A Game of Thrones prequel series is in development that will most likely cover the Dance of the Dragons - but what's the story behind this Targaryen civil war? One of several prequel series currently in the works at HBO, it's been reported that a Targaryen prequel is about to be greenlit, and would become the second prequel in this universe. While HBO has yet to confirm that this next series is definitely on the way, Game of Thrones fans already have an idea of what it could be about.
Based on a reported description of the Game of Thrones prequel series being set 300 years before the events of the main series and tracks the beginning of the end for House Targaryen, as well as a blog post from George R.R. Martin urging fans to look to Fire and Blood to get an idea of what's next, it seems clear that the prequel will be all about House Targaryen's past.
While "300 years" before Game of Thrones was the time of Aegon's conquest, it's actually more likely that the series will be taking place a little closer to 130 AC (170 years prior to the original series), during the civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons. This is not only one of the biggest events in Westerosi history, but definitely fits the description of "the beginning of the end" for House Targaryen. But what was the Dance of the Dragons all about?
The Targaryen Civil War Explained
Unsurprisingly, for a world as complex and well-developed as George R.R. Martin's, there are a huge number of factors that played into the Dance of the Dragons, but the basic issue was a war of succession between Aegon II and Rhaenyra Targaryen that took place between 129 and 131 AC. The conflict came about after decades of peaceful rule, first under King Jaehaerys, then his son, King Viserys. However, Viserys struggled to produce a male heir with his first wife, leaving him with only one surviving daughter, Rhaenyra. Known as the Realm's Delight, the young princess became her father's cupbearer, and as she grew older, she was officially declared his heir and sat in on small council meetings, training to become queen. However, after the death of Viserys' first wife, he remarried and had sons - making Aegon II his firstborn son, and potential heir.
As time went on, his house split into two clear camps. On one side was Rhaenyra and her supporters, and the other was Aegon and his mother Alicent. These were known as the Blacks and the Greens, after the color of gowns worn by Rhaenyra and Alicent to a major tourney (and it should be noted that black and red, worn by Rhaenryra, are the colors of House Targaryen). When King Viserys died, Rhaenyra was still technically his heir - but Cristone Cole (Commander of the Kingsguard) killed her supporter on the small council and crowned Aegon II, propelling Westeros into civil war. From here, the Dance of the Dragons began in earnest, as Rhaenyra was also crowned, and the two set out to gain supporters and take the other down, Aegon from King's Landing, and Rhaenyra from Dragonstone.
Over the course of the Dance of the Dragons, multiple battles were fought - large and small. From the initial conquest of Harranhal by the blacks, to the Fall of Dragonstone, the Fall of King's Landing, and more, battles raged across most of Westeros (although the North remained largely untouched). The death toll was also huge; Rhaenyra's son Lucerys was the first to die (along with his dragon). In retaliation, Aegon's eldest son and heir was murdered, after which his queen began to go mad. Over a series of battles, Rhaenyra was able to take King's Landing, and at first, was welcomed. However, her enemies had emptied the vaults, and the city soon grew desperate, restless, and hungry. Thanks to a fanatical preacher named Shepherd, the smallfolk ended up rioting and attacking the dragonpit. Between these attacks and the battles between dragonriders, the number of dragons rapidly dwindled (from 20 at the start of Viserys' reign to only four at the end of the dance). The number of Targaryens also declined at a frightening speed, as both greens and blacks were killed in battle after battle. After the riots of King's Landing, Queen Rhaenyra left the city but was tricked into returning to a Dragonstone held by her enemies, where Aegon fed her to his dragon in front of her son (one of her only remaining living children).
Although Aegon would seem to have won, he didn't survive to retake the throne. Instead, he was poisoned on the road back to King's Landing, and it would be Rhaenyra's son, Aegon III, who was crowned as King. The war ended with Cregan Stark, Hand of the King for a day, doling out punishments left right and center, before heading back home to the North (his brief tenure as Hand would become known as the Hour of the Wolf). Aegon III ruled under a regency, as he was still a child, and would rule until 157 AC.
Why Dance Of The Dragons Is A Perfect Game Of Thrones Prequel
All of this might sound pretty complicated, but that's one of the things that makes it such a perfect prequel for Game of Thrones fans. The original series never shied away from a huge cast of characters - or from having major players killed off when needs be. What has the potential to be even better about this one, though, is that not only does it include all the scheming and side-switching that fans love, as well as a few familiar names from Game of Thrones (like the Starks, the Arryns, and the Baratheons), but it involves a better balance of battles and politics (and no White Walkers to confuse things in the end). The story is still hugely complex and fascinating, but it's a little more concentrated, taking place over a smaller area of Westeros (and Dragonstone), and with slightly fewer moving parts and subplots.
Furthermore, the story itself has already been thoroughly explored by George R.R. Martin in Fire And Blood. There's little fear that a Dance of the Dragons prequel series would be left floundering without source material the way that Game of Thrones was, yet the source material is something that only the most dedicated fans will be familiar with. This means that it is new enough, and different enough (with a whole new cast of characters and a world where the Targaryens have been peaceful rulers for over a hundred years), to appeal to devoted and casual fans - and of course, it means that fans can see more epic dragon battles, which there were just not enough of in Game of Thrones.
How A Dance Of The Dragons TV Show Would Work
Even with the source material laid out, there are multiple possibilities for how the Dance of the Dragons would look as a series - and a lot of this would depend on how much HBO would be willing to bet that fans would watch multiple seasons, no matter what. It was no secret that the network would have been happy to see Game of Thrones itself span a few more seasons, so there is certainly potential for a longer-running show, but given the backlash over the Game of Thrones ending, this is a little more of a gamble than it should have been. However, assuming that HBO is willing to give a Dance of the Dragons prequel series the space it needs, what would that look like?
Ideally, a story this expansive would take place over a bare minimum of four or five seasons. At least, the first season would need to be the run-up to the civil war itself, with the rule of King Viserys. This would allow the audience to get to know the characters, and to understand why the line of succession was in such question. Arguably, the False Dawn, Hour of the Wolf, and Regency of King Aegon III could be a season unto itself, and one that would show the fallout of the Dance and how it impacted every house in the Kingdom - as well as the failed attempts to hatch new dragons after the war.
As for the central seasons, there are plenty of major events within the Dance of the Dragons that could be stretched out over multiple seasons of a show, and it would be easy to pick major dramatic moments to showcase as the penultimate episode of each season (which Game of Thrones did brilliantly). From the first massive battle of dragons to the Fall of King's Landing and the Riot of King's Landing, to the incredibly dramatic death of Rhaenyra and then Aegon himself, there is no shortage of shocking scenes that are truly large enough for a season's worth of build-up. It would also be possible to launch straight into the Dance, and tell the build-up through flashbacks, but this isn't something that Game of Thrones has relied heavily on in the past, and there doesn't seem to be a huge amount of need here. Choosing to either tell the backstory outright or in the same way that Game of Thrones dealt with Robert's Rebellion would be the smarter choice.
Of course, all of this is currently just speculation. Even if a Targaryen prequel gets the green light, there are plenty of other choices that would make great television. And if a Dance of the Dragons series is confirmed, it will still be quite some time before it hits the small screen (likely not until at least 2022, after the current prequel in progress, Blood Moon). All that means, though, is that there's plenty of time to re-read Fire and Blood and do a little brushing up on Game of Thrones' history.