It’s official – Game of Thrones spin-off House of the Dragon has crowned its king, with Paddy Considine set to play Viserys Targaryen I in the upcoming HBO/Sky Atlantic fantasy series.
But who is this mysterious monarch? How does he fit into the fictional history of Westeros, and what kind of story will he be a part of?
Well, first off he’s not the same Viserys we saw in the first season of Game of Thrones, played by Harry Lloyd and killed (with a memorable gold crowning) by Khal Drogo. Within the fictional history of Westeros, Considine’s Viserys existed hundreds of years before his later descendant, who was actually one of many family members named after him.
In other words, Considine is playing Viserys I – Lloyd’s Targaryen wannabe would have been Viserys III, had he taken the Iron Throne. And as for how this new (or rather, old) Viserys fits in? A new description released by HBO offers some clues.
“Viserys was chosen by the lords of Westeros to succeed the Old King, Jaehaerys Targaryen, at the Great Council at Harrenhal,” it reads.
“A warm, kind, and decent man, Viserys only wishes to carry forward his grandfather’s legacy, but as we’ve learned from Game of Thrones, good men do not necessarily make for great kings.”
Already, we know that House of the Dragon will be set around 300 years before the events of Game of Thrones, when the Targaryens still ruled with dozens of dragons by their sides – and this description helpfully gives us some clues about exactly where the story will pick up.
As recounted in Thrones author George RR Martin’s Targaryen “history” book Fire & Blood, Viserys Targaryen was crowned in his 20s and known as the Young King when he took the Throne, and was popular with lords and smallfolk alike.
However, his reign also sowed the seeds for a deadly civil war. During his first marriage, Viserys had one surviving daughter called Rhaenyra, whom he publicly named as heir over his brother Daemon. However, when he married second wife Alicent Hightower (the daughter of a notable Westerosi family) he had a number of sons, whom Alicent felt had the better claim (specifically she championed the eldest, Aegon).
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Normally, the sons would have naturally inherited – but with Rhaenyra named as heir before they were born, the succession issue was muddled, and following King Viserys’ death two factions emerged. One group (called “the blacks”) supported Rhaenyra, while the other (called “the greens”) supported Alicent and Aegon, splitting the Targaryen family, their allies and vassals as both sides vied for the Iron Throne.
Making this Civil War particularly dramatic was the fact that at this stage the Targaryens had dozens of dragons at their command, leading to pitched aerial assaults and battles between their fiery mounts as various Targaryens clashed in the sky. Later, it become known as The Dance of the Dragons, and was referenced in the main Game of Thrones series as well as George RR Martin’s source novels.
Presumably, this is the story that House of the Dragon is really telling – the build-up to this war. After all, at 47 it seems unlikely Considine is playing The Young King at the start of his reign, like the character description suggests. Instead, it seems more likely that fans will be dropped right in the heart of Alicent and Rhaenyra’s battle for power, with both female lead roles also reportedly being cast at the moment as the production looks for actors in their twenties and thirties.
Altogether then it sounds like we’re in for lots of plotting, intrigue and betrayal as a good man struggles to hold the Seven Kingdoms together, all building up to a huge and terrible war – so far, so season one of Game of Thrones. But this time, the dragons are already fully-grown and ready to fight from day one...
Whether this also means Considine won’t stick around too long – the war doesn’t kick off until after his character’s death, after all – is less clear. Unlike Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon isn’t based on a novel, full of well-drawn characters, thrilling sequences and snappy dialogue. Instead, this series will be based on fictional historical narratives invented by Martin to service his main series, giving series creators Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik more wiggle room to change details.
In other words, when it comes to House of the Dragon there are no books for the creators to not live up to. Following the reaction to the original Game of Thrones finale, we’re sure that’s something of a relief to everyone.
House of Dragon is set to debut in 2022. Want something else to watch? Check out our full TV Guide.