on humanity from the far North for the first time.
According to HBO, "Bloodmoon" would have included everything from "From the horrifying secrets of Westeros’s history to the true origin of the white walkers, the mysteries of the East to the Starks of legend… it’s not the story we think we know," (via The Wrap). Jane Goldman was to serve as showrunner alongside George R.R. Martin as an executive producer, while Naomi Watts had been cast in a lead role.
"Bloodmoon" never made it past production, however. A pilot episode was filmed, but the series was shelved in favor of "House of the Dragon" (via The Hollywood Reporter). Given that "Bloodmoon" was supposed to focus on the Long Night and the origin of the White Walkers, it’s possible that Aegon’s prophecy — or whatever inspired it — would have been included in the series.
There might be a sequel series about Jon Snow
However, HBO doesn’t necessarily need to remake "Game of Thrones" to retcon the series finale. Along with a slate of prequel shows, George R.R. Martin confirmed on his blog that a sequel to "Game of Thrones" is currently in the pipe works. Not much is known so far about the sequel, but what fans do know is that the planned series is Jon Snow-centric, with actor Kit Harington leading the project.
Official news of the Jon Snow sequel first broke in a piece for The Hollywood Reporter. Emilia Clarke, who played Daenerys Targaryen throughout "Game of Thrones," later verified in an interview with the BBC that the sequel has been "created by Kit as far as I can understand, so he’s in it from the ground up."
There are no guarantees that the Jon Snow sequel will make it out of pre-production. Still, if the sequel does make it to the small screen, it could retcon parts of Season 8 and correspond with Aegon’s prophecy in "House of the Dragon." A sequel starring Jon Snow, aka Aegon Targaryen, could include the return of the White Walkers, led by a new icy monarch for Jon to face. Alternatively, a sequel could reunite Jon with a resurrected Daenerys, who some fans theorized may have been revived by the Red Priests of R’hllor after Drogon took her body to Volantis.
We could see an animated adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire
"Game of Thrones" could also be brought back to the small screen in animation. According to George R.R. Martin’s blog, an animated prequel set in distant Essos is also in the early stages of pre-production. The Golden Empire of Yi Ti, inspired by Imperial China, predates Old Valyria and the Long Night. Some fans speculate that it was the Gemstone Emperors of Yi Ti who taught the Valyrians how to control dragons. Corlys Velaryon made the long, perilous voyage to Yi Ti in his youth, something that viewers could witness if his prequel series is greenlit.
If HBO branches into animation with its Yi Ti series, then it’s also possible fans could see an animated adaptation of "A Song of Ice And Fire" in the future rather than a live-action remake. Animation requires a less hefty budget – something that might appeal to HBO after it spent $90 million on the final season of "Game of Thrones." In addition, shows like Amazon Prime’s "Invincible" and Marvel’s "What If?…" are currently breathing new life into the animated genre. If HBO follows in their footsteps, "Game of Thrones" could return bigger and bloodier than ever.
HBO has teased more prophecy in the coming weeks
The addition of Aegon’s prophecy in "House of the Dragon" doesn’t appear to be a fluke. In a Weeks Ahead Trailer released on the "Game of Thrones" official YouTube channel teases more prophecies. In the teaser, Milly Alcock’s Rhaenyra Targaryen appears to be reading more of Aegon the Conqueror’s documented prophetic dreams as she states, "From my blood, come the prince that was promised, and his will be the song of ice and fire."
This is big news for readers of the books. During the second novel, "A Clash of Kings," Daenerys ventures into the House of the Undying with baby Drogon on her shoulder to seek counsel from the mysterious warlocks of Qarth. Daenerys consumes a psychedelic substance known as Shade of the Evening and experiences multiple prophetic visions. In one, a brutalized woman who represents war-torn Westeros, another features the Wolf King at a feast that foreshadows the Red Wedding, and several others see snippets from the past and the future.
One such moment includes her brother Rhaegar talking with an unknown woman about their newborn son in a passage that reads: "‘Will you make a song for him?’ the woman asked. ‘He has a song,’ the man replied. ‘He is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire.’ He looked up when he said it and his eyes met Dany’s, and it seemed as if he saw her standing there beyond the door."
"House of the Dragon" seems to be sticking with this plot thread, despite having seemingly little to do with the events of the primary story.
Which parts of the Game of Thrones finale came from George R.R. Martin?
So far, only one thing about the "Game of Thrones" finale has been confirmed to come from Martin himself: King Bran. During a 2019 interview published by HBO, actor Isaac Hempstead Wright stated: "[Creators] David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] told me there were two things [author] George R.R. Martin had planned for Bran, and that was the Hodor revelation, and that he would be king. So that’s pretty special to be directly involved in something that is part of George’s vision."
Unless Martin changes his mind — which is possible, given his "gardening" approach to writing — fans can expect to see Bran on the throne in the books as well as in the show. Everything else, however? That remains questionable.
Martin has said that fans know "an ending — not the ending," (via The Sun). Combined with his recent comments about certain characters who died in the show surviving in the books and vice versa, it’s easy for fans to remain hopeful for a more satisfying conclusion to the novels.
The future of the franchise
With "House of the Dragon" soaring in success, the future of the "Game of Thrones" franchise suddenly looks more optimistic. George R.R. Martin’s enthusiasm for the prequel, as well as the heightened effort to adhere to book canon, is gradually earning fans’ trust again after the disastrous final season of "Game of Thrones."
HBO seems to be focusing on filling out the world with various prequels and spin-offs set in Westeros and Essos lined up. If any of them match the early success of "House of the Dragon," then it’s likely the streaming titan will go all in on building the potential Martin Cinematic Universe — and revisiting the apocalyptic threat from the far North sounds far too good a spectacle to pass on.
Imagine another epic clash between the fiery Targaryens, their dragons, and the formidable White Walkers with their devastating ice magic. Whether it’s a Jon Snow sequel or a remake of the original series, "Game of Thrones" is rebuilding itself bigger and better than before.