If there were something you can always count on game of thrones because, it was graphic and horrible violence. (And sex.) There were dog maulings and skull-smashing, giant zombies and unwitting testicle removal. Things got wild on that show, and at times it seemed to come out of nowhere.
That’s certainly what happens in the premiere episode of House of the Dragonthe new one from HBO thrones prequel [Warning: Spoilers ahead.] After King Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine) calls a kingdom-wide jousting tournament to celebrate the impending birth of the boy he knows will be a son, we see his brother Daemon (Matt Smith) come face-to-face , or in hand -man, so to speak, with the mysterious and handsome Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel).
At the same time, Viserys is summoned to his queen’s chamber, where he learns that the baby is breech, making delivery impossible. He has given him a choice: or the doctor can cut off his beloved wife’s baby, without anesthesia or her consent! Or they can roll the dice and risk the death of both their wife and baby. Viserys takes the first, and the resulting scene is brutal and grotesque, exemplifying the cruelty of the thrones world, where sometimes, it’s just about preserving the line, no matter what. The baby is born, at the cost of Aemma Targaryen’s (Sian Brooks) too-short life, and sadly dies soon after.
WIRED spoke with the cast of House of the Dragon about the episode’s brutal first explosion, and what it means for the future of their characters in King’s Landing.
Shooting the joust was a big and fun production
The grand jousting scene of the premiere required not only a quinta area, but also massive grandstands and a platform where members of the king’s court could watch. About twenty main players were on this stage and at least 100 extras were on set at any given time. “It was our first group scene,” says Emily Carey, who plays young Alicent Hightower. It was just shooting in the studio, but Carey says that doing that scene was the first moment where she was really reminded that, ‘Hey, this is game of thrones. People face each other with spears.”
Carey says that while the action in the scene could be intense, the actual filming was light-hearted, if only because Considine and Rhys Ifans, who plays Otto Hightower, were like “uncles at a wedding, where one of them makes a joke and then the other one has to make a funnier joke, and then they just keep escalating.”
Don’t worry: It wasn’t Matt Smith doing his own stunts
Although Matt Smith says he was on set for much of the jousting shoot, he wasn’t actually having his own falls. Instead, it was his double, Eduardo Gago Muñoz. “It’s not my natural habitat to be on horseback,” Smith says, adding that he and Frankel would appear in scenes after the doubles fell.
That’s not to say the duo hasn’t learned how to ride: Frankel says that dragon The gang took lessons from The Devil’s Horsemen, “a very old British institution that has been teaching actors how to ride for years”. Since Frankel had never ridden before, he started slowly, with a very basic horse, and worked his way up through the proverbial ranks. By the end, he says, “you’re expected to be able to gallop and have some kind of sword in your hand.”
Daemon’s great dragon helmet is quite, heavy
While most jousting competitors have fairly basic or traditional armor, Daemon enters the competition wearing a helmet covered in ornate designs and protruding dragon wings. Smith says the costume piece was “quite heavy,” weighing an estimated 5 kilograms (about 11 pounds). “All the armor is quite heavy,” he says, “but it looks fabulous.” He credits HOT Costume designer Jany Temime made the helmet “feel like a dragon, but also elegant and classy at the same time.”
Everything is painful for Rhaenys Targaryen, the queen who never was
At the start of the premiere, we see the king’s eldest grandson, Rhaenys Targaryen, being passed over in favor of his younger cousin, Viserys. It’s a wound that even now, with members of the kingdom still believing she would have been a better ruler. This becomes clear when one of the knights asks her for a favor at the joust, calling her “the queen that never was”. Eve Best, who plays Rhaenys, says the move was “super dangerous in every way,” suggesting her character would prefer not to remind the world of her claim to the throne.
“I don’t want him to mention it at all, and not just because I don’t want it constantly thrown in my face,” she says. “It was the biggest source of shame in Rhaenys’ life, and the fact that it’s constantly being referenced is very, very upsetting.”
What Rhaenys and her husband Lord Corlys Valaryon (Steve Toussaint) do have is a special insight into the workings of the court and the history of the kingdom. When Rhaenys remarks at the tournament that all the fighters have, as Best says, “hands full of steel and none of them have ever known real war,” it’s a reminder that King’s Landing has been under Targaryen rule for centuries , leaving the empire rather lax and soft.