House of the Dragon
A Guide to the “Game of Thrones” Prequel for the Casual Fan
Written by: Celeste Zirm
We’re going back to Westeros! Set 180 years before the birth of Daenerys Targaryen, “House of the Dragon” tells the story of House Targaryen in the days before its downfall. Whether you’re new to the series or just a casual fan of “Game of Thrones,” this guide has everything you need to know to enjoy this “Game of Thrones” spinoff.
We’re going back to Westeros!
What Story Is This?
Game of Thrones fans, do you remember that scene in Season 5 episode 9 where Shireen Baratheon tells her father about the book she is reading, “The Dance of Dragons”? That’s this story. Essentially, King Viserys only has one child, a daughter named Rhaenyra, so he declares her the Heir to the Iron Throne and makes all the Lords of Westeros swear fealty to her. Later, he marries Alicent Hightower and she gives him a son, Aegon II. Now, who the actual Heir is becomes a question. Tradition says it's the firstborn son, but everyone swore to Rhaenyra. In a very patriarchal Westeros, this is going to be a problem.
Who Are the Main Characters?
King Viserys Targaryen: the King of the Seven Kingdoms. (Played by Paddy Considine)
Rhaenyra Targaryen: Viserys’ first-born daughter. Named Heir to the Iron Throne. (Played by Milly Alcock and Emma D’Arcy)
Alicent Hightower: Childhood best friend of Rhaenyra, eventually marries Viserys. (Played by Emily Carey and Olivia Cooke)
Daemon Targaryen: brother to the King. Was the Heir before Rhaenyra. (Played by Matt Smith)
Otto Hightower: Hand of the King. Alicent’s father. (Played by Rhys Ifans)
Rhaenys Targaryen: “The Queen that Never Was.” Cousin to King Viserys and wife of Corlys Velaryon. (Played by Eve best)
Corlys Velaryon: “The Sea Snake,” and “Lord of the Tides.” Married to Rhaenys Targaryen. (Played by Steve Toussaint)
Ser Criston Cole: Rhaenyra names him a Knight of the King’s Guard. Queen Alicent’s sworn protector. (Played by Fabien Frankel)
Aegon II Targaryen: first born son of the King, and son of Alicent Hightower. (Played by Tom Glynn-Carney)
I’m Confused. Are All Targaryens Named “Aegon”?
In short, yes. There are four major Aegons in the Thrones universe.
Aegon I: “The Conqueror”, conquered Westeros and died long before this story starts.
Aegon II: King Viserys's son by Alicent Hightower, Rhaenyra’s half-brother.
Aegon III: Rhaenyra’s son by Daemon.
Aegon VI: aka Jon Snow.
What About the Dragons?
There’s a lot of dragons in this season, most of them far bigger than Daenerys’ dragon in “Game of Thrones,” Drogon, ever was. We have:
Syrax: Rhaenyra’s dragon.
Caraxes: “The Blood Wyrm.” Daemon’s dragon.
Meleys: Rhaenys’s dragon.
Seasmoke: Laenor Valaryon’s dragon.
Vhagar: The oldest and biggest dragon we’ll see alive. Multiple riders.
Arrax: Prince Lucerys Valaryon’s dragon.
Balerion: Okay, so technically we never see him living, but we do see his huge skull in the crypt. Known as “The Black Dread,” he was by far the biggest dragon.
Dreamfyre: Princess Halaena Targaryen’s dragon.
Vermax: Jacaerys Valaryon’s dragon.
And many more set to be seen in season 2!
Who Are the Blacks and the Greens?
Since the Dance of Dragons is a civil war amongst the Targaryen family, the two sides are known as “The Blacks” and “The Greens.” The Blacks are those who side with Rhaenyra. The Greens are those who side with Aegon II. They’re called “The Greens” because of Queen Alicent’s green dress entrance during Rhaenyra’s wedding.
What’s With the Timeline Jumps?
In an effort to show the buildup of tension and generational hate between the Blacks and the Greens, the show starts with five episodes of teen/young adult Rhaenyra and Alicent (played by Milly Alcock and Emily Carey, respectively). There are several time jumps within these episodes as well, mostly explained in the show, such as the three year time jump between episodes two and three. The most notable, however, is the ten-year time jump between episodes five and six. The characters all age up and are (mostly) played by new actors, making episode six feel almost like a second pilot. Episode six introduces many new characters, most of them the children of the characters we’ve already met, and shows how the generational hate spread to them. This episode is definitely confusing, but in short: Jacaerys, Lucerys and Joffrey are Rhaenyra’s children with Laenor Velaryon, and Aegon II, Halaena and Aemond are Alicent’s with King Viserys.
What is the Song of Ice and Fire?
The “song of ice and fire” is the prophecy passed down from King to Heir throughout Targaryen history. It states that a terrible winter will come out of the North, and with it, the power to destroy mankind. “The Prince or Princess who was promised” is the only one who can unite the Seven Kingdoms to save everyone. We know that the event being referred to is the defeat of the White Walkers in the “Game of Thrones” episode, “The Long Night.” Fans still debate whether the Prince or Princess who was promised is Daenerys or Jon Snow, so hopefully this knowledge can help you form your own opinion on that. Also, the blade Viserys is holding in the scene when he tells Rhaenyra is the same that Arya uses during "The Long Night."
What Else Should I Know?
“House of the Dragon” feels a lot like the first few seasons of “Game of Thrones” with its complicated plot points, extensive history and dialogue-heavy scenes. This show's violence is significantly less gratuitous, focusing a lot more on the complicated dynamics of the characters. Of course, being a “Game of Thrones” show, there are still some scenes that exist simply for shock value, but far less than in the original show. If you find the storyline interesting and want to spoil the next few seasons, the source material comes from the book “Fire and Blood” by George R. R. Martin. The show was renewed for a second season the day after the first episode released and is projected to have 3-4 seasons in total.
Where Can I Watch?
All episodes of season 1 are streaming now on HBO Max with a subscription.