As this profoundly crummy year crawls to a close I’ve been struggling to get into any sort of holiday spirit. Then the recent House of the Dragon casting announcements were released and they gave me a much-needed energy boost and the inspiration to write up a list of things
I would do if I were in charge of the show I’m hoping for in HOTD in a … vaguely holiday-ish manner.
Potential spoilers for HOTD, I guess? The spoiler policy is kind of weird for this show.
Amidst all the carnage and tragedy of the Dance of the Dragons, let’s remember that one woman – a bastard who tames her own dragon, no less – gets to ride off into the morning mist at the end: Nettles. “Foul-mouthed, filthy and fearless,” she has all the makings of a fan favorite.
11. Targaryen Madness Explored
I’ve always had issues with Targaryen madness for the way it conflates mental illness with violence and evil. So, it would be really, really, really nice if HOTD could actually delve into what this hereditary sickness even is. In season 1 some effort was put into depicting Targaryen madness as a form of psychosis or schizophrenia that just isn’t understood in Westeros. Renly says that King Aerys slaughtered innocents because “the voices in his head told him they deserved it” and Grand Maester Pycelle even describes Aerys as a “good man” before he was consumed by visions of fire and blood. I can’t really imagine a truly non-problematic portrayal of Targaryen madness since those affected with it do invariably poses a threat to the safety of others. Still, I hold out hope that HOTD might handle it with just a touch more humanity.
10. Helaena Targaryen
I’ve already discussed my feelings about Helaena Targaryen at length in a video essay (*cough*), but TLDR, she’s a tragic figure who deserves to be portrayed as more than a benign chubby girl or grief stricken mad woman.
9. Evolution of Language
I’ve wanted to write about linguistics in Game of Thrones for years but nothing in Martin’s canon has made me as excited as HOTD, in this regard, because we won’t just be getting different languages, we’ll be getting those languages influencing each other to credit new languages.
At least we better.
I will be bitterly disappointed if the show ignores the language barrier that Valyrian-speaking Aegon, Visenya and Rhaenys encounter while conquering the Seven Kingdoms and just skips forward to 129 AC when everyone speaks the Common Tongue (though the absence of regional dialects in Westeros also bothers me). The most overt real world parallel to Aegon’s Conquest is the Norman Conquest of England, led by William the Conqueror, and the realization that Valyrian is analogous to Norman French in this context (rather than Classical Latin) sent me down a rabbit hole trying to figure out how the Common Tongue might be a hybrid of Valyrian and whatever Proto-Common Tongue the Andals, Rhoynar and First Men spoke (the way English is a Germanic-Romance hybrid language). But of course HOTD can’t really delve into this since the Common Tongue is – functionally for the TV show, anyway – English. And we’ve heard enough of David J. Peterson’s Valyrian to know that 29% of English vocabulary does not come from it.
However, it would be pretty great if HOTD could somehow work in that the Common Tongue word, “dragon” is derived from “dracarys.” David J. Peterson bemoaned Martin’s lack of creativity when coming up with that word and decided that its similarity to “dragon” (via the latin “draco“) was a coincidence. But what if it wasn’t? After all, words often change meaning slightly when they’re borrowed and incorporated into other languages. It would be a fun bit of world building and a nod to the evolution of real languages.
They’re the ultimate wish fulfillment pet and mode of transportation and in HOTD they’re going to be everywhere! Again, I’ve expressed my thoughts on dragons at length elsewhere (*cough* *cough*). I just hope that they’re treated as characters with personalities and not as weaponized Alexas.
7. Aerial Battles
I don’t know if there’s ever been, or ever will be a live action television series with more potential for spectacle than HOTD. We got a taste of what two dragons fighting above the clouds looks like in “The Long Night.” With HOTD giving us Aemond One-Eye’s battle with Lucerys, the Battle at Rook’s Rest and the Battle Above the Kings Eye at a minimum, it’s going to be absolutely breath-taking.
6. The Red Kraken
By the time HOTD comes out, I will be well overdue a Greyjoy fix, and a show that centers around the Dance of the Dragons will more than likely feature the most legendary of all Ironborn: Dalton “Red Kraken” Greyjoy. As the personification of Ironborn toxicity, violence and short-sightedness, I don’t expect him to be likable, but I do expect to enjoy his screen presence.
5. The Forging of the Iron Throne
I have nothing insightful to say about this one. I just want to see it.
4. Evolution of Fashion
300 years is a long time in the world of fashion, and while I hope HOTD continues Game of Thrones’ tradition of reflecting character development through costuming, I also hope that clothes and accessories are used to convey the passage of time. Obviously, Game of Thrones’ costume designers, Michele Clapton and April Ferry, drew inspiration from a variety of sources but their overall aesthetic had a late medieval/early Renaissance feel. It would be interesting, then, if the characters in HOTD dress and accessorize themselves in a manner more evocative of the early to mid-medieval period.
Personally, I’d love it if we got more headdresses than elaborate braids in HOTD (the religious habits worn by septas and Olenna Tyrell’s wimple and barbette establish some history of head coverings in Westeros). It actually makes sense that the dragon riders of Old Valyria and, therefore, the early Targaryen queens would keep their long, flowing, flammable hair tucked away and the gradual shift towards hair braiding would be a fitting symbol of the Targaryens’ growing distance from their roots.
3. Matt Smith
Honestly, I’m only putting him on this list because of the backlash his casting has received. I don’t understand it. Matt Smith is a good actor; he has range and his eyebrows are so light he might be the first Targaryen whose eyebrows don’t clash with his silver-blonde wig. Seriously, though, I don’t get the naysaying.
2. The Score
I’m just assuming Ramin Djawadi is going to score this show because … why on earth would HBO hire anyone else? I am, of course, looking forward to all the new musical motifs he’ll compose but I’m actually more excited to hear how Djawadi incorporates the themes from Game of Thrones that are still relevant to the events and characters of HOTD into the new score. I’m not sure if “Mhysa” was ever truly the theme for House Targaryen so much as Daenerys’ theme, but surely, surely we’re going to get “Breaker of Chains” again as the dragon theme, right? I can so clearly imagine a melancholic rendition of it, like the one the Danish National Symphony Orchestra performs at 6:12, playing over the Storming of the Dragonpit.
What I’m saying is that Djawadi needs to compose the score so he can rip my heart out and eat it in front of me. Again.
- Answers to Mysteries
One of the trickiest parts of writing HOTD, I imagine, will be providing definitive accounts of events that are left ambiguous in Fire and Blood and The World of Ice and Fire. These texts are written as in-universe history books, after all, so there are plenty of knowledge gaps and points of speculation. Was Helaena killed or did she commit suicide? Did Rhaenyra weep or smile when presented with the severed head of a toddler? Were Daemon and Nettles lovers or did they have a father-daughter relationship? Providing concrete answers to these mysteries has the potential to transform our understanding of these characters, and I’m curious to see which stances the writers choose to take.