Two Key Elements Of House Of The Dragon Season 1 Were Inspired By The Crown

Spoilers ahead for "House of the Dragon" episode 8.

HBO's "Game of Thrones" prequel "House of the Dragon" has been doing gangbuster numbers for the cable network and its streaming service HBO Max. It features fewer characters and locations to keep track of than the original series and some incredible acting. Set just under two centuries before the birth of Daenerys Targaryen, it's the story of the Dance of the Dragons, the Targaryen war for succession that brought about the fall of the house. 

The series is using some techniques to show the passage of time, including the recasting of some of the characters and several time jumps, despite the fact that we're only eight episodes in. One could argue that this works very well in the case of lead characters Rhaenyra Targaryen (first played by Milly Alcock, then Emma D'Arcy) and Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey, then Olivia Cooke), though less so for characters like Laena Velaryon who was played by three different actors before her death in episode 6. 

The inspiration for using these techniques comes from another successful series, Netflix's "The Crown." During TheGrill panel (via The Wrap) co-creator and showrunner Ryan Condal spoke about employing these techniques and the show that inspired them. 

Switching between seasons versus episodes

Condal said of the time jumps and recasting inspiration from the Netflix series: 

"['The Crown' is] I think an aspiration just in terms of what I think is a high watermark in the art form. 'The Crown' is very successful at taking well-known characters and then recasting them. They did it between seasons, we did it in the midst of the season. 

"I think that was the big thing is just doing it midseason with a brand new show and trusting that the audience would sink their teeth into the characters and then stay with you as you swap them out. And so far, I think it's paid off."

It certainly hasn't hurt the viewership, though it has definitely made it all more confusing. First off, not all of the characters have been recast where they usually are in "The Crown." Also, as Condal said, that show does it between seasons, not episodes. For instance, Claire Foy played the role of the late Queen Elizabeth in seasons 1 and 2, with Olivia Colman taking on the role in seasons 3 and 4. Imelda Staunton will take the next leg with the upcoming seasons 5 and 6. 

It just works better with more time with each actor and storyline. Foy had a chance to spend seasons in the role, spanning years and major events in our own world. It's a fictional account, of course, but we're talking about a real-life person here. There are pictures of the queen at every stage of her life, just as there are with the other featured characters. We have quite a bit of time to adjust to the changeover between seasons, and it's never unclear as to who these new actors are playing.

Maybe everyone doesn't have to be an Aegon?

The issue with "House of the Dragon" is that these jumps and recastings are happening between episodes, which are usually only an hour long. It's not, as mentioned earlier, an issue with the two main characters. It's the rest of the younger cast that causes some confusion. For instance, Viserys and Alicent have a lot of very blond children who have been recast. Thank goodness for the eye patch on Aemond Targaryen — at least we can keep track of that one. They also have very similar names ... in fact, both Alicent and Rhaenyra have sons named Aegon, who is also a historical figure that is mentioned constantly. 

Perhaps it did, as Condal says, pay off. People love the show, and I'm among that group. That said, it might have worked better if a bit more time was spent finessing these jumps and giving the characters more time on screen so that we can get to know them in that form before a shift. My big issue with the final season of "Game of Thrones" was the speeding up of the story, which really needed more time to wrap up. That may be coloring my issues with the prequel as well, but either way, I'm hoping the show holds onto the latest actors for a bit. 

"House of the Dragon" airs on HBO and streams on HBO Max. "The Crown" season 5 will premiere on Netflix on November 9, 2022.