House of the Dragon official trailer breakdown

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After the release of so many stunning official stills and that behind the scenes video, I think we all knew an official trailer wasn’t far behind – and we were right!

Exactly one month and a day before House of the Dragon premieres, HBO has graced us with 2 minutes and 49 seconds of music, dialogue and rapid fire blink-and-you-miss-it shots that provide a solid first (ok, like, fifth) look at House of the Dragon season 1.

So, let’s break this thing down.

**Potential mild spoilers. This is all speculation, but I can’t help it if I get things right**

We open on a House of the Dragon official trailer title card. Ok, HBO, we get it. This show is so epic even the trailer warrants its own title card.

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Rhaenyra approaches Daemon, sitting on the Iron Throne.

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A blurry Viserys Targaryen stares into the fire and says on voice over, “The dream, it was clearer than a memory. And I heard the sound of thundering hooves, splintering shields and ringing swords. And I placed my heir upon the Iron Throne and all the dragons roared as one.” Interestingly, Game of Thrones did away with the Targaryen dragon dreams that are so present in the books (Dany’s always having prophetic dreams), while Fire and Blood doesn’t have them, as it’s written as a history, not an internal narrative. And yet, it seems House of the Dragon will bring this magical element to the fore, for the first time in live-action.

As Viserys speaks, we get a series of shots that correspond thematically to what he’s saying:

Two people riding horses in the forest. One looks like a Kingsguard knight and the other appears to have Valyrian white hair and be wearing a black dress. Based on later shots, it’s probably Criston Cole and young Rhaenyra.

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Daemon Targaryen and Criston Cole fight at the tourney for King Viserys’s accession.

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Rhaenyra watches someone draw a sword from discarded armor. I initially assumed it was Daemon, but, since Rhaenyra’s dress seems to match one we see her wearing later in the trailer in a scene with Criston Cole, I’ve concluded it’s Criston.

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Viserys rests his hand on the arm of the Iron Throne, which has cut his finger and bears a tiny trickle of his blood. We academics call this symbolism.

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The voice over ends on a similar shot of a dragon and dragonrider we saw in the teaser trailer, though in this they’re approaching not the Red Keep but the Dragonpit, in all its glory, long before the ruinous state we found the building in during Game of Thrones.

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A royal procession moves through King’s Landing, passing a gorgeous obsidian statue of a dragon. Also, there’s a woman carrying a parasol, which I don’t think I ever saw in Game of Thrones. Nothing important about that; just thought I’d mention it.

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We then get a glimpse of a Small Council meeting which young Rhaenyra attends as cup bearer. Viserys places a baseball-sized marble onto a plate with a slight depression at the center. At first, I thought it might be like the Conch Shell in Lord of the Flies: whoever holds the marble has the right to speak. But then in the wider shot we see that everyone has one. I’d admit to overthinking a very minor detail, except the trailer includes a close up of Viserys’ marble. That means it’s important, right?

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Anyway, we get an entire dialogue between the Small Council members. Otto Hightower says, “I consider the matter urgent, that of your succession.”

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Lyonel Strong (gods bless whoever at HBO decided to add those captions) asks: “Who else would have a claim?”

“The firstborn child,” Otto replies.

“Rhaenyra? No queen has ever sat the Iron Throne,” Lyonel points out.

“The king has an heir,” Corlys Velaryon says, “Daemon Targaryen.”

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“I will not be made to choose between my brother and my daughter,” Viserys insists. Sure, Jan.

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This dialogue plays over several shots shot of a tourney grounds at the foot of the dragonpit.

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Daemon Targaryen rides in wearing armor that is either badass or goofy, depending on who you ask. Also, I notice that the horse’s armor is designed to outfit it like a dragon. Targaryens really have a one-track mind, don’t they?

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Young Rhaenyra looks on. The editing suggests she’s studying Daemon and, uh, likes what she sees. Is she wearing the necklace we see him give her later in the trailer? Maybe.

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Rhaenyra and Laenor walk together on a beach. I feel bad for Laenor already. Imagine your fiancée wanting her uncle more than you. Not that he wants her either.

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Daemon looks smug, surrounded by suffering smallfolk.

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We get a close up of Daemon’s face. He’s looking at his gold cloaks, just itching to liberate some smallfolk’s teeth from their mouths.

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The gold cloaks pound their chests like the bros they are. It’s interesting to me that, at this point in the trailer, an unsullied viewer would probably assume that the primary conflict in this first season is between Rhaenyra and Daemon as they vie for the throne. A clever misdirect from the trailer-makers.

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Rhaenyra and a knight of the Kingsguard stand on a balcony overlooking a courtyard where Criston Cole stands along with several other knights representing Houses Caran, Arryn (or possibly Mallister?), Corbray, Tarth, Crakehall and Tarly. Credit to @meereeneseknot for their analysis of this shot. It’s an odd detail that Rhaenyra has little figurines of these men’s corresponding sigils on a board next to her. A game of thrones, indeed.

I also want to mention around this point, at 0:57, a brand new musical motif begins to play that sounds very much like a warped version of the Winterfell theme. I’ve watched this trailer dozens of times at this point and I still can’t make sense of it. It’s pretty, but why evoke that?

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We get an overhead shot of what I am confident, based on clips from the teaser, is Daemon and Mysaria approaching Otto Hightower on the stairs up to Dragonstone.

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Here we get a shot of a dragon flying towards another dragon, also at Dragonstone. I can make out at least one dragonrider.

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Rhaenys tells Corlys, “Rhaenyra’s succession will be challenged. Knives will come out.” And sadly, there will be no Daniel Craig to solve the mystery when they do.

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A short-haired Daemon Targaryen swaggers into the throne room wearing a crown of his own and carrying a hammer in his right hand. This hammer is likely a trophy taken from a fallen enemy, who we see later in the trailer.

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At least three Kingsguard knights train their swords on Daemon. The crowd of onlookers includes young Rhaenyra and a man who looks so much like Theon Greyjoy that I got irrationally excited for .0000001 seconds and then unreasonably sad.

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Daemon steps forward into the sword tip. It’s difficult to tell from this very brief clip if Daemon is calling the Kingsguard Harrold Westerling’s bluff, like, “What are you going to do? Kill me? I’m the king’s brother!” or if Westerling (played by the excellent Graham McTavish) is using the sword to push him back, as in, “No, Daemon, you’re actually in trouble this time.” Either way, we know from the teaser that short-haired Daemon gets roughed up by the Kingsguard. This might be the beginning of that sequence.

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We get a few shots of Alicent Hightower, while Rhaenyra (no, not Alicent; Rhaenyra, surprisingly) tells Viserys on V/O, “You are the king. Your duty is to take a new wife.”

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King Viserys sits on the Iron Throne, sword in hand, and tells Daemon, “I have decided to name a new heir.”

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“I’m your heir,” Daemon replies. Yeah, he just said new heir, Daemon. Try to keep up.

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We get a hazy shot of Dragonstone, looking up from its gates at the bottom of the serpentine stairs that lead to the castle.

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And then a detailed look at that standoff between Daemon, holding a dragon egg, and Otto Hightower and his entourage, while Laenor Velaryon tells us on V/O that “War is afoot.”

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Young Rhaenyra (wearing the dress I’m pretty sure she’s wearing when Criston draws his sword from discarded armor) asks Criston Cole, “Do you ever think the realm will accept me as their queen?”

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Young Rhaenyra stands in that gorgeous Byzantine-inspired dress we saw in the teaser, as men kneel before her and swear their loyalty.

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In the Red Keep’s gardens, Rhaenys tells young Rhaenyra (who might be wearing that same necklace she had on at the tourney): “A woman would not inherit the Iron Throne because that is the order of things.”

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And then BOOM smash cut to older Rhaenyra as younger Rhaenyra replies on V/O, sounding remarkably like Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys: “When I am Queen I will create a new order.”

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Did you hear that, guys? Rhaenyra’s gonna break the wheel!

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Rhaenyra flies over the clouds on Syrax, which lines up well enough with those other two shots of dragon riding that I’m inclined to assume these are all snippets from the same scene.

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One month and a day, guys!

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Someone named Reggio Haratis (a show original, revealed by the captions) says, “Your family has dragons” over grisly shots of a battlefield at the Steptones and Daemon striking down a Lysene or Tyroshi opponent.

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We get a shot of a dragon egg getting broiled as Viserys says on V/O “They’re a power man should never have trifled with.” If that line isn’t followed up with Rhaenyra hopping on a dragon and declaring, “I am no man!” I will break my TV screen.

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Daemon schmoozes with Caraxes and I have to say, this brief clip gives me such strong How To Train Your Dragon vibes, it makes me unironically like Daemon, if only for a moment.

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Aemond, still with two eyes (but not for much longer) stands on a beach at hilariously bright day for night as a gigantic dragon lands in the sand. That should be Vhagar, the eldest of the surviving dragons, once ridden by Visenya Targaryen during the Conquest. And Aemond is going to claim her here, at Driftmark, with terrible consequences…

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Here we have a shot of a man at the opening of a cave, silhouetted by dragonfire. This could be Daemon looking to steal that dragon egg at Dragonstone, but I suspect it’s a certain Myrish admiral whose hammer Daemon will end up with, during a decisive battle at the Steptones.

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Alicent and Rhaenyra stand by the Iron Throne, Alicent in a green dress and Rhaenyra in a black dress. I wonder if this takes place on the day of that fortuitous tourney from which the Greens and Blacks took their names.

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“If Rhaenyra comes into power, she could cut off any challenge to her succession,” Alicent tells someone-who-is-definitely Aegon. I mean, Alicent doesn’t look anywhere near old enough to be the mother of the teenager, but perhaps House of the Dragon will apply the same logic to aging with Alicent as Vikings did with Lagertha.

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We get that shot from the teaser of Daemon and his gold cloaks.

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And then a spectacular shot of Rhaenyra riding Syrax.

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“I am to inherit the Iron Throne,” Rhaenyra says on V/O as she approaches her father’s crown.

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“She will block my way,” Rhaenyra tells Daemon.

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And just in case you weren’t sure who “she” is, we get a quick shot of Alicent.

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I’d be really interested to know the sort of emotional journey completely unsullied viewers went on watching this trailer. As I said, the editing initially made it look like the conflict was between Rhaenyra and Daemon but by this point it’s clear that it’s between Rhaenyra and Alicent.

To my great joy we finally get a look at Aemond One-Eye sparring with Criston Cole.

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Criston smashes Aemond’s shield just as he smashed Daemon’s at the tourney.

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On V/O, Otto Hightower says “Our hearts remain as one” over a shot of young Alicent and Rhaenyra praying together.

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“Our hearts were never one,” Alicent retorts over a parallel shot of Alicent and Rhaenyra, now grown, sitting far apart. The image strongly resembles one of Doug Weatley’s illustrations in Fire and Blood.

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Corlys charges into battle and cuts down a Lysene or Tyroshi soldier of the Triarchy.

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Alicent stands with a handkerchief pressed to her mouth and nose.

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“Have you never imagined yourself on the Iron Throne?” Rhaenys asks Alicent.

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Alicent’s expression doesn’t exactly deny it. Personally, I like this idea that Alicent is motivated by her own desire for power, rather than her son’s claim. After Game of Thrones (and many historical dramas, to be fair) I could do with a break from women citing motherhood as their sole reason for being.

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Then get a shot of a dragon flying up and surprising Otto Hightower and his entourage as they face off against Daemon and Mysaria. Provided that the dragon resembles Syrax more than Caraxes, it would be cool if this is Rhaenyra coming to Daemon and Mysaria’s aid.

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A Baratheon’s horse rears (nice continuity of motion with the previous shot of the dragon).

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The Velaryon fam enters the throne room.

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We then get an … interesting shot of the aftermath of a battle during the War for the Stepstones. Men are tied up on a crab-strewn beach, awaiting the rising tide while a shirtless man nails someone to a stake in the ground. This is Craghas Drahar, a Myrish admiral of the Triarchy during the War for the Stepstones, since drowning men slowly after battle is his MO. As we saw earlier in the trailer, Daemon will acquire his hammer after Craghas uh … doesn’t need it anymore.

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A dragon and dragonrider burn up soldiers on a cliffside near the ocean, likely also during this battle at the Stepstones.

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A man and a woman stand silhouetted before a bonfire large enough to be a pyre. Honestly this could be Alicent and Viserys. Or Rhaenyra and Daemon. Or maybe Rhaenys and Corlys. I cannot tell.

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Oh, yeah, this guy. My first thought was that he’s an elf tortured by Morgoth before I realized #1 he’s wearing a mask and #2 that’s from a different franchise. In fact, it’s the aforementioned Craghas “Crabfeeder”.

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We get a shot of Daemon punching one of the smallfolk while gold cloaks hold his hands behind his back, then drag him away. Literally punching down, Daemon. Well done.

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Alicent draws the infamous Catspaw dagger from its sheathe and storms towards Rhaenyra. Or, at the very least, Rhaenyra blocks her way; Alicent’s probably aiming for Rhaenyra’s son Lucerys.

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A close up of Aemond One-Eye, who I can see now has amazing cheekbones.

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Back again to the Catspaw dagger scuffle. Alicent asks Rhaenyra, “Where is duty? Where is sacrifice?” I’m very curious to know Alicent’s motivation in this scene because, um … it’s not exactly Rhaenyra whose flouting of a royal decree (i.e duty and sacrifice) starts the Dance #NoSpoilers

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Daemon snatches a necklace (maybe the same necklace she’s wearing at the tourney?) from young Rhaenyra’s hands. A wholesome scene between uncle and niece, I’m sure.

Until I saw this shot, I assumed that Daemon would have short hair in all of his scenes with young Rhaenyra. Like, he’d return from his long, um, absence #NoSpoilers with his hair grown out and reunite with Rhaenyra now played by Emma D’Arcy. Clearly, that’s not going to be the case, so now I’m wondering when Daemon grows his hair out and why.

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Jumping forward in time (I hope), Daemon removes Rhaenyra’s dress.

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Caraxes growls while sporting an unintentionally adorable Targaryen sigil that looks like a dog collar.

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We get a close up of Rhaenyra’s profile. At first, I thought it might be a shot of her holding the Catspaw dagger at bay, but, as we see in the next shot, there’s no fire in that scene. So, I have no idea what this could be.

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In this wide shot of Rhaenyra and Alicent grappling with the Catspaw, we can see what else is going on in the scene. Several men are standing around with their shirts untucked, like they’ve just been gotten out of bed. Corlys Velaryon stands protectively in front of his family members. Someone’s sitting on the steps as if they’ve been pushed. Criston Cole and Daemon appear to be having their own confrontation and two white cloaks approach to pull Criston away.

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Rhaenyra fends off Alicent and whispers, “Now they see you as you are.”

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The final shot of the trailer is a close up of a dragon I’m willing to bet is Syrax, Rhaenyra’s dragon. I’m already impressed by how distinct each dragon’s design is.

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Amazing.

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So, that’s my two cents. Anything in particular from the trailer grab you? Something I failed to mention? Tell us about it below.

18 Comments

  1. Me after reading Fire & Blood part 1: This would make for an even better show than GOT.

    Me today: Young me was wise.

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  2. I’m pretty optimistic. I agree that the story itself already stood out to me as having the potential to make a better television show than Game of Thrones. Non-animated television is still largely bad at true fantasy, and there is very little fantasy here. Just the dragons, which we already know they can do well. The show should be pre-committed to the book ending, which has a pretty good everyone loses quality a la Rogue One, so no temptation to twist into contrived bittersweet nonsense or subverting itself. No issues with all of the ridiculous sprawl from George’s gardening. Just a tight, grounded, self-contained story.

    This was my hope for a prequel before they announced what the winner would be. I’m sure the long night idea might have had potential, but there is little guarantee with completely original material. This is the best of the non-mainline stories George has written. The conquest could make a good limited series or a single film, but there isn’t enough there to sustain multiple seasons.

    Biggest downside is anyone who thinks television has gotten too grimdark and obsessed with antiheroes isn’t going to like this. Looks like the closest thing to a hero we’re getting is a guy who beats up poor people and grooms his pubescent niece.

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  3. Thanks for the breakdown! I definitely missed some stuff even watching it repeatedly.. very curious to see how they portray Alicent and Viserys especially after this.

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  4. Thanks for the breakdown, looks to be spectacular! Truth be told, I’m mostly in it for the dragons, but may become emotionally invested in a character or two. Roll on episode 1! Also, what Joanna Robinson said.

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  5. Petra,

    Petra, I suspect I’m going to enjoy your write up better than the show itself. Well done!

    Will you do more recaps once the show starts airing? Please?

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  6. I mean, Alicent doesn’t look anywhere near old enough to be the mother of the teenager, but perhaps House of the Dragon will apply the same logic to aging with Alicent as Vikings did with Lagertha.

    This has been my one issue with the casting of this show since it was announced; if they were going to do split casting, it’s very weird to only go from actresses in their teens to actresses in their mid-twenties who will then be playing the bulk of the series as much older than that.

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  7. The frankly naff post-Dany scenes and the NK’s insultingly curtailed backstory aside, I loved Season 8 (it’s a very dark, brooding and uncomfortable experience), but the toxic abuse everywhere tainted my love for the show (far more than the show itself did). I was only half-heartedly looking forward to HotD simply as I was reluctant to risk seeing something I loved being so savagely attacked again. That said, though, after seeing this wonderful trailer (which evokes so many good feelings of the original series), I’m mega-hyped for the new show and now can’t wait for it to start (tinterweb be darned!) I just hope that amongst all the steel-jawed power-vultures, there is still room for some more down-to-earth characters too as without the likes of Podrick, Ygritte, Bronn, Hodor, Sam, Tormund and The Hound the original show would have been a very gruelling experience!

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  8. Richard:
    The frankly naff post-Dany scenes and the NK’s insultingly curtailed backstory aside, I loved Season 8 (it’s a very dark, brooding and uncomfortable experience), but the toxic abuse everywhere tainted my love for the show (far more than the show itself did). I was only half-heartedly looking forward to HotD simply as I was reluctant to risk seeing something I loved being so savagely attacked again. That said, though, after seeing this wonderful trailer (which evokes so many good feelings of the original series), I’m mega-hyped for the new show and now can’t wait for it to start (tinterweb be darned!) I just hope that amongst all the steel-jawed power-vultures, there is still room for some more down-to-earth characters too as without the likes of Podrick, Ygritte, Bronn, Hodor, Sam, Tormund and The Hound the original show would have been a very gruelling experience!

    I loved (and still love) season 8 myself and I actually didn’t have problem with White Walkers or Dany at all (regardign Dany. I’ve been suspecting such potential twist since reading about the Sack of Astapor ASOS for first time in 2011)… my biggest issue is that I would want an episode or two more between Long Night and the Bells in order for some additional character screentime but I treat S7 and S8 as one 13-episode season (they were originally meant to be one 10-episode S7 in first place) and I think the pace works much better this way. I would say that online toxicity didn’t really affect my love for the TV show itself but I am indeed reluctant to rewatch it because I’m afraid I won’t be able to get this toxic hatred out of my mind as I watch it and that would affect my enjoyment alot… I’m still not sure if I’m ready to rewatch it even though I know I would love the TV show itself, probably even more than the first time around (as it’s usual with rewatches of my favorite TV shows)

    I was also not actively following HotD development because of this same toxicty surrounding GoT universe for the last 3 years. But I feel as I get nearer the date of the premiere, the hype is returning. I still feel I’ll probably try to stay away from fandoms… maybe checking WotW but the amount I spend here will of course depend from overall reception of the TV show here.

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  9. It’s a good trailer, I like all of the palace intrigue. I was concerned about the scale of the thing, that they would focus too much on dragons and battles, but it looks like a good mix of spectacle and plotting. I think it will be a big success.

    The wigs are still terrible though lol

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  10. Sean C.,

    Especially when they look NOTHING like each other, the two Rhaenyra actresses in particular. It will make Daemon look extra creepy, perhaps that was the point. I don’t know this story at all

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  11. I’m willing to bet that the scene with the dudes out of bed and dagger grappling takes place on Driftmark after certain incidents. Maybe tv show Alicent is more demonstrative with her “eye for an eye” than her book counterpart.

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  12. Oh, thank you! I don’t plan on doing straight up recaps but I’ll be on the Night’s Cast’s weekly episodes and Luka and I might be bringing back the Glass Candle Dialogues

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  13. Excellent breakdown, I read Fire & Blood around two years ago now so although I know the story I’m hoping I will still have a few surprises in the journey as I watch it. I mentioned already that in other threads the hype is building and slowly pulling me in.

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