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Greens vs. Blacks: “House of the Dragon” showrunner breaks down secrets from season 2's dueling trailers

Greens vs. Blacks: “House of the Dragon” showrunner breaks down secrets from season 2's dueling trailers

Ryan Condal speaks with EW about the Greens vs. Blacks, the new Stark in Winterfell, the new dragons on the scene, and more.

As it is written in George R.R. Martin's compendium Fire & Blood, "Then the storm broke and the dragons danced."

House of the Dragon is now at that point, where the Targaryen civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons can begin, and to emphasize the two sides at play, HBO has dropped not one, but two trailers for season 2, which premieres June 16. One trailer is told from the perspective of the Black Council, the supporters of Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D'Arcy); while the other takes the perspective of dowager Queen Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke) and the Green Council, those who fought to put King Aegon II Targaryen (Tom Glynn-Carney) on the Iron Throne.

Francesca Orsi, the network's executive vice president of programming and the head of drama series and films, revealed HBO's dueling pair of teasers on Thursday out of the international TV festival Series Mania in Lille, France. House of the Dragon showrunner and co-creator Ryan Condal now speaks with EW exclusively to unpack some of the big secrets from the footage.

Season 2 picks up directly after the events of the season 1 finale, which saw Aegon, Rhaenyra's half-brother, crowned king of Westeros behind her back, even though she was the chosen successor of their father, the late king Viserys (Paddy Considine).

"This is not a story of goodies and baddies, black hats and white hats," Condal says of the dueling Blacks and Greens. "It's a story of this family that's been rent open by this dispute over who is meant to wear the crown after Viserys passes. Some people think it's Rhaenyra, some people think it's Aegon, and then there are other people within who think, 'Why should it be one of the two of them? Maybe it should be somebody else. Maybe it should be me!' The fun of this Greek tragedy is seeing, when you introduce a power vacuum to a world like this, how all of these individuals react." 

The Black Council: Team Rhaenyra

"My father chose me, his firstborn child, to succeed him," Rhaenyra begins in the season 2 trailer for the Black Council. "He held to his decision until death, and yet, Alicent's son sits my throne. I mean to fight this war, and win it."

Cregan Stark

<p>Max/Youtube</p> Tom Taylor as Cregan Stark and Harry Collett as Jacaerys Velaryon in 'House of the Dragon' season 2

Max/Youtube

Tom Taylor as Cregan Stark and Harry Collett as Jacaerys Velaryon in 'House of the Dragon' season 2

Condal speaks for many a Thrones fan when he says, "I love a Stark!" And House of the Dragon season 2 has a good one.

Hundreds of years before the age of Sean Bean's Eddard Stark and Kit Harington's Jon Snow, Cregan Stark is the Lord of Winterfell. Actor Tom Taylor (The Dark Tower, The Kid Who Would Be King) debuts in the Rhaenyra-themed trailer... well, from the back at least. In the season 1 finale, Rhaenyra's son Jacaerys Velaryon (Harry Collett) flew north to rally his mother's supporters. That will include a stop to meet with Lord Stark, and the footage shows Jace walking with Cregan along the top of the Wall.

"He's very powerful," Condal says of the character. "Everybody's vying for his army. He's quite a bit younger than Ned Stark was, so it's interesting to see the Young Wolf, the young Stark lord, and how he carries himself in the world, and the burden that's on his shoulders being the Warden of the North. I'm excited for the audience to see and experience that."

Gwayne Hightower

<p>Max/Youtube</p> Freddie Fox as Gwayne Hightower in 'House of the Dragon' season 2

Max/Youtube

Freddie Fox as Gwayne Hightower in 'House of the Dragon' season 2

A quick shot reveals another new character entering the conflict: Gwayne Hightower, played by Freddie Fox (The Gentlemen, Slow Horses). Appearing in full armor amid an undisclosed battle sequence, complete with the Hightower sigil, Gwayne is one of Otto's (Rhys Ifans) sons and the eldest of Alicent's brothers.

"Freddie brought so much character and humor to Gwayne, who until this season was warded away at Oldtown," Condal explains of the city, which serves as the seat of House Hightower. "[He] grew up at Oldtown in his home base, but now that the Hightowers have been put out on the march, he's come to King's Landing to support his family's stake in the war."

Condal explains the show will continue to be about the extended family: "We had plenty of POVs to dig into on in the interconnected Targaryen universe, but what about the Hightowers? How do they fit into all this? We thought it was very interesting to bring forward this character who was maybe mentioned in the first season, but not really seen or experienced in any way; how that would impact Alicent and Otto; and what he would have to say coming in from the outside, not having been raised at court in King's Landing."

Might we see another absentee Hightower in season 2? Daeron, perhaps? "That remains to be seen. We will see," Condal says. Though season 1 did not even allude to this character, Condal previously confirmed that Alicent's other brother from the book does indeed exist on the show somewhere. "Daeron is a fixture and a character in the show," he adds. "Do not fret, anybody. All in due time."

Harrenhal

<p>Courtesy of HBO</p> Caraxes and Prince Daemon (Matt Smith) arrive at Harrenhal in 'House of the Dragon' season 2

Courtesy of HBO

Caraxes and Prince Daemon (Matt Smith) arrive at Harrenhal in 'House of the Dragon' season 2

Those who paid attention to the season 1 finale will know some of what is coming in season 2. As they stood around the Painted Table in Dragonstone, Rhaenyra made mention of Cregan Stark of Winterfell, while Daemon placed a map marker on Harrenhal, the seat of House Strong. Scenes from both trailers show a rain-drenched night scene in which Daemon arrives on the back of Caraxes.

"My terms are very simple," he says in the footage. "Renounce the false king and bend the knee to the queen, or your house burns."

"Harrenhal definitely is its own character in the show," Condal says. "It had its own character in the original books, in the original series when Arya [Maisie Williams] was playing cup bearer for Tywin [Charles Dance] there. Other than the Red Keep, it's probably the most talked-about, storied castle in Westeros, and we really wanted to pay service to it."

The location plays a strategic role in the story of the Dance of the Dragons, as written in Martin's Fire & Blood, and it's where we'll meet various other characters, like Alys Rivers (Gayle Rankin) and Ser Simon Strong (Simon Russell Beale). "Whether it's real or rumored, it does have this supernatural aura around it that does put people off," Condal notes. "We were excited to play that out as storytellers."

Blood and Cheese

Two men — one holding a torch, the other a club — make their way through a hidden passage. Alicent and her daughter, Queen Halaena (Phia Saban), shrouded in black veils. These scenes continue to hint at the arrival of two characters known in Martin's book as Blood and Cheese. These figures, casting for which haven't even been disclosed, will irrevocably leave their mark on House of the Dragon.

All Condal will say to set the stage for their arrival is, "A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones have really conditioned people to expect the unexpected and expect the horrible. But, yeah, that one's pretty horrific. We'll see what people make of what's to come."

The Green Council: Team Aegon

"Many weeks ago, my lord husband was alive and the realm was at peace," Alicent says, kicking off the trailer for the Green Council. "On his deathbed, he knew the realm would never accept a queen. Rhaenyra's supporters will believe what they wish, but Viserys wanted Aegon to succeed him."

"To war then!"

<p>Ollie Upton/HBO</p> Tom Glynn-Carney as Aegon II Targaryen in 'House of the Dragon' season 2

Ollie Upton/HBO

Tom Glynn-Carney as Aegon II Targaryen in 'House of the Dragon' season 2

A few figures who previously occupied bit parts will now rise to more prominent roles in season 2. One of them will be Baela Targaryen (Bethany Antonia), one of Daemon's daughters from his previous marriage to Lady Laena Velaryon (Nanna Blondell). Baela is seen entering the fray by riding her dragon Moondancer into battle. Two others will be Aegon himself, who seems to relish at the thought of going to war; and his brother Aemond Targaryen (Ewan Mitchell), who was last seen killing Rhaenyra's son Lucerys (Elliot Grihault) when he lost control of his dragon Vhagar.

How are the Hightowers going to react to that when Aemond reports back home? "I mean, TBD," Condal responds.

"The characters that I immediately wanted to get into are the characters that we didn't get to spend a ton of time with at the end of the season because of the needing to move through 20 years of narrative," Condal explains. "We did not get to spend a lot of time with Aemond, Helaena, Jace, Baela, or Rhaena. Those characters are so immediately connected to Rhaenyra, Alicent, Daemon [Matt Smith], Viserys, and Otto that we wanted to immediately shine the spotlight on them and get into their internal lives and what they make of all of this."

Meet Sunfyre

<p>Max/Youtube</p> Aegon's dragon Sunfyre in the Dragonpit in 'House of the Dragon' season 2

Max/Youtube

Aegon's dragon Sunfyre in the Dragonpit in 'House of the Dragon' season 2

Thrones fans have met a lot of dragons already over the course of House of the Dragon, but another prominent fire-breather is stepping out of the periphery and onto the main stage. Sunfyre arrives in the Greens-themed trailer within the Dragonpit of King's Landing.

"That dragon was described so specifically in the book as the most beautiful dragon who ever lived," Condal says. "I think it was incumbent upon us to try to rise and meet that challenge, but doing so in a way that didn't seem like we were making a dragon from a different show — a 'fantasy dragon,' for lack of a better word. So Sunfyre had to exist as a cut above that would be recognized as distinctly beautiful within a world that has 17 other dragons running around."

Those distinctions came down to the texturing, the dragon's movement, how it was animated, and what its dragon call sounds like. "More on that to be revealed, but designing Sunfyre was fun and challenging," Condal says.

Seasmoke returns

<p>Max/Youtube</p> Seasmoke returns in 'House of the Dragon' season 2

Max/Youtube

Seasmoke returns in 'House of the Dragon' season 2

Another dragon makes an appearance at the end of the Greens' trailer, but it's a familiar face. Condal confirms this pale grey beast is Seasmoke, the dragon once rode by Ser Laenor Velaryon (John MacMillan), son of Lord Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) and Rhaenyra's first husband, who was last spotted faking his death to live in the Free Cities with his lover. Seasmoke is "now aged since the last time that we saw him in the Stepstones," the showrunner says. "So he's grown up a bit and matured."

Seasmoke's presence should signal to readers of Martin's Fire & Blood that certain elements of the book are now making their way into season 2, but Condal remains mum on those specifics for now. (If you know, you know.)

Bracken sigil

<p>Max/Youtube</p> Swords are drawn in 'House of the Dragon' season 2

Max/Youtube

Swords are drawn in 'House of the Dragon' season 2

A brief scene shows a group of young men drawing their swords on each other. The main character in focus is one bearing the sigil of House Bracken (the red stallion against a gold backdrop), which resides in Stone Hedge, the location of a significant battle in the Dance of the Dragons. House Bracken notably swore allegiance to King Aegon, so the other men in the scene appear to be from House Blackwood, who swore for Queen Rhaenyra.

"The first season was so much about the royal family, that one percent of the upper one percent that rules this world. All the people in the show that had POVs essentially had silver hair," Condal says. "What I think was missing from season 1 — not by omission, it was simply because it was not relevant to the story — is more common folk, the small folk of this world, that bring a certain color and texture. A lot of the fun and the conflict and the humor that came out of the original Game of Thrones was thrusting high nobility into a room with Bronn [Jerome Flynn] or the Hound [Rory McCann]." 

The Battle of...To Be Determined

<p>Max/Youtube</p> Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) rides into battle in 'House of the Dragon' season 2

Max/Youtube

Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) rides into battle in 'House of the Dragon' season 2

Both trailers showcase Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) leading his forces on horseback into a battle that wages within an undisclosed forest, while dragons dart and dive overhead. There are various key battles that occur in the timeline of the Dance of the Dragons, but given Ser Criston's presence, a good guess would be the Battle of Rook's Rest. Of course, Condal will neither confirm nor deny any specific theories.

"This season, we shot two of the largest sequences that certainly I've ever done as a maker of television, certainly that House of the Dragon has ever done," Condal teases. "I don't know that they're bigger necessarily than anything Game of Thrones has done, because they got pretty big in the end. But certainly we're going to see new things that you have not seen before within this world. There's some pretty epic stuff to come. It's just a couple months away, guys."

House of the Dragon season 2 premieres on HBO and Max June 16.

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