The farther House of the Dragon delves into the Targaryens’ history, the less it appears to be set in the same universe as Game of Thrones. Despite being a prequel to Game of Thrones, it’s becoming apparent that the new show’s creative staff is willing to diverge from the original, ended HBO series in favor of George R.R. Martin’s still-ongoing A Song of Ice and Fire novel series. According to Martin, his books are preparing for a much longer and more intricate conclusion.
[Ed. note: This post contains spoilers for Game of Thrones, all of A Song of Ice and Fire, and the first eight episodes of House of the Dragon.]
Currently, the distinction between House of the Dragon and Game of Thrones is based more on themes and emotions than on storyline. In episode 8 of House of the Dragon, titled “The Lord of the Tides,” the show dug even deeper into Aegon the Conqueror’s royal prophecy, which says that a Targaryen must rule on the Iron Throne in order to save Westeros from a cold and lethal menace waiting in the north.
As evident as the significance of this prophecy is to A Song of Ice and Fire readers who know where the story is headed and that The Others are on their way, its impact on House of the Dragon is much more immediate. The prophecy is a driving factor for the characters in the series. Each individual interacts with it differently, allowing the concepts of fate, fortune, and destiny to impact their environment and decisions in unique ways.
For Viserys, the prophesy represents a final legacy that must be passed on, the responsibility of a monarch to protect his land and people. It is a lifelong Damocles’ sword for Rhaenyra, a weight she secretly bears as she climbs toward the Iron Throne. For Alicent — and possibly for her children — it is a misconstrued warning, a possible indication that Viserys has changed his mind about who should lead the realm after his death.
Long before this prophecy unfolds in Westeros, it is guiding the hands of everyone who hear it and directing them to alter historical events. The idea that a premonition might influence action is central to Martin’s works, although Game of Thrones never achieved such a complex link between the visions and the plot. In A Song of Ice and Fire, as in many fantasy stories, it is frequently less important whether a prophecy is fulfilled than how the dangers or promises it brings influence the decisions of the characters.
However, the tie between House of the Dragon and its previous show is currently more shaky than merely philosophically. According to House of the Dragon showrunner Ryan Condal, Martin himself suggested the addition of Aegon’s prophecy. Given the number of times Martin has included variations of this prophecy (or related ones) in A Song of Ice and Fire, his decision to repeat it here seems significant. And if it is significant, then the series’ conclusion cannot be the same as in Game of Thrones, where it was of little consequence.
In the HBO series, the invasion of the White Walkers consisted primarily of an episode-long battle at Winterfell during Westeros’ coldest and darkest season. The south was never involved, and the largest, most existential threat in the series was eliminated with a single stab from a blade we now know belonged to Viserys. It was, to say the least, anticlimactic, and House of the Dragon provides the newest evidence that this was likely not the outcome intended for the fight in the books.
If the only way to save the Seven Kingdoms is for a Targaryen to unify them and sit on the Iron Throne, then things must alter, as the throne and the majority of Westeros were not involved in the Long Night, and no Targaryen actually sat the Iron Throne. Instead, it appears that this foreshadows a future in which Jon Snow is revealed to be a Targaryen and ends up ruling the kingdom, or perhaps Daenerys will gain a firm grasp on reality in time to save the country from The Others before anything goes wrong. Or maybe even someone else. In any case, it appears that the conclusion of Martin’s narrative will differ from the events depicted in HBO’s Game of Thrones, and the Long Night in the books may be far longer and darker.
There is no way to know for certain how Martin’s book series will conclude or which components will or will not differ from the HBO adaptation. At the very least, though, it appears that House of the Dragon is moving closer to the conclusion that fans of A Song of Ice and Fire anticipate than the conclusion that disappointed many viewers in 2019. In addition, it is comforting to know that, unlike its predecessor, House of the Dragon will have enough episodes to complete its plot.