Small Council: What did we think of the House of the Dragon trailer?

HBO has released the trailer for House of the Dragon, which premieres on August 21. What did we think?

DAN: First of all, I want to say that this trailer looked much brighter and better when I watched it on my TV vs my laptop. If you can, watch it the small screen rather than the smallest screen.

Of course, it looks good either way. That was never in doubt. Seeing King’s Landing again (with the Dragonpit intact) is a warm breath of nostalgia. Dragonstone looks fantastic shrouded in mist. The costumes look luscious and the dragons fearsome (again, particularly on the TV). This is a sumptuous trailer. The music by Ramin Djawadi is also excellent. I love the propulsive drumbeats.

As for drama, it’s almost like we never left Westeros. My favorite moment comes towards the end when Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke) tries to stab Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D’Arcy) in open court. This doesn’t happen in Fire & Blood, but it might as well have. The show is putting a lot of weight on the relationship between these women, and it looks like the investment will pay off. That bit is dripping with Shakespearean melodrama.

“Shakespearean” is a word I’ve seen thrown around a lot over this show. I get it; the Dance of the Dragons is a tragedy for a lot of the characters involved. Take that horror and dress it up with million-dollar production values; it’s not a bad idea. That intensity could also help set the show apart from Game of Thrones. That show was famously grim, but I don’t know if fans are ready for just how bleak House of the Dragon could be. This is not a happy story.

What do you all think? Are you ready to become one with the darkness? What about the trailer stood out to you? And how ’bout them dragons?

CHELSEA: Is it possible to feel nostalgia for something that ended only three years ago? Because this trailer showing King’s Landing (with a dragon flying over it!) and the Iron Throne with composer Ramin Djawadi is taking me way back and giving me all the Game of Thrones feels. I will absolutely lose my mind when I finally see and hear the opening credits.

I’m also definitely getting Shakespearean vibes with this royal drama-filled trailer. And though there are literal dragons in this show, it somehow feels very “real” and rooted in actual history. Of course, George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire does share some striking similarities to the Wars of the Roses FROM British history. As for the Dance of the Dragons — which is what House of the Dragon is all about — there are certainly parallels to the Anarchy civil war in England and Normandy in the 12th century.

I think I’m going to do a deep dive into The Anarchy history and finally read Martin’s Fire & Blood now before House of the Dragon comes out next month.

Image: House of the Dragon/HBO

FEDERICA: The three words that open the trailer could not be more fitting. Laenor Velaryon’s voice proclaims “war is afoot” over a fast cut of battle scenes, quickly followed by the show’s title. The trailer proper begins with Rhaenyra walking in the throne room. The juxtaposition of these two things is a clever nod to Rhaenyra’s right to the throne being at the center the civil war. Opposite her sitting on the Iron Throne is her uncle Prince Daemon Targaryen (we know based on this promotional photo); this is probably followed by the clip shown at minute 2:21, when Daemon takes a jewel from Rhaenyra’s hands — one he probably brought her from his travels in his attempts to grow closer with his niece.

For the first time, we finally got to hear Rhaenyra’s voice as she expresses her intentions of ascending the throne. We see the young princess learning from her father as she listens in on his Small Council sessions and seeking counsel from her aunt Princess Rhaenys. We see Rhaenyra’s doubts, her companions, and lastly her proclamation as heir. Her powerful line “When I am queen, I will create a new order” painfully echoes Daenerys’s “break the wheel” speech in an intentional homage that fans will undoubtedly appreciate. And then, her resigned awareness that Alicent will stand in her way. Here, the trailer is intentionally vague – it never says who Rhaenyra’s rival for the throne will be, and we never see Aegon II even though we get an easter egg: Alicent warning a blond, younger interlocutor that Rhaenyra will remove any challenge. It almost looks like Alicent herself is Rhaenyra’s competition, especially given the shiver-inducing clip of Rhaenys whispering in Alicent’s ear “have you never imagined yourself on the Iron Throne?”

The trailer goes full in at showing Daemon’s ambition: from his indignation at being passed over in the line of succession to his unceasing efforts in battle to his fearlessness when it comes to dragon fire. We even get a glimpse of Daemon’s King of the Stepstones crown, which he will presumably lay at his brother’s feet, and many clips of his dragon Caraxes.

Another key image is King Viserys cutting himself on the Iron Throne, foreshadowing the Seven Kingdoms bleeding due to his weakness, his kindness that will bring about his family’s doom. His prophetic dream is mentioned, as is his misinterpretation that will lead to civil war.

Rhaenys and Corlys are heavily featured in various scenes, both together and apart. Rhaenys is worried for Rhaenyra and straightforward with her. The trailer’s scene-stealer is Ser Criston Cole, the young Kinsguard who becomes Rhaenyra’s sworn shield before he switches sides and becomes her fiercest opponent. We see him with the young princess and then later training Prince Aemond. The latter also appears claiming the enormous green dragon Vhagar.

Possibly the most meaningful scene of this action-packed trailer was the parallel between the young Rhaenyra and Alicent (Millie Alcock and Emily Carey) sitting close at a table praying together, and their older selves (Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke) in the same exact position, but with a significant gap between them, a physical and metaphorical chasm. Over these images, we hear Otto Hightower say to his daughter, “Our hearts remain as one” and Alicent sternly replying, “We hearts were never one.” I got literal chills.

My hype level is off the charts. House of the Dragon is proving the competence of its showrunners more and more every day. Can August 21 be here already?

Image: House of the Dragon/HBO

DANIEL: My hype levels are right off the charts with yours, Federica. I’ve been psyched for House of the Dragon for a while, but this trailer went a long way toward banishing any of my last lingering fears and getting me beyond excited for what’s to come.

A big part of that is how it gave us a better look at some of the things that had only been hinted at in previous trailers. The dragons are one of the most prominent, and they are magnificent. I love the different design of the dragons, from Caraxes’ spiny beard to Syrax’s fanned tail and the heavy, imposing foot of the elder dragon Vhagar stomping down on the  beach.

It was also cool to see how dragons are a part of the culture during this period of Westerosi history, like with that dragon statue on the streets of King’s Landing, the fact that the dragons have saddles, or that the Dragon Pit is still intact. Combined with all those other little tidbits like the new/old Iron Throne, it gets me really excited to see how the team behind this show is going to bring to life this older era of Westeros while still making it recognizable as the same place we all loved from Game of Thrones.

Let’s see, what else? The music is fantastic; it’s got a bit more of a Renaissance Faire vibe to it than the music in the original show, and I think that fits the older time period really well. It was great to get more face time with all the characters, and to actually hear Rhaenyra speak this time around! Paddy Considine’s King Viserys is magnetic; there’s something about that brief scene where he tells Otto Hightower that he won’t be made to choose between his brother and daughter for an heir that has been haunting me since I first saw this trailer. Eve Best’s Rhaenys also really popped out of the trailer for me as well; I can’t wait to see her performance as the world-weary yet compassionate “Queen That Never Was.”

Beyond all that, I just love how much this trailer tells a story. It doesn’t just feel like a smattering of cool clips. We get debates about who will be the heir, a tease of Viserys pulling the rug out from under his brother Daemon, then the time jump to show how Rhaenyra’s struggle to claim her rightful throne will spill into her adulthood and how the relationship between her and Alicent will decay. There’s a feeling here that everyone is trying to maneuver things for their own gain or because of their own paranoia. Otto convinces Viserys to name Rhaenyra heir, only to then have to kick himself over it when the actual time comes for her to take the throne. Alicent tells (presumably) Aegon II that Rhaenyra will remove any threats to her rule, while Rhaenyra ruminates on how Alicent will try to bar her from the throne. The dark and heady drama is on full display, and I cannot wait for it to get here on August 21!

Image: House of the Dragon/HBO

RICHARD U: Overall, a nicely put together trailer that succeeds in its purpose. In just about two minutes, it sets up the simple blueprint of the coming story. The Iron Throne’s current occupant, King Viserys, is torn between the choice of his brother and daughter as the next heir. Patriarchal tradition makes the brother the expected choice, but the trailer makes it clear that tradition is on the cusp of being broken. Typical in realms both fictional and other, this unexpected chance of change promises the drawing of weapons and blood. There is a clear feminist aspect to the narrative, and I think that will invite some interesting considerations about the struggles for power that Game of Thrones is known for. Whenever any person or character wants to be a ruler, they almost always have to establish their right to do so.

To use a Shakespearean example, in Hamlet, Uncle Claudius wins the right to rule not just by murdering the king, but by thereafter winning an election. He has an electoral right to rule, while Hamlet’s right is hereditary. In House of the Dragon, both candidates’ right is hereditary, and the difference maker here is gender. A patriarchal society would have the male win out, but again, the only thing that supports that logic is tradition and ingrained cultural ideas. (Well, back in medieval time people were working under a lot of misconceptions too, but you get what I’m driving at.) Will it just be a hunger for power that motivates Daemon Targaryen the king’s brother, or are societal expectations playing a role as well — not just on him, but on other characters too?

Getting passed the  themes and subtext, the trailer did some fine work pairing words and imagery. I loved that shot of Viserys on the throne, his blood-stained hand on the blood-stained arm rest, as he says “And I placed my hand up on the Iron Throne.” Not only a grim visual metaphor for the implications of power, but an allusion to all events in the past and, tragically, events in the future too. Another matching I liked: “Knives will come out” as a character places a blade up against another’s chest.

So yeah, a fun and effective trailer. Only thing that would have made it better is if they actually got Matt Smith to wear the dragon knight armor while riding the horse. Those CGI “insert actor face here” things always stick out like blood in water.

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