House Of The Dragon's Creators Tried To Ignore The Game Of Thrones Season 8 Backlash

In the years since HBO's "Game of Thrones" ended in 2019, I've done my best to avoid "the discourse" around the show's last season. Not because pop culture discourse is inherently bad (art should never be shielded from valid criticism, no matter how much you adore it), but because it's gone the way of discussions about "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," where the larger debate keeps on going in circles as people rehash the exact same arguments, over and over again.

Alas, HBO's first "Game of Thrones" prequel-spinoff series, "House of the Dragon," is coming in hotter than a fire-breathing dragon, in the process re-igniting the old talking points about what went wrong (or, depending on who you ask, didn't go wrong) in that final batch of episodes. "House of the Dragon" may take place 200 years before "Game of Thrones," but it's admittedly hard to discuss the series without bringing up the latter's conclusion. After all, "House of the Dragon" is all about the downfall of House Targaryen and the events that would pave the way to Daenerys Targaryen's journey from would-be savior to bloodthirsty tyrant centuries later.

Rather than avoiding the silver-haired elephant in the room, Empire Magazine broached the topic directly in an interview with "House of the Dragon" co-showrunners Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik for its September 2022 issue. When asked if he felt the need to "consider those who voiced dismay" at the way "Game of Thrones" ended, Sapochnik assured he did not:

"Life doesn't end the way you want it to! I think we very much wanted to pay attention to not that."

Considering Sapochnik directed the infamous "Game of Thrones" episode where Danerys destroys King's Landing, he's probably not the most impartial party to ask about the show's final season. Just sayin'.

Avoiding playing defense

As I mentioned earlier, the "Game of Thrones" discourse has mostly gone in circles for the past three years. Those who worked on the show tend to argue fans didn't like the final season because it subverted their expectations. Elsewhere, critics argue the final season was hurt by the kind of rushed and slapdash storytelling that began to crop up as far back as season 5 (by no coincidence, the point where the series surpassed the plot in George R.R. Martin's published source material). That's an argument that requires a lot more unpacking and potential finger-pointing, more so than your average actor or creative seems ready to do in public. Hence, the discourse repeats the same cycle instead.

That being the case, Ryan Condal told Empire he and Miguel Sapochnik avoided focusing on the discourse while writing "House of the Dragon":

"It doesn't really factor in at all. I think the minute you as a creator start playing defense, you're just taking the ground out from beneath your feet. Should we be so lucky to have such a large and passionate fanbase that will debate our show! I think that in itself is a sign of success."

At the same time, Condal said "House of the Dragon" will parallel "Game of Thrones"' final season thematically, so they're far from disconnected:

"Daenerys resurrected this idea that, when you're the only person in the world with nuclear weapons, you can either be a force for peace, or you can be a tyrant. And the line between those two things is very thin. That's definitely something this show will explore."

We'll see if their approach works when "House of the Dragon" premieres August 21, 2022. The September 2022 issue of Empire Magazine goes on sale Thursday, August 4.