House of the Dragon was intended to be HBO Max’s flagship show, similar to how Pedro Pascal’s The Mandalorian was for Disney+. Plans for a Game of Thrones sequel started in 2016, following the announcement that the original series would conclude after its eighth season. HBO executives fast-tracked the prequel show aiming to debut a great IP project on their platform, like the successful Star Wars show.
However, creating a prequel proved more challenging than the executives at HBO thought. It took several years for development and production, with the show finally debuting on both Max and linear channels on August 21, 2022. Pedro Pascal’s show premiered on November 12, 2019, coinciding with the launch of Disney+.
HBO’s House Of The Dragon Aimed For A Debut Like Pedro Pascal’s Disney Show
Disney had success in launching multiple projects in the Marvel and Star Wars IP. Unlike Disney, HBO lacked a comparable IP when contemplating a Game of Thrones spinoff. The network struggled to decide on how to expand the GoT world, even producing an unsuccessful pilot in the process.
The then-head of Warner Media, Roger Greenblatt, admitted that he put significant pressure on the makers of the show to expedite the process. He cited the successful launch of Disney+ with the Pedro Pascal-led show, The Mandalorian, which belonged to Disney’s Star Wars IP. Despite Greenblatt’s intention for House of the Dragon to be HBO Max’s flagship show, he conceded that it wouldn’t be ready in time.
Notably, HBO Max officially launched on May 27, 2020, and after nearly three years, underwent a rebranding as Max on May 23, 2023. Greenblatt found satisfaction in having one of the best contemporary IPs slated for their streaming platform. He shared with The Hollywood Reporter:
“I put a lot of pressure on everybody for this to happen as soon as humanly possible. We all knew Disney+ launched with The Mandalorian. We didn’t have any big piece of IP that would be ready, but at least we’d have Dragon coming down the pipe and that would be important to the world at large. And I couldn’t think of a better piece of IP almost anywhere that deserved to be developed and multiplied.”
While Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik gave an equally satisfying show as the original, they didn’t get to make the show immediately. HBO selected five concepts from George R.R. Martin’s books and put them into development, a selection process later dubbed by fans as ‘The War of the Five Pitches’.
HBO And The War Of The Five Pitches
HBO hired writers to pen the five different concepts that they had finalized from the books. Kong: Skull Island fame Max Borenstein was hired to pen the story of Valyria unleashing destruction upon the ancient Targaryen empire. Oscar-winning writer Brian Helgeland, who penned L.A. Confidential, was tasked with developing the story of Dornish warrior queen Nymeria. Meanwhile, The Astronaut’s Wife writers Rand Ravich and Far Shariat tackled the narrative of Aegon’s conquest of Westeros.
Carly Wray of Westworld fame was approached to pen the script based on the Dance of the Dragon storyline. However, he had disagreements with Martin and left. Bryan Cogman replaced him and wrote a pretty solid script, but HBO passed on it. The studio favored the fifth script based on The Long Night storyline and greenlit the production of a pilot in 2018 under the working title Bloodmoon.
However, Martin hadn’t completed this story which posed a major GoT Season 8-like problem. The author later brought in Ryan Condal, who agreed to rewrite the Dance of the Dragon storyline with him. Condal assumed the role of the showrunner and he brought along GoT director Miguel Sapochnik for guidance.
House of the Dragon Season 1 is now available for streaming on Max, while Season 2 is set to premiere in mid-2024.