The first episode of House of the Dragon was a very strong start for the prequel series. It introduced us to many new characters and returned Game of Thrones fans to many familiar places around Westeros. The focus this time is on the Targaryens and their complex history.
If you haven’t seen the House of the Dragon season 1 premiere yet and want to avoid spoilers then please stop reading now. If you are up-to-date and want to relive the action then keep on reading.
A prologue explained that 101 years into the Targaryen dynasty as the health of King Jaehaerys Targaryean (Michael Carter) was failing. He had reigned for nearly 60 years and his house had 10 adult dragons. Due to the tragic deaths of his sons he held a Great Council at Harrenhal to choose an heir in order to prevent a war. 14 succession claims were heard but only two were considered – his granddaughter Princess Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best) and her cousin Prince Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine). The Lords of Westeros chose Viserys to inherit the Iron Throne.
The episode began 9 years into the reign of King Viserys I Targaryen. In the Game of Thrones timeline this is 172 years before the death of the Mad King, Aerys and the birth of his daughter, Princess Daenerys Targaryen. A stunning opening shot showed a young Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) riding her dragon Syrax. They soared above the clouds before swooping down over King’s Landing, the Red Keep and the Great Sept of Baelor. She landed at the Dragonpit where she was greeted by The Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, Ser Harrold Westerling (Graham McTavish) who was relieved she had returned safely. Rhaenyra then joined Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey) in a carriage back to the Red Keep.
Viserys held a meeting with the small council and Rhaenyra was late due to paying a visit to see her heavily pregnant mother, Aemma Arryn (Sian Brooke). Lord Corlys “Sea Snake” Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) briefed them on a growing alliance of the Free Cities of Myr, Lys and Tyrosh dubbed the Triarchy. Led by Craghas “Crabfeeder” Drahar, they were taking over the Stepstones and Corlys thought they should intervene. Lord Lyman Beesbury (Bill Paterson) raised concerns over the cost of support lent to Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) to train and equip the City Watch. The Hand of the King, Ser Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) raised the topic of the upcoming heir’s tournament and Viserys was confident that his wife would give birth to a son before the tournament ended.
Harrold informed Rhaenyra that the King’s brother, her uncle, Daemon had arrived and took her to the Great Hall. She found him sat in the Iron Throne and he presented her with a Valyrian steel necklace. Meanwhile, Viserys had an unhealing sore on his back inspected. Grand Maester Mellos (David Horovitch) thought it could be caused by the stress the King was under and Otto said it should be kept quiet.
Daemon assembled his 2000-strong golden-cloaked City Watch and declared war on crime in King’s Landing. He wanted the people to fear the colour gold and unleashed his army during the night. They beat criminals as they rounded them up before taking the hands of thieves, castrating rapists and beheading murderers. A two-horse cart was needed to transport all the dismembered body parts. At the small council, Otto confronted Daemon who justified his actions by saying he was making the city safe ahead of the tournament.
Viserys gave a speech to open the tournament and announced that the Queen had gone into labour. The jousting got underway and the mysterious Ser Criston Cole (Fabian Frankel) got the attention of Rhaenyra after he bettered two Baratheon knights. Next up was Daemon who chose Ser Gwayne Hightower, the eldest son of Otto. Gwayne struck first but was unseated when Daemon use his lance to strike the legs of his opponents horse.
Daemon next went up against Criston and the pair seemed evenly matched. Eventually it was Criston who managed to knock Daemon from his horse. However, Daemon refused to be beaten and grabbed a sword. Criston picked a flail and the pair engaged in hand-to-hand combat. Ser Criston was victorious after forcing Daemon to yield. He then asked for the favour of Rhaenyra.
A Brutal Birth
Viserys was called away from the tournament as the birth wasn’t going to plan due to the baby being in breech position. The Grand Maester explained that the King might have to sacrifice the Queen in order to save the child or risk losing them both. With seemingly no choice the King agreed for them to try and save the baby. It was a traumatic scene as he held the Queen’s hand and told her he loved her as she was held down while the baby was cut out. It was a boy and Viserys named him Baelon.
Sadly Baelon also died and a funeral was held for them both. The wrapped bodied were placed upon a pyre. Rhaenyra gave the command “Dracarys”, the high Valyrian word for Dragonfire, to Syrax and the dragon unleased its fiery breath on the pyre.
Before Viserys even had time to grieve, Otto was already telling him to choose a new heir. He had concerns about Daemon becoming King but Viserys wasn’t convinced. Otto suggested that Rhaenyra would be more suitable. Lord Lyonel Strong (Gavin Spokes) didn’t think they should break tradition and name a woman. Lord Corlys offered his support for Daemon but also suggested his wife Rhaenys as heir. Viserys stormed out not knowing that Daemon had been listening.
Otto later suggested that his daughter Alicent go to try and comfort the King. She paid him a visit and told him how sorry she was for his loss.
Daemon gets into trouble
Later Daemon hired out one of the brothels to entertain the officers of his City Watch. There he gave a speech where he announced he would still be heir and poked fun at Baelon who he referred to as “heir for a day”. News of this speech got back to Otto who informed Viserys.
Daemon was called to the Great Hall and found a furious Viserys sat upon the Iron Throne. He ordered Daemon to return to his wife, Lady Rhea, at Runestone. As Daemon walked out, Visery noticed he’d cut his little finger on the Iron Throne.
Later, Daemon was shown to leave King’s Landing with the prostitute Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno) as his mistress. They flew away on his dragon Caraxes.
A New Heir
Viserys had Rhaenyra meet him in the cellars of the Red Keep. She found him at the skull of his dragon Balerion (as seen in Stormborn) which was surrounded by candles. He told her that Balerion had been the last creature to see Old Valyria before the Doom and asked what she saw when she looked at the dragons. She said the dragons made the Targaryens different to everyone else. He apologised for wanting a son for so many years and explained he felt she should be Queen.
He also spoke of dream experienced by Aegon Targaryen that he called “The Song of Ice and Fire”. He saw the end of the world of men which would begin with a terrible winter coming down from the north. It would require a Targaryen on the Iron Throne to unite the Seven Kingdoms. This is a secret that was passed down from King to heir and now her responsibility.
At the end of the episode a ceremony was held where the Lords pledged their fealty to Princess Rhaenyra. Viserys named Rhaenyra Princess of Dragonstone and heir to the Iron Throne.
House of the Dragon airs each Sunday at 2am and 9pm on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV. Stay tuned to EF Television for previews, recaps, images and more.