There’s no question. House of the Dragon is the bloodiest and most brutal show on TV. Whether it’s Targaryens versus Velaryons (or, more likely just Targaryens tearing themselves apart) or Dragonstone versus the Iron Throne, two things are guaranteed. The skies will be filled with dragonfire and the seas will roil with waves of blood.
In case you missed anything between all of the drama, these are the need-to-know facts about House of the Dragon for any true Game of Thrones fan. And we promise, there’s plenty of fire and blood.
1. It’s A Back-Breaker
To some degree, the brutality in House of the Dragon was very much real. Matt Smith, who played Daemon Targaryen, told The Hollywood Reporter that he injured his neck while performing a stunt: “Hit the disc in my neck in Portugal. It’s a [bloody] pain in the neck—literally, metaphorically, and physically”.
But he wasn't the only one to face physical challenges on set.
2. Milly Alcock Is A Dragonrider
As far as we know, in the real world, no one has actually ridden on a dragon before. But if anyone could guess what it was like, it would be the actors in House of the Dragon. Milly Alcock, who played Rhaenyra Targaryen, tried to explain the experience of riding a dragon to her adoring fans at Comic Con. What she described sounds…terrifying.
3. Alcock Shared The Secrets Of Dragon Riding
At Comic Con, Alcock explained, “You’re propped up on what looks like a mechanical bull you would find in a bar or a pub. And they harness you in and are lifted six feet off the ground and there’s four guys with leaf blowers and you just have to dodge around. It feels strangely alive, because it makes noises as it’s moving. It is weird. It feels like a live thing”.
4. Matt Smith Just Wanted Off
When speaking to the press, Matt Smith described his own experience as a Targaryen dragonrider. Or, more accurately, an animatronic dragon-look-alike rider. “It’s cool,” he said, “you’re in the air, they move you around on remote control, they fire a load of wind and rain on you, and after about [ten] hours, you want to get off”.
5. It Has More Dragons Than GoT
In Game of Thrones, Daenerys Targaryen burned her way across Essos and Westeros with just three dragons. She toppled cities and kingdoms and made everyone bow down to her. But in House of the Dragon, there are more Targaryens—and more dragons. The spinoff promises to deliver 17 fire-breathing tormentors across its full series run.
6. It Got Hot On Set
All that glitters isn’t gold. But, in House of the Dragon, all that burns is actually fire. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Milly Alcock confirmed that all of the lighting on set was natural—including the fire. She said, “...all the lighting that you see in the show would have people that come around and light everything on fire and the set would get incredibly hot”.
7. Carey Felt The Heat
Milly Alcock wasn’t the only cast member feeling the heat. Emily Carey, who played the young Alicent Hightower, talked about feeling the immense pressure of joining the A Song of Ice and Fire franchise. “[...]it's the biggest TV show, possibly ever,” she said, “It's impossible to not feel the pressure and the weight of that".
8. It Was A Big Set
As King Viserys Targaryen, Paddy Considine had free rein of the Red Keep. In fact, the 35,000 sqft set was so realistic that he considered moving in: “You could have moved into the Red Keep and literally lived there. All of us could have. It was ridiculous. I've never been on a set where you just keep walking around and finding rooms and staircases".
9. It Was Anarchy
George RR Martin’s world of blood and brutality might be fantasy but he was inspired by real events in history. Speaking to fans at Comic Con about House of the Dragon, Martin explained, “Game of Thrones was based very loosely on the War of the Roses. This show was based on an earlier period of English history, called ‘The Anarchy’”.
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10. It Was A British Affair
Sadly, the world of A Song of Ice and Fire isn’t actually a real place. Although, maybe that’s a good thing—no Dothraki hordes or White Walkers to worry about. In order to recreate the world of George RR Martin’s imagination, however, House of the Dragon showrunners turned to the land that inspired Martin in the first place—the United Kingdom.
11. It’s Not Suitable For All Ages
House of the Dragon is not suitable for younger audiences—or cast members. If the showrunners stuck to George RR Martin’s timeline, then the series would have been streaming on Nickelodeon. For example, in the show, Princess Rhaenyra was a teenager but in the books, she was just eight or nine years old when she did you know what with you know who. Yikes.
12. It Almost Never Happened
For all of the hype around the Targaryens and House of the Dragon, the series almost never took flight. Originally, HBO toyed with the idea of a series called Bloodmoon that focused on the obscure Age of Heroes. However, Westeros creator, George RR Martin, hadn’t fleshed out that era. And we all know what happens when the showrunners go off script.
13. It’s Good Enough For Martin
Most fans of Game of Thrones think that the show kind of lost its luster once the showrunners ran ahead of the source material. And Martin basically agreed with them. But that’s not the case with House of the Dragon. He said, “I am vastly impressed by the show’s version of King Viserys...who gives the character a tragic majesty that my book Viserys never quite achieved”.
14. It’s Not For The Faint of Heart
If you watched House of Dragon hoping to find a knight in shining armor who went around Westeros slaying dragons and saving damsels, then you tuned in to the wrong show. There are no heroes amongst dragonriders. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter about the cast of characters during the rise and fall of the Targaryens, Martin had some pointed words.
15. It’s Shakespearean
Martin said, “It's powerful, it's visceral, it's dark, it's like a Shakespearean tragedy. There’s no Arya—a character everybody's going to love. 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”.
16. It Cost A Lot To Make
According to Variety magazine, Game of Thrones cost HBO anywhere between six million and fifteen million dollars per episode. House of the Dragon, on the other hand, cost almost as much as a modern-day invasion of Westeros. Allegedly, HBO spent approximately $20 million on House of the Dragon—per episode. Not even a Lannister could afford that.
17. It’s Kind Of A Big Deal
Game of Thrones was a cultural phenomenon. It’s impossible to overstate how much viewers were obsessed with the series. But House of the Dragon drew even larger audiences. According to HBO, the dragon-filled spinoff premiered to an audience of 10 million. Evidently, audiences were eager to get back to Westeros. Extremely eager, in fact.
18. It Was Too Good To Wait For
Fans were so hyped for the Game of Thrones prequel that they couldn’t wait for its release to get a glimpse of it. To appease eager fans—and to stop them from storming the studio with dragons—HBO released a teaser on social media on the tenth anniversary of Game of Thrones. At the time, filming for House of the Dragon had only just begun.
19. It Was An Instant Success
House of the Dragon fans won’t have to wait too long to see more fire and blood. Just five days after the first episode premiered, HBO renewed the hit series for another season. Even though audiences know that the story will follow the events of George RR Martin’s Fire & Blood, there are sure to be surprises along the way.
20. Steven Toussaint Was Almost In GoT
Steven Touissant played the role of Corlys Velaryon in House of the Dragon. But fans of the original show, Game of Thrones, almost knew him by a different name. Allegedly, Toussaint auditioned for a handful of bit parts in Game of Thrones but never landed a role. As Master of Ships on the Small Council, however, we think he landed the role of a lifetime.
21. Toussaint Wasn’t A Fan
Given that Steven Touissant kept auditioning to be a part of the franchise, one imagines that he would have been a big fan of the books. Wrong! George RR Martin sent each cast member of House of the Dragon a signed copy of his now legendary book series. But Toussaint didn’t even read the jacket copy. No wonder he never sat on the Iron Throne.
22. Olivia Cooke Never Watched The Original
From the sounds of it, Toussaint wasn’t the only cast member who knew basically nothing about Westeros until they showed up on set. Olivia Cooke who played Alicent Hightower hadn’t watched the original show until after her audition. In an interview with Vogue, she explained, “I’m one of those people that has to do things on my own time”.
23. Cooke Struggled To Fit In
In House of the Dragon, Olivia Cooke only married into the Targaryen bloodline as Alicent Hightower. But she was very nearly a Targaryen herself. Cooke originally auditioned for the role of Rhaenyra Targaryen but the showrunners thought she would do better as Alicent Hightower. However, she struggled to “fit” into the role.
24. Cooke Got Dirty
For the show’s cast, getting into and out of character required hours of hair and makeup and costume fittings. Poor Olivia Cooke recalled trying to use the washroom while in costume for hours on end. “Going to a portaloo on the top of a mountain in so many skirts and tights and thermals…you end up just covered in mud”. At least, we think it’s mud.
25. Cooke Had A Hard Time
Olivia Cooke probably had the hardest time with the wardrobe department. Allegedly, the showrunners filmed Alicent Hightower’s and King Viserys’ wedding ceremony, complete with an elaborate wedding dress and tiara. But for all of those fittings, Cooke’s special day never made the final cut and ended up on the cutting room floor. Speaking of cutting.
26. It’s A Cut Above The Rest
In the lore of A Song of Ice and Fire, the Iron Throne plays a central role. It’s the throne infamously melted down from the swords of conquered kings. And if that sounds uncomfortable, it’s because it is. Legend has it that if a king (or queen) gets cut while sitting on the Iron Throne then they are unworthy to rule.
27. It Was Really Only Six Kingdoms
Everyone who sits on the Iron Throne likes to call themselves the King of the Seven Kingdoms. But, during the time of House of the Dragon (the years 112 to 132), there were in fact only six kingdoms. Dorne, home to fan favorites such as the Sand Snakes and The Viper, Oberyn Martell, was independent of the Iron Throne until 187.
28. Fabien Frankel Was A Laughing Stock
Olivia Cooke wasn’t the only one who struggled to get in and out of costume. Fabien Frankel, who played Ser Criston Cole, had so much difficulty in his armor that he became the laughing stock of his fellow cast members. Co-star Matt Smith recalled, “even if it was just laughing at Fabien trying to sit down in the armor. That gave me such joy every day. Poor Fabien”.
29. It Has Its Own Language
To casual viewers of House of the Dragon, High Valyrian—the language of Old Valyria—might sound like a lot of gibberish. However, the language is actually real. Well, mostly. Linguist David J Peterson created the language of High Valyrian by combining elements of Latin and Arabic. On set, the cast got a little tongue-twisted.
30. Matt Smith Was Fluent In High Valyrian
It took more than a platinum-blonde wig and some fancy costumes to get Matt Smith into character. In an interview with GQ, Smith talked about having to learn High Valyrian to embody his character. “I could access this other, exotic part of his personality,” Smith said about speaking High Valyrian, “where it almost felt more natural to him, on some level”.
31. Smith Lost Himself In Daemon
Whether it was the costumes or High Valyrian, Matt Smith lost himself in Daemon Targaryen’s character. House of the Dragon producer, Ryan Condal, described Smith’s method acting as follows: “If you get to know Matt, I’d suggest you do it when he’s out of costume because there’s something that happens when he puts on that wig”.
32. Paddy Considine Was A Thief
The Targaryens had a habit of taking whatever they wanted, from whomever they wanted. And if anyone objected, well, “dracarys”. Some of that kleptomania rubbed off on the show’s cast. Paddy Considine, who played King Viserys, for example, said, “My knife—it’s a very important knife—I wanted to keep it. Trying to nick it was hard”.
33. Dragonriders Have Secret Commands
In the show, a dragonrider could reduce their enemies to ash simply by saying the word “dracarys”. However, “dracarys” was Daenerys Targaryen’s personal command to her dragons to breathe fire. Because of the obscure and apocalyptic Doom of Valyria, it’s not clear what command ancient dragonriders gave to their trusted steeds.
34. Syrax Is A Goddess
In the world of A Song of Ice and Fire, every dragonrider has to bond with their dragon before they can conquer the sky—and burn King’s Landing down. Rhaenyra Targaryen, for example, bonded with the gold-colored Syrax at just the age of seven. The “huge and formidable beast” got its name from “a goddess of Old Valyria”.
35. Smith Bonded With Caraxes
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Matt Smith spoke about Daemon Targaryen’s bond with his ill-tempered dragon, Caraxes. “There’s a kind of weird symbiosis, like with an avatar,” Smith said. “Caraxes is really grumpy. There’s a similar cantankerous nature to both of us”. At least Smith got along with his co-stars.
36. It Had A Close Cast
The cast of House of the Dragon changed throughout the first season—but it sounds like everyone bonded anyway. Matt Smith, for example, described the closeness as such: “I had wonderful moments of real focus and engagement with Emma D’Arcy (Rhaenyra Targaryen) and with Paddy [Considine] where we would just totally be locked into one another’s energies for the day”.
37. Rhaenyra Never Met…Herself?
Both Milly Alcock and Emma D’Arcy portray Rhaenyra Targaryen in the first season of House of the Dragon. But that was just about the extent of their bonding. Director Miguel Sapochnik specifically asked the two stars to steer clear of each other so that they wouldn’t just end up copying each other’s performances. Or stealing each other’s crowns.
38. Balerion Cast A Big Shadow
Dragons can turn their prey into ashes with just a sneeze. Or they could wipe out entire armies by stepping on them. Balerion the Black Dread, the dragon that helped Aegon conquer Westeros, was supposedly the biggest dragon of them all. Legend has it that his shadow alone blanketed entire cities in darkness...and dragon fire.
39. Vhagar Can Melt Stone
By the time the events of House of the Dragon begin to unfold, Balerion the Black Dread is just a skeleton. But his sister, Vhagar, is very much alive. And she’s no shrinking lizard herself. In Fire & Blood, George RR Martin wrote that Vhagar “had grown nigh as large as the Black Dread of old. Her fires burned hot enough to melt stone”.
40. Velaryons Came First
The Targaryens might have ruled Westeros but they weren’t the first Valyrians to arrive there. According to the Velaryon family history, they fled the fabled—and doomed—city of Valyria and landed in Driftmark before the Targaryens had even set sail. But the question remains: Why didn’t the Velaryons conquer Westeros for themselves?
41. Velaryons Were The Original Lannisters
In Game of Thrones, the Lannisters were the undisputed richest family in Westeros. But only because the Velaryons weren’t around anymore. In fact, at the height of their power, the Velaryons were so wealthy that they built two castles; Driftmark—a shabby, damp shack—and High Tide. They just couldn’t seem to get the big, red one.
42. Valeryons Ruled The Seas
Thanks to their fire-breathing air snakes with wings (aka dragons), the Targaryens were the undisputed masters of the skies. However, the high seas belonged almost exclusively to the Velaryons. Throughout most of House of the Dragon, the Velaryons held the position of Master of Ships on the Small Council which made them immeasurably wealthy.
43. Valeryons Are Basically Targaryens
The Targaryens and the Velaryons are, more or less, the same house. Even before they arrived in Westeros, these two old Valyrian families had a habit of marrying their sons and daughters. Apparently, even the most famous Targaryen, Aegon the Conqueror, was basically half Velaryon because of his mother, Valaena Velaryon.
44. It’s Spinning More Spinoffs
The Targaryens tore themselves to pieces in House of the Dragon—literally. And when the dragon fire clears, there won’t be too many Targaryens left standing. At least, not any sane ones. But, with or without the blood of old Valyria, the Song of Ice and Fire will continue with more Game of Thrones spinoffs in the works.
45. It’s All Martin
In his blog, George RR Martin spoke about his involvement in House of the Dragon and his plans for the future of Westeros. He wrote, “I expect to be involved in [House of the Dragons] to some extent…and, who knows, if things work out, I may even be able to script a few episodes, as I did for the first four seasons of Game of Thrones”.
46. It’s Not Over And Winter Is Coming
In his blog post, Martin continued dishing out the inside scoop on House of the Dragon. He also couldn’t help but remind everyone of one extremely important point: “let me make this perfectly clear,” he wrote, “I am not taking on any scripts until I have finished and delivered WINDS OF WINTER. Winter is still coming”.
47. Smith Had A Lean Red Beast
Matt Smith’s Daemon Targaryen got to fly through the skies on the back of Caraxes. According to the show creators, Caraxes, much like Daemon Targaryen, was “the dragon that no one loves”. That might help explain why Caraxes grew up as the “fiercest of all the young dragons in the Dragonpit”. But what was Daemon’s excuse?
48. Martin Lost His Head
The stories and characters in Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon are the brainchildren of George RR Martin. You might even say that they cost Martin his head. Allegedly, Martin requested that a prop replica of his head be mounted on a spike in Game of Thrones but budget constraints made it impossible. House of the Dragon, however, had a bigger budget...
49. Alcock Didn’t Know She Was A Star
When Milly Alcock auditioned for the role of “young” Rhaenyra Targaryen she didn’t know that she was getting a starring role. Initially, Alcock thought that her character would only appear in short flashbacks. “I was surprised,” Alcock said in her interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “I was just really shocked”.
50. It Dethroned Game of Thrones
House of the Dragon showrunners wanted to “dethrone” Game of Thrones as the King of Streaming Shows. Literally. So, in true Westeros style, they melted down the old throne and forged a new, bigger, and more rugged-looking Iron Throne. The more rugged, asymmetrical design is much more in line with George RR Martin’s description in the books.