'It's not just big dragon events': why House of the Dragon season 2 won't be full of action, according to its co-creator

Caraxes roars on top of Harranhal's castle in House of the Dragon season 2
You won't see many big set-pieces involving Caraxes (pictured) in season 2. (Image credit: HBO)

Spoilers follow for Game of Thrones and George R.R. Martin's 'Fire and Blood' novel.

House of the Dragon season 2 won't be full of "big dragon-related events", according to its showrunner.

Speaking to TechRadar, Ryan Condal admitted that the hit Max show's creative team didn't want to move the narrative needle too far in the 'action spectacle' direction. After all, House of the Dragon – and its parent show Game of Thrones – have built their reputation on being TV series filled with political scheming, interfamilial backstabbing, and ripe melodrama in the high fantasy setting of Westeros.

That's not to say that Game of Thrones and its prequel series are bereft of incredibly designed, stunt-filled, and brutal set-pieces. And, with House of the Dragon season 2 officially marking the start of the bloody years-long Targaryen civil war – also known as The Dance of the Dragons – there'll be plenty of barbaric battles to enjoy this season and in House of the Dragon's recently announced third season.

Criston and Aemond speak by candlelight as they sit at a table in House of the Dragon season 2

House of the Dragon season 2 will also be full of political and familial collusion. (Image credit: HBO/Ollie Upton)

Condal, though, is keen to stress that one of the best Max shows' second season won't be an all-action affair. Indeed, forcing audiences to sit through eight episodes of non-stop fights would not only be tiring, but also tiresome. Finding an equilibrium between House of the Dragon's engrossing Machiavellian drama and show stopping set-pieces (as described in 'Fire and Blood', Martin's book that summarizes the Targaryen dynasty) then, was key to keeping audiences engaged throughout season 2.

"It's tricky," Condal said when I asked him about the difficulties of not just doing justice to The Dance of the Dragons' massive battles, but marrying them with the series' other captivating plot threads. "The characters 200 years in the future [in Game of Thrones] regularly reference the events of this story. And not just the big dragon-related events – there are smaller conflicts and plenty of betrayals that are part of Westeros' cultural heritage."

What leads to the world that Daenarys inherits?

Ryan Condal

"Six years ago, when George pitched me that this was what he wanted Thrones' successor to be, it really excited me. Even though no-one survived this period, because of the time that passes between House of the Dragon and Thrones, the cultural relevance of this event to the original series is so strong. 

"At the end of this brutal time period, we get to The Dying of the Dragons. It doesn't happen all at once, but this is what leads to the world that Daenarys [Targaryen] inherits [in Game of Thrones], where there are no dragons left. Then you have the fact that winter is coming, the threat of the White Walkers, the only power that can stop them is fire, and so on, so that's what attracted me to this story."

'You want to make them feel the victories and losses'

Corlys and Rhaenys chat in a harbour in House of the Dragon season 2

The eight episodes that make up season 2 will be as dramatically fraught as their forebear's entries. (Image credit: HBO/Ollie Upton)

Okay, so how does House of the Dragon season 2 go about bringing The Dance of the Dragons' big action sequences to life without them overshadowing its deliciously tempestuous melodrama? For one, you still get plenty of screen time to said scenes but, as Condal explained, the secret is blending character-based elements, devious or otherwise, into the action itself.

"You have to ground that stuff in character," he added. "If you're just recounting history, it can feel dry and objective. You want to sink viewers into the subjective experience, and make them feel all of the victories and losses. The way you do that is by crafting characters that people care about, telling that historical narrative through a specific person's point of view, and seeing not only how it happens, but how it plays on them and their emotional state.

Based on what I've seen of the show's latest chapter, it certainly does all of that, too. To find out more, read my spoiler-free review of House of the Dragon season 2's first four episodes. Then, check out more from my chat with Condal, who defended the decision to tell House of the Dragon season 2's story over eight episodes instead of 10.

House of the Dragon season 2 premieres on Max (US) on Sunday, June 16. It'll also air on Sky/Now TV (UK) and Foxtel/Binge (Australia) on Monday, June 17.

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