Early on, Game of Thrones was most famous for its shocking scenes making huge plot twists, the best example of which is probably the "Red Wedding." These twists also became a part of the show's legacy on a meta level, since they often involved the deaths of characters that had previously seemed integral to the plot. So far, it's hard to say whether the upcoming prequel show, House of the Dragon, will have a Red Wedding of its own.
Warning, Spoilers for Game of Thrones and Fire and Blood are ahead! The signature move of author George R.R. Martin is now commonly referred to as "subverting expectations." He set up Ned Stark to be the main protagonist at the beginning of his A Song of Ice and Fire series, only to kill him at the end of the first book. This is not just shocking because of its implications for Westerosi politics, it's shocking because it leaves the reader wondering how the next six books will go on without Ned as an anchor. The Red Wedding somehow recreated this stunt and topped it all at once by killing Ned's heir Robb Stark near the end of book three, A Storm of Swords.
Martin's audience has a clear reverence for this storytelling magic trick, both on the page and on the screen. Martin has even commented on this phenomenon in interviews, noting that fans who had read his book generally did not spoil the big twists for those who were just watching the show. In one interview, he talked about the viral reaction videos to the Red Wedding when it happened in Season 3, Episode 9, saying: "people who knew what was going to happen actually set up their... loved ones to capture their dismay and shock at the moment that that wedding hit. It was something I never anticipated, I don't think anybody did, but it was pretty amazing."
This leaves two questions for fans anticipating House of the Dragon: are there any such twists coming our way in that show, and if so, will the fandom be as accomodating to new viewers this time around? For those of us covering the series on news sites and blogs, the question is becoming especially pressing now that the series is in production.
House of the Dragon is based on a portion of Fire and Blood — a fictional history book about the reign of House Targaryen in Westeros which Martin wrote from the perspective of a Westerosi maester and historian. The book is not formatted like a novel, therefore, and does not have the dramatic narrative scenes of the main series. It describes its scenes the way a professor might relay them in a lecture or a textbook, though obviously with a bit of a dramatic flair.
This makes it much harder to guess which scenes, if any, will have the impact of a Red Wedding. It will likely come down to the writers and showrunners of the series more than to Martin, in this case. The show has a full writing staff unlike Thrones, and the showrunners of the original series are not involved.
With all that in mind and a spoiler warning firmly in place, we can speculate briefly about the scenes from Fire and Blood that will define the TV adaptation. Right off the bat, it seems like the major battles should be discarded. Dragon fights like the Battle Over the God's Eye and The Dance Over Shipbreaker Bay will likely be massive cinematic events on the screen, but they won't be shocking so much as cathartic.
More likely, the first big shock will come with the death of King Viserys (Paddy Considine) and the illicit coronation of Prince Aegon II. For those that don't recall, Aegon is crowned by usurpers in King's Landing while Princess Rhaenyra (Emma D'Arcy) goes into a rage on Dragonstone, which prompts premature childbirth.
This might not fit the bill as well as the incident of Blood and Cheese, which probably won't come in the first season. Blood and Cheese are assassins who torment Aegon's queen, Helaena and their children, forcing her to choose which of her sons will be murdered in front of her. When she finally names one, they kill another and leave her to live with the consequences.
From there, we'd be getting deep into the story to begin speculating on twists and presuming that House of the Dragon will be renewed for many seasons. However, we can safely say that the introduction of the Dragonseeds, the storming of the dragon pit, the mysterious Alys Rivers and the Hour of the Wolf will all be fan-favorite moments — if the show lives long enough to depict them. Many of these scenes could even reveal details that weren't communicated clearly in the book.
House of the Dragon is filming now and is expected to air sometime in 2022 on HBO. If you're interested in reading Fire and Blood beforehand, it is available on Amazon here in print, digital and audiobook formats.