“House of the Dragon” Embraces Feminist Themes
For Miguel Sapochnik, director of several episodes of the epic series Game of Thrones (2011-2019), returning to the neighborhood of the characters created by George R.R. Martin meant also taking on the responsibility of writing the script, along with Ryan J. Condal.
Sapochnik directed the first episode that serves as the lead-in to the August 21 series premiere of House of the Dragon (HBO Max).
The challenge is enormous. Game of Thrones (or GOT, as its fans abbreviated it) broke several records in its eight seasons. It was the most watched series simultaneously in the world, with 173 countries tuned in to HBO.
GOT’s 73 episodes collected more than 300 awards, including the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Drama Series for Peter Dinklage, and several nominations for Best Drama Series by the HFPA.
Sapochnik directed the episode, The Long Night, of GOT’s last season, which featured the decisive battle in the kingdom of Westeros. Supported by different family houses, the kingdom defended its borders in a cold and ruthless battle against the Army of Death, which required 750 extras (many of them riding horses), a month and a half of filming, and cost $2.5 million to produce.
House of the Dragon is based on Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series, as well as his 2018 novel Fire & Blood, with the new series taking place 200 years before the events in GOT, in which we witness the rise of the mother of dragons, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), whose fury at the Iron Throne being taken from her ancestors in the capital King’s Landing, brought dire consequences to all of Westeros.
Due to the above, the series that Sapochnik commands is considered a prequel to GOT, with the blessing of Martin himself, an executive producer. Martin, born in New Jersey in 1948, declared that the world of GOT is not very different from our society today, where violence against women has been systematic.
Condal explained about the pilot broadcast titled The Heirs of the Dragon, minutes before the screening of the first episode during the series premiere at the David Geffen Theater of the Academy Museum: “Episode 1 is the closest to my heart for the time I put into it. I think if you love the world of GOT, this new series takes place in the same place and looks and feels the same even though it happened a couple of centuries before.
“There are tons of princes and princesses and 17 dragons. It is a great opportunity to see the Targaryens being in power and to remember the mother of dragons in GOT, Daenerys Targaryen, and how she longed for that era when her family ruled King’s Landing and that dynasty of her family that was lost. For me, House of the Dragon, in short, is a Greek tragedy.”
At the beginning of House of the Dragon, the viewer will find himself with the geopolitical situation derived from the fact that the Targaryens are in power. There is an urgency for a successor to the throne in the future. The possibility and consequences of a woman occupying the Iron Throne begin to be discussed.
Sapochnik, referring to the participation of actresses Milly Alcock and Emma D’Arcy, who star as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, in the younger and older versions, respectively, said at the premiere red carpet, “The central idea behind House of the Dragon is that the patriarchal crown system is capable of destroying itself before it agrees to see a woman put on the queen’s crown.
“We wanted to take the female perspective, thinking that this is a story that has not been told as much. We were so used to seeing everything from the male side in the GOT series that approaching it from the female point of view makes it more interesting.”
D’Arcy, an alumna of Oxford University’s The Ruskin School of Art, who identifies as a non-binary person and has participated in series such as Hanna (2020) and Truth Seekers (2020), is ready to have the attention of millions of people on her shoulders. Fans will look at her as the new ambassador of Westeros in their homes.
D’Arcy recalled, flashing an enigmatic smile at the premiere’s red carpet media line, “When I arrived on set, I felt that I was just another visitor, like a tourist. Fortunately, by the time we finished filming three months later, I already felt like a resident.”
Award-winning composer Ramin Djawadi, who created the series’ music, said, also on the red carpet, “I missed the GOT universe. It’s been a couple of years since my last composition. These series are very close to my heart.
“I wanted to make sure that musically, there is a connection between the two series so you will hear songs from the original GOT. Because although House of the Dragon is a prequel, it feels like a continuation of the story.
“At the same time, there’s a ton of new stuff that we’ve put into this series. And I confess that something I really enjoy is creating music for the scenes with the dragons.”
Translated by Mario Amaya