Why the 'All Must Choose' marketing for House of the Dragon is a perfect fit for season 2

HBO is going hard on a "Greens vs Blacks" angle when marketing House of the Dragon season 2. Does this miss "the entire point" of the story, or does it hit the bullseye?
Photograph by Ollie Upton / HBO House of the Dragon Emma D'Arcy Olivia Cooke Rhaenyra Targaryen Alicent Hightower The Lord of the Tides Episode 108
Photograph by Ollie Upton / HBO House of the Dragon Emma D'Arcy Olivia Cooke Rhaenyra Targaryen Alicent Hightower The Lord of the Tides Episode 108 /

The second season of HBO's Game of Thrones prequel series House of the Dragon is approaching, and HBO has stirred up interest with a marketing campaign demanding that "All Must Choose." The first season of the show acquainted us with rival factions of the Targaryen dynasty, and the second will show us what happens when they go to war. The Blacks support Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen's claim to the Iron Throne, while the Greens support the claim of her younger half-brother King Aegon II Targaryen. We got dueling trailers for Team Green and Team Black, posters that pit characters on both sides of the conflict against each other, and more recently a video where cast members gave their reasons for why Rhaenyra or Aegon would make a good ruler. Some are more willing to cross the aisle than others:

This video "tipped the scales" for writer Benedetta Geddo at The Mary Sue. She laid out reasons why she objects to how HBO is marketing the show, firstly because it escalates conflicts between fans to "a nuclear level" and secondly because "reducing the entire history of the Dance of the Dragon to a screaming match over who’s right and who isn't is missing the entire point of the Dance by miles."

I want to argue against both of these points, and make the case that the marketing is very much in keeping with the spirit of the story we're about to get.

Fans, dragons, and responsiblity

The first point, that the marketing for House of the Dragon season 2 is irresponsible because it risks escalating arguments within the fandom, is one that came up when the dueling trailers first dropped in March. I argued against that line of thinking back then and I stick to it.

Geddo bemoans that she's seen threads online "descend into hateful name-calling" when House of the Dragon fans argue over the particulars of their favorite show, which I have no trouble believing; online fandoms of all stripes have gained a reputation for toxicity over the years. But it's helpful to remember that the worst of this in-fighting, at least for now, is happening on the deep internet where most fans of the show will never tread. The top comment under the Team Black trailer on X is Domino's Pizza UK saying "anything but but #TeamBlack is wrong" to 434 likes. The next is someone clipping out the Vermithor scene from the House of the Dragon season 1 finale to 389 likes. Over on the Team Green trailer, the top comment is a GIF of Patrick Star from SpongeBob SquarePants saying "Boo" to 318 likes.

This is combative, but there's nothing here to get the blood boiling. If you scroll further down, you can find harsher language, with one person calling out alleged "team green losers" in their mentions. This is silly behavior, but most fans will never get to this point, and I think it's unreasonable to ask HBO to assume responsibility for the kind of person willing to lob insults at others because they interpret a TV show in a way they don't like. That will happen regardless. Most will engage with the marketing in the spirit with which it's intended: it's a story about two factions fighting a war. Pick your favorite.

All Must Choose...for now

My bigger quibble is with the idea that the marketing misses "the entire point" of the Dance of the Dragons, the flowery name given to the brutal sectarian conflict between the Blacks and the Greens. Geddo seems to take issue with the marketing encourages fans to debate "who’s right and who isn't," which misses the larger point that in the end the Dance is at best a pyrrhic victory for both sides. Without going into too many spoilers, both the Greens and the Blacks come out the other end of the war much reduced. Many will die, and the Targaryens will never again reach the heights of power they achieved before the war. "So was the point really what team was right or was it the fact that hunger for the throne and for power leads to death and destruction, even of the two people who originally started this whole dispute?" she asks.

I agree that the Dance is ruinous to both sides. This story is ultimately a tragedy, something the show itself seems aware of. "When the desire to kill and burn takes hold and reason is forgotten, we will not even remember what began the war in the first place," Rhaenys Targaryen says in the Black trailer. The show knows that neither side is coming out of this in one piece...the problem is that the characters don't.

Right now, characters on both sides of the conflict are fooling themselves into thinking they can dominate their opponents. They're telling themselves they have no choice but to attack, or that they need to fight a war for the good of the realm, or to exact righteous vengeance upon their enemies, or whatever other excuses people allow themselves when they've made up their minds to do violence and don't want to be dissuaded. By and large, they don't have the perspective to see the war for what it is. This is not a time of reflection. This is a time of choosing.

That's why the "All Must Choose" marketing rings true. It vibes with the story we're going to get in the second season. There will come a time when the characters, exhausted by the toils of war, will look back and wonder if anything was worth it. And maybe then, the marketing can take a more contemplative, melancholy approach. But right now, Rhaenyra wants revenge for the death of her son Luke. Young characters like Baela and Aemond are eager to prove their mettle. There's a rising tide of excitement and HBO is inviting fans to get involved. And as the bodies mount and the rivers fill with blood, they may question that excitement just as the characters do.

House of the Dragon season 2 premieres on HBO and Max on Sunday, June 16.

Next. George R.R. Martin responds to critics who call his Song of Ice and Fire books 'gratuitous'. George R.R. Martin responds to critics who call his Song of Ice and Fire books 'gratuitous'. dark

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