Dragons, rivalry between family members, relationships between family members, sex scenes and a lot of very blonde hair.
It can only be the prequel to one of the biggest TV shows of all time in Game Of Thrones.
The long-awaited show finally hits our screens this evening, as Sky Atlantic and NOW TV’s House of the Dragon makes its debut three years after the HBO epic came to an end, following eight tumultuous series which made a host of stars, including Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke, household names.
The new show takes place 172 years before Game of Thrones and is based on George R.R. Martin’s novel Fire & Blood, telling the story of House Targaryen and its' downfall.
Here’s our guide to all you need to know:
Will it right the “wrongs” of Game of Thrones?
Blasted by some fans for being rushed and lazy in wrapping things up, the last series of Thrones crammed ten episodes into six.
Some viewers said it threw the previous seven series’ intricate character development out of the window in favour of improbable twists, hurtling towards a conclusion which saw Daenerys, Mother of Dragons (Emilia Clarke) suddenly become a crazed despot, Jon Snow’s (Kit Harington) true heritage as Aegon Targaryen be made utterly irrelevant and glorious anti-heroine Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) rather unceremoniously die under a heap of rubble.
Who are the new stars?
The lead role of King Viserys is played by Paddy Considine in his biggest role to date.
Dr Who’s Matt Smith plays his brother, the roguish prince Daemon Targaryen and presumed heir to the throne, while Welsh actor Rhys Ifans of Notting Hill fame plays Daemon’s nemesis, the devious Ser Otto Hightower, who is the Hand of the King.
“He’s sort of an outsider; he’s not black and white; there are shades of grey with him which is what interested me,” Matt said about his character. “His relationship with his brother is really interesting too.”
Paddy branded House of the Dragon as “the most demanding show” he’s ever worked on and revealed his character was inspired by his mother, the “most powerful woman I knew”, who had both legs amputated after battling diabetes. “It was tragic to see that decline, and I put that plus her kindness and love into Viserys,” he said.
Many of the female actresses are less well known but if this prequel is half as successful as Thrones, they’ll be following in the impressive footsteps of Sophie Turner, Emilia Clarke and Maisie Williams.
What history do we need to know?
The House of the Dragon is set 172 years before the birth of Daenerys Targaryen, chronicling the history of her brutal family.
King Viserys’ reign represents the peak of Targaryen supremacy. As the house has never been so powerful, there are strong rivalries developing.
This ultimately leads to the Dance of the Dragons, a civil war fought between rival factions of the Targaryen dynasty, who battle it out to succeed King Viserys I Targaryen. We are set to see brother fighting brother, mother fighting daughter, and dragon fighting dragon.
How different to Game of Thrones will it be?
The new series is focused almost exclusively on the Targaryen family and their many fire-breathing pets.
And it’s hard to imagine, but characters in House of Dragon are even more flawed than Game of Thrones, with no one the viewer really roots for.
“There’s no Arya, a character everybody’s going to love,” explained George RR Martin, whose book A Song of Ice and Fire was adapted for Game of Thrones. “They’re all flawed. They’re all human. They do good things. They do bad things.
“They’re driven by lust for power, jealousy, old wounds, just like human beings. Just like I wrote them.”
The producers are different this time, with showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss not returning after signing a multimillion-dollar, multi-year agreement with Netflix. Miguel Sapochnik and Ryan Condal are stepping up to the helm.
Are there any similarities?
This is very much the same Westeros we’ve occupied for eight seasons, with House of The Dragon set in King's Landing and The Red Keep.
New co-showrunner Miguel Sopochnik directed four Game of Thrones episodes, including the Emmy award-winning Battle of the Bastards.
Thrones composer Ramin Djawadi is behind the House of the Dragon theme. And of course, the series is again based on George RR Martin’s books.
This time Fire & Blood. King Viserys has echoes of Ned Stark (Sean Bean) from the very beginning of Game of Thrones while Ser Otto Hightower’s conniving is something GoT’s Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (Aidan Gillen) would be proud of. So watch out Viserys!
Will we see more strong female leads?
House of the Dragon will continue Games of Thrones’ tradition of showcasing powerful and fearless female characters.
The series explores the fraught relationship between Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (played by Milly Alcock as a teenager and Emma D’Arcy as an adult) and Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey and Olivia Cooke).
“Rhaenyra has an ongoing battle with what it means to be a woman and is a fundamental outsider,” said Emma. “She’s terrified of getting locked into motherhood and is aware of how her position would be different if she were male.”
Alicent, meanwhile, is a shrewd politician who uses her role as queen to seek prominence for her family - remind you of anyone?
“I love that comparison because Cersei was my favourite character,” said Olivia, speaking of Thrones’ terrifying queen. “
Alicent’s got a very dark side to her, but she’s also just striving for what she thinks is good, even though it’s just misplaced.”
And just like Cersei, Alicent gets her ruthlessness from her father, the King’s Hand Ser Otto. In one scene, he tells her: “We play an ugly game. You have the determination to win it.”
Where is the show filmed?
While Game of Thrones was filmed in far-flung exotic locations such as Croatia and Malta, alongside Northern Ireland, House of the Dragon has more UK locations, including Cornwall and Devon. Stars Matt Smith and Emma D’Arcy were spotted taking to Cornwall’s Holywell Bay Beach in white wigs and Targaryen garbs to shoot part of the show.
There will be some familiar locations too, with Cáceres, in western Spain, returning as King’s Landing.
The Spanish town was famously used to depict the streets leading to the Red Keep when Euron brought his captives as an offering to Cersei in season seven. “You read the script at home, and you imagine the scene, but it’s always twice the size you imagine it,” said Rhys Ifans.
Will there be as many sex scenes?
Game of Thrones is not exactly family viewing; packed with gratuitous sex scenes. They were toned down towards the end of the series run but X-rated scenes will play a part in House of The Dragon too.
“You do find yourself asking, ‘Do we need another sex scene?’” said Matt Smith. “And they’re like, ‘Yeah, we do.’
“I guess you have to ask yourself: ‘What are you doing? Are you representing the books, or are you diluting the books to represent the time [we’re living in]?’
“And I actually think it’s your job to represent the books truthfully and honestly, as they were written.”
Sapochnik has said that House of the Dragon “pulls back” on the amount of X-rated scenes compared to Thrones but also explained that it will seek to show sex as “a casual part of the Targaryen lifestyle”.
Were other spin-offs in the mix?
Since Thrones ended HBO has worked on several spin-off shows, some of which were scrapped or never released.
Among them was a prequel set thousands of years before Thrones, with Naomi Watts as lead. This was cancelled in 2019 after the pilot episode was filmed, and on the same day, House of the Dragon was announced.
Former chairman of WarnerMedia Bob Greenblatt said he had been underwhelmed by the pilot, telling HBO chief content officer Casey Bloys “this just doesn’t work, and I don’t think it delivers on the premise of the original series.”
“He didn’t disagree, which actually was a relief,” continued the boss. “So we, unfortunately, decided to pull the plug on it. There was enormous pressure to get it right.”
House of the Dragon airs Monday night on Sky Atlantic and Now.