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Interview with Ryan Condal


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An interview long in the making, we finally got to sit down with Ryan Condal, lead writer, executive producer, and now sole show runner of House of the Dragon last week to talk about the show. Scheduling conflicts kept pushing the time of the interview, including one potential time to do it face-to-face in Amsterdam for the European premiere, and most recently we were minutes away from a scheduled Zoom talk when Ryan ended up being delayed due to issues in post-production that he had to deal with. Third (fourth?) time was the charm, however! After Linda had a chance to say hello then headed off to keep an eye on our very rambunctious puppy Lancelot, we started the interview.

We open up with a question on post-production, and then get into the weeds on favorite book characters, depictions of violence, heraldry, a forgotten Valyrian house, the change from book canon when casting the Velaryons, whether Ryan will continue with the show after completing this particular story, and more.

Click here for the interview!



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If I understand it correctly it seems Condal doesn't really want to retcon Valaena and Alyssa Velaryon out of existence. Although it would have to be seen how they would be depicted if the show or another successor show would actually turn to the era of the Conqueror.

Instead he seems to be going with the idea I earlier suggested, namely, that the talk mostly is about creating a connection to the golden days of Old Valyria. Which, I guess, kind of makes sense in the show if both Corlys and, especially, Viserys are obsessed with Valyria and its history (Corlys, too, is constantly bringing up the fact that the Velaryons are this big Valyrian house in their own right). If I were this Corlys trying to set up a marriage between show Viserys and my young daughter I might also stress the fact that we are the last two Valyrian houses and that we were close allies back in Old Valyria rather than pointing out that we are cousins many times over already.

The same kind of thing is also at the heart of Viserys' wedding speech. The Laenor-Rhaenyra match is supposed to be about the great future, not a testament to the fact that the Targaryens either marry their own or turn to some Velaryon cousin.

(And by the way: It is nowhere stated that Daemon may have been involved in Rhea's death in the book. And you know that, so you could and should have asked Condal why he blackened Daemon's reputation further by inventing a murder where nobody in the book actually suspects or assumes. That was a pretty big deviation from the original material. Nothing is up in there air there. It was an accident as far as everybody knows.)

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3 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

If I understand it correctly it seems Condal doesn't really want to retcon Valaena and Alyssa Velaryon out of existence. Although it would have to be seen how they would be depicted if the show or another successor show would actually turn to the era of the Conqueror.

"If I understand it correctly" is a good choice, because I don't know if my interview properly conveys how much Ryan was trying to think through the question out loud, going back to Old Valyria and how this would be a royal marriage in contrast to ... but of course it couldn't have been ... and then just giving up and falling back on the Sea Snake being hyperbolic

I find it hard to believe, but I think they didn't really think through the lines -- specifically Viserys's, more so than the Sea Snake's -- because how is Alyssa marrying Aenys not a royal marriage and a union between the houses, using the apparent definition he was trying to convey as a distinction?

So, yes, the intention was not to undo the canonical Targaryen-Velaryon marriages, but... it doesn't seem to have been thought through. I feel like part of the reason was that they appear to have settled on the Velaryons being changed to black very early in the process and once that was settled they kind of didn't think much beyond that. It's basically someone else's problem.

Obviously, this was a live interview, maybe given more time he'd have thought through something, but mostly I just got the sense that this particular line of questioning was something the show simply hasn't thought about and don't have a ready answer to that fits it into the world-building because it's not germane to their story.


As to Daemon, no one actually knows the reality of what happened to Rhea. The fact that no one speculates it was Daemon doesn't mean that it could not, in fact, have been the result of Daemon hiring someone to cut a strategic saddle girth that went undetected. We don't really know. So I'm comfortable with the language I used there, the history simply doesn't resolve the reality even if it doesn't treat it as a question.

Edited by Ran
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Thanks Ran for this very interesting interview.

The part that has been more revealing to me is when he claims that "we were looking at the Targaryens as our Cesarian Romans and the sense of this period of decadence". As I see it, most of the missteps in the show so far can be explained by the writers taking that parallel too far.

The multiple tourney deaths make no sense if the fighters are sons of noble houses, but are perfectly in line with slave gladiators. The orgies from the tapestries, the lack of consequences to Joffrey's murder, etc. all fit much better in the early Principate than in a medieval-like setting.

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But I think on the other side of it, too, it feels to me that in Fire and Bloodthat there are fewer true monsters versus than what there are in A Song of Ice and Fire. Of course, that’s a much bigger book, it’s a more sprawling story, with a greater breadth of characters, but there are more characters like Gregor Clegane, Joffrey Baratheon, in terms of characters that appear in the fore of the narrative. I think those characters can be fun as sort of boogeymen but they’re not as interesting as a complex version of a villain that also has a an internal wound that makes them do the things that they do, which makes them complex and interesting.

Ok that explains a lot. Not only in regards to Daemon but in general why there’s is not a single truly redeemable more central character alive in this series. His predilection for portraying villains with minor acts of goodness also fits with what period he chose so I suppose it’s a match made in heaven (?) :D

It also makes sense that Gregor Clegane is his fave. Definitely not a grey character until his Silent Sister stint! And Condal knows it too since he’s mentioning him in the same breath with Joffrey as boogiemen.

Do I like the answer? Not necessarily since I enjoyed the ambiguity that allowed some to come off a little more good than evil in F&B. However in the light of what he likes to write, it makes more sense they’d write now-canon murderes to make characters as villains really with some monstrous behavior and a their small share acts of humanity that hopefully will make the audience stick around for them. 
 

Thank you for an interesting read!

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3 hours ago, Ran said:

Sandor, you mean!

Hah, yes that's what I meant! :D

Freudian slip I suppose, showing which Clegane I would put in the same sentence as Joffrey equaling as monsters of the Westeros!

I also suppose my greys are a different shade than Condal's. In fact I'm sure of it. I was trying to think of any good acts that Daemon does, so he cannot be wholly bad/dark and could not find any yet. Neither could I see remorse or doubt for the cruel and/ or criminal behavior he displayed so far which would make him a more ambiguous character. Maybe later.

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11 hours ago, Ran said:

"If I understand it correctly" is a good choice, because I don't know if my interview properly conveys how much Ryan was trying to think through the question out loud, going back to Old Valyria and how this would be a royal marriage in contrast to ... but of course it couldn't have been ... and then just giving up and falling back on the Sea Snake being hyperbolic

One can go with the hyperbolic thing if one considers that Viserys is obsessed with Valyria.

11 hours ago, Ran said:

I find it hard to believe, but I think they didn't really think through the lines -- specifically Viserys's, more so than the Sea Snake's -- because how is Alyssa marrying Aenys not a royal marriage and a union between the houses, using the apparent definition he was trying to convey as a distinction?

Aenys-Alyssa would be the same as the intended Viserys-Laena match - a girl from House Velaryon marrying the heir to the throne/king. When they discuss it Alyssa definitely should have come up, and Valaena, too (although the fact that this match was over a century ago means it would have been less important). Alyssa was not just Viserys' and Rhaenys' great-grandmother, Corlys' great-aunt, but also Rhaenys' own grandmother through her mother Jocelyn.

But Rhaenyra-Laenor can be seen as another type of marriage, the ultimate union of the Dragon and the Seahorse, with the heiress to the Iron Throne marrying the heir to Driftmark, meaning that both could go to their child and the main branch of those two houses would then truly be one.

They later want to separate the holdings so that Jace gets the throne and Luke Driftmark but they could have bestowed everything on the eldest son.

The book will reach a similar point when Baelor the Blessed brokers the marriage of Daeron and Myriah. At that time she is the heiress to Dorne, and we don't know if/when it is decided that Maron rather than Myriah would succeed their father.

11 hours ago, Ran said:

So, yes, the intention was not to undo the canonical Targaryen-Velaryon marriages, but... it doesn't seem to have been thought through. I feel like part of the reason was that they appear to have settled on the Velaryons being changed to black very early in the process and once that was settled they kind of didn't think much beyond that. It's basically someone else's problem.

Obviously, this was a live interview, maybe given more time he'd have thought through something, but mostly I just got the sense that this particular line of questioning was something the show simply hasn't thought about and don't have a ready answer to that fits it into the world-building because it's not germane to their story.

A pity. One hopes they consider going with the Summer Islander idea for the Corlys show - especially if it were a cousin match, of a daughter of Aethan's or Daemon's marrying a Summer Islander Prince, and Corlys' father subsequently marrying a Summer Islander cousin. This could not only showcase the Summer Islanders more than one would expect, but it would also provide a nice background for Corlys' explorer spirit.

11 hours ago, Ran said:

As to Daemon, no one actually knows the reality of what happened to Rhea. The fact that no one speculates it was Daemon doesn't mean that it could not, in fact, have been the result of Daemon hiring someone to cut a strategic saddle girth that went undetected. We don't really know. So I'm comfortable with the language I used there, the history simply doesn't resolve the reality even if it doesn't treat it as a question.

Yes, but you went out of your way to butter him up there. It is a change. If we go with 'every death reported as an accident in FaB could technically be a clever murder' then we could just as well question Baelon's death by a burst belly, Jaehaerys and Alysanne's death of old age, Queen Rhaena's death (apparently of natural causes) at the rather young age of fifty, Corlys' later death of the serpentine steps, and so on and so forth.

I agree that it is a change that, due to the nature of the history book, isn't that severe since it something that may have happened and something the character in question was clearly capable of doing.

But I must say that the gist of the FaB narrative clearly is that Daemon never actually considered or intended to murder Rhea and just jumped on the chance her sudden death gave him - namely, to try to claim Runestone for himself (which he clearly never intended to do before, and didn't prepare for at all). He was on the Stepstones before, defending his 'kingdom'. Rhea's death just gives him a pretext to leave. The subsequent Laena match is also a spur of the moment idea - something born out of the fact that there is a nice silver-haired lady in front of him, he suddenly a widower, and the woman the daughter of his old comrade Corlys.

The show itself undermined Daemon's potential motive for the murder since it twice reiterated the polygamy thing. Daemon could have claimed Laena's or Rhaenyra's hand in addition to that of Rhea. It may have been a scandal but not unthinkable. Remember that show Viserys never forbids Daemon to marry Mysaria - the problem is her low birth and background, not that Daemon already has a wife.

They should have had Viserys making it crystal clear in the episode before that Daemon would lose his head were he to ever follow in Maegor's footsteps and take a second wife. Then he has a motive to murder Rhea. But as it stands this is just a weird and somewhat pointless thing.

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4 minutes ago, Lord Varys said:

A pity. One hopes they consider going with the Summer Islander idea for the Corlys show - especially if it were a cousin match, of a daughter of Aethan's or Daemon's marrying a Summer Islander Prince, and Corlys' father subsequently marrying a Summer Islander cousin. This could not only showcase the Summer Islanders more than one would expect, but it would also provide a nice background for Corlys' explorer spirit.

There are way too many Velaryons around on the show to sustain this idea that this is something recent, and Condal's own words about it is towards the end of his remarks -- that Valyria was a society with dragons and magic, why couldn't they have black nobles as well -- makes me think the idea is that they have been black since before the Doom and perhaps even from their origin.

Again, I don't think there's thorough thinking about it. It's not germane to the present story, so it'll be someone else's problem.

6 minutes ago, Lord Varys said:

Belon's death by a burst belly, Jaehaerys and Alysanne's death of old age, Queen Rhaena's death (apparently of natural causes) at the rather young age of fifty, Corlys' later death of the serpentine steps, and so on and so forth.

We could, but how are these relevant to House of the Dragon's first season?

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7 minutes ago, Ran said:

There are way too many Velaryons around on the show to sustain this idea that this is something recent, and Condal's own words about it is towards the end of his remarks -- that Valyria was a society with dragons and magic, why couldn't they have black nobles as well -- makes me think the idea is that they have been black since before the Doom and perhaps even from their origin.

Again, I don't think there's thorough thinking about it. It's not germane to the present story, so it'll be someone else's problem.

If one wanted to, one still could make it work that way, if one goes with Daemon Velaryon having a Summer Islander wife. He seems to have had a lot of children, and they would have had Velaryon children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren by the time of the show. The other Velaryons we see could all be descendants of the second Daemon and/or Corlys' father. After all, in the book Corlys alone has two brothers (at least), six nephews and at least two grand-nephews.

But, yes, sure enough, it is somebody else's problem...

7 minutes ago, Ran said:

We could, but how are these relevant to House of the Dragon's first season?

I could just as well have named accidental death in the timeframe of HotD's first season - Ryam Redwyne, Grand Maester Mellos, the women who die in childbirth.

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19 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

(And by the way: It is nowhere stated that Daemon may have been involved in Rhea's death in the book. And you know that, so you could and should have asked Condal why he blackened Daemon's reputation further by inventing a murder where nobody in the book actually suspects or assumes. That was a pretty big deviation from the original material. Nothing is up in there air there. It was an accident as far as everybody knows.)

I'm fine with the change. It would have been a weird scene if a character we just met fell off her horse. I guess they could have just told us what happened when someone got a raven. 

What concerns me a little though is in the after episode where Condal says something like "it's one sentence in the books, I read it and thought obviously Daemon killed his wife." When it's actually two sentences and the second one essentially exonerates Daemon by establishing that she lived for nine days and was up and about. Maybe she had some kinda selective amnesia or whatever, but it's far from "obvious" that Daemon killed her. 

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9 minutes ago, RumHam said:

I'm fine with the change. It would have been a weird scene if a character we just met fell off her horse. I guess they could have just told us what happened when someone got a raven. 

I think the opening sequence could have just as well worked with the Lady Rhea going for a hunt and suffering a genuine accident. Such things also do happen.

As depicted, the scene was pretty much the worst sequence we got in the new show.

Although I must say my bitching about the dragon scenes gets more and more merit considering they waste their budget on pointless joy ride scene (Daemon/Laena last episode) including a ridiculous ride through a dragon fireball. What comes next? A scene where we see a dragonrider actually circling the city walls of KL? They did that occasionally as we know, but it is the last thing you want these people to see doing in a TV show. Give meaning to those beasts, establish what they are good for in peace times before moving on the war. Joy rides were established very well in the opening shot of the first episode. You have done that, so move on to something more meaningful.

9 minutes ago, RumHam said:

What concerns me a little though is in the after episode where Condal says something like "it's one sentence in the books, I read it and thought obviously Daemon killed his wife." When it's actually two sentences and the second one essentially exonerates Daemon by establishing that she lived for nine days and was up and about. Maybe she had some kinda selective amnesia or whatever, but it's far from "obvious" that Daemon killed her. 

As per the book it was obviously an accident. There is a small chance that somebody might have helped her have an accident, but the chance for that is about as high as Alicent suffocating Jaehaerys with a pillow rather than reading yet again from Barth's mad book. In the book nothing indicates that Daemon had a motive or the desire to murder his own wife. He had been married to her for nearly twenty years at that point. They lived their own lives and were fine with it, apparently. Daemon had no desire to marry somebody else. Circumstantial evidence doesn't indicate premeditation on his part, etc.

As I said elsewhere - as a spur of the moment manslaughter this thing could have made sense. Depict Daemon and Rhea's domestic life in the blackest colors, establish the man is at the end of the line, forced to remain at Runestone or face severe punishment in the wake of the Rhaenyra affair. And then have them on a hunt together, Rhea has an accident, and Daemon just acts without thinking, seeing a way to resolve a pretty big problem.

They could also have build up to that moment earlier. We get quite a few feasts and celebrations - Rhea Royce could have been at court for the Tourney of the Heir and/or the royal hunt celebrating the Conqueror-Babe. Establishing the nature of marital problems earlier could have set up Daemon killing her much better.

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@Ran This seems odd

 

Quote

We’ll need to wait and see! Does George know that you’re on the list for when the manuscript for the next book is done?

I’ve told him! I told him that if we finish this season and you have a show, you have to send me a manuscript. He said that’s not a problem, I’ll do that. So now I have to hold him to it.

 

"I told him that if we finish this season and you have a show" does he mean "the book" rather than "a show"?

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3 minutes ago, Quaithe from Asshai said:

@Ran This seems odd

 

 

"I told him that if we finish this season and you have a show" does he mean "the book" rather than "a show"?

No, listening it over again, he basically means if they succeed to complete S1 and also having an ongoing show (i.e. getting a 2nd season order), he wants to get the manuscript (of TWoW) when George is done with it.

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