There was a time when the HBO series Game of Thrones was on top of the world. Everyone was talking about the steamy and sordid series, and fans would gather online and in person to watch each episode air and dissect it gleefully.
It quickly became one of the most beloved fantasy series on television, perhaps of all time - and promised to leave a legend as the final season kicked off in 2019.
But what happened wasn't a triumphant crescendo to greatness that left people weeping and begging for more. Instead, it was a rushed, abrupt and wholly unsatisfying ending that betrayed fans' most devoted expectations. Instead of "wow" fans were left with "wth?"
Now, after 3 years of anticipation, the long-awaited prequel to Game of Thrones' "A Song of Ice and Fire" story has arrived, and it's called House of the Dragon. But can this series, set years before the original story, redeem HBO - or is this a swan song for a series that betrayed its fans one too many times to come back from the brink?
House of the Dragon: Here's What to Expect
Set in the same world as Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon focuses on the Targaryen family around two hundred years before Game of Thrones' events.
The story focuses on the end of the reign of Targaryen king Jaehaerys the Wise, and his need to appoint a successor after 50 years of peaceful rule. Without a clear heir, Jaehaerys appoints a council who votes the next king in - King Viserys. While the name is familiar to GoT fans, King Viserys is not the insane Viserys of Daenerys' time.
Viserys eventually faces the same difficult choice that his predecessor did, and the story focuses on the intrigue, familial infighting and political drama that made King's Landing so fascinating during GoT.
Like the original series, HotD probably won't shy away from killing popular characters and throwing monkey wrenches in from time to time to make sure everyone's paying attention.
But with any luck, it will stay consistent instead of suddenly accelerating the story halfway through the last season and ending with a whimper instead of a bang.
Will HoD Break Hearts the way GoT Did?
Luckily for those skeptical about the new series, there's one variable you won't have to worry about: the original showrunners who disappointed fans so deeply in season 8 of GoT are not a part of HotD.
Vanity Fair explains, "Here’s news that’s either good or bad depending on how the show ultimately landed with you: Game of Thrones executive producers and creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are not involved in House of the Dragon. Instead, Dragon springs from the minds of coshowrunners Ryan J. Condal and Miguel Sapochnik, with series cocreator Martin himself serving as a hands-on executive producer."
Condal was hand-picked by series writer and the man behind the whole world, George RR Martin. Sapochnik was responsible for several fan-favorite episodes in the original GoT, including "Battle of the Bastards" and "The Winds of Winter."
But there's good news from a literary standpoint as well. One issue that came into play with the final season of GoT was that the author, Martin, still hadn't (and still hasn't) finished the series by then. So they were working solely off scriptwriters and what little hints Martin was willing to drop along the way. It made for a jerky, inconsistent story progression that seemed to hold a lot back - perhaps to keep people interested in the eventual forthcoming final novel(s?) of Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series.
In the case of HotD, the story comes from a prequel book Martin wrote called Fire & Blood, but it isn't tied too tightly to the book, so the creative options are nearly limitless.
If we had to guess, good things are in store for House of the Dragon. While we understand being hesitant to trust your heart again to a series botched so beautifully the first time around, this one promises to be something extraordinary. Hopefully from start to finish.
When and Where to Watch
The good news about this series, whether you love or hate it, your wait is soon over.
The first episode will air August 21 on HBO Max.