What gives House of the Dragon an edge over the last few seasons of Games of Thrones is the source material. But the series based on George R.R. Martin’s Fire and Blood is not just another adaptation, the beauty of the series lies in the fact that the book takes the form of a scholarly exposition by a character called archmaester Gyldayn, who takes into account various sources, viz septons, masters, and even a guy called Mushroom. These accounts usually conflict with each other making the archmaester Gyldayn himself an unreliable narrator. Ryan Condal who developed the series with Martin and co-show ran Season 1 with Miguel Sapochnik has used the narrator’s unreliability to give the show an edge. Recently Sara Hess, one of the writers and executive producer of the series, revealed how this fact helped the creators to tell their own story.
Martin outlines the Targaryen history in the Fire and Blood books as part of the backstory of his series A Song of Ice and Fire. Hess tells, “He’s very, very clear in writing the book that it is an unreliable narrative. So, nobody in that book actually knows what happened.” It’s in that not knowing that the makers have found the ability to tell a version of their own story, “It’s three separate reporters saying what they think might have happened and contradicts each other, which gives us as adapters, an incredible amount of leeway because we have no idea what happened.” The latest episode, ‘We Light the Way,’ is a great example of this, while we see Ser Criston Cole snapping and killing Ser Joffery, the Knight of Kisses, during the dinner that took even the avid book readers by surprise in books it happened during the tourney that King Viserys had planned.
The makers also used this incongruity in establishing the patriarchal aspect of the show, “one of the themes that we ran with when we started thinking about it was that history is written by the victors, history is written by men. It’s men talking about what they think happened, and they are probably wrong,” Hess said. By far House of the Dragon has managed to surprise even the most voracious fans of the books with its twists and turns.
In another instance, Clare Kilner, director of Episode 4, ‘King of the Narrow Sea’ used the untrustworthiness of accounts in depicting intimacy between Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) and Daemon (Matt Smith), we see them going to a certain extent before the latter withdraws. The audience is left in that sweet spot of knowing and unknowing further when both choose to dish out a narrative that suits their own purpose. Further, in the books, we’re told that Daemon actually tutors Rhaenyra into seducing Ser Criston, which was left out by the show, “It’s great that we have the spine and the story and the characters and all those things there, but within that, there’s a huge amount of leeway and liberty to tell our own story, which is great,” Hess tells.
The new episode of House of the Dragon drops every Sunday. You can check out Hess’ comments below: