The debut of House of the Dragon’s first episode prepared the audience for a Targaryen clash. It exposed the viewers to a new cast of characters, some of whom we can only hope will go down in history as legendary as those who appeared in Game of Thrones and lived and more importantly died. As its name suggests the Targaryens, who governed Westeros for over 300 years before “The Mad King” Aerys Targaryen was ousted by Robert Baratheon, are the focus of House of the Dragon.
About 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon opens with 10 fully grown dragons under the control of the royal line, the 100-year-old Targaryen Dynasty is at its pinnacle. The sequence starts at Harrenhal, the enormous crumbling castle that Aegon the Conqueror, the founder of the Targaryen Dynasty, famously dracarysed a century earlier. The decision of who will succeed to the Iron Throne is made at the Great Council of 101 AC. Princess Rhaenys Targaryen and Prince Visyrs Targaryen are the two top contenders. The council bestowed Visyrs with the throne since they were unwilling to accept a woman as ruler. According to the narrator, the prudent Jaehaerys wanted to prevent a Targaryen civil war for the throne when he called for the council vote.
The narrator in the series claims that “the only thing that could pull down the house of the dragon was itself.”
Following then, an useful message letting us know that we’ve advanced nearly a decade after that council declared Viserys King appears on the screen. The reign of King Viserys I Targaryen is currently in its ninth year. Prior to Princess Daenerys Targaryen’s birth and the Mad King Aerys’ demise, 172 years had passed.
The Princess of Dragons
King’s Landing is reacquainted to us in House of the Dragon. Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, the daughter of King Viserys, is introduced to us as a silver-haired woman flying through the skies on a dragon. Rhaenyra dismounts her dragon and joins arms with Alicent Hightower, the offspring of Hand of the King Otto Hightower. She then leads us on a nostalgic stroll through the Red Keep.
Aemma (“Emma”) Targaryen, Rhaenyra’s mother, is barely weeks away from giving birth when Rhaenyra enters her quarters. Everyone is focused on the newborn, but Aemma needs to be looked after as well according to her daughter Rhaenyra.
Later, behind a Redwood tree, we observe Alicent Hightower attempt to instruct Rhaenyra, but she isn’t in the mood to learn. Alicent claims that Rhaenyra is always this way when she is anxious, and she speculates that Rhaenyra is concerned that Viserys’ pregnancy with a boy will outshine her.
Rhaenyra goes on to add that she doesn’t care about her place in the family and that her sole interests are riding dragons, viewing the amazing sights across the Narrow Sea, and eating “just cake.”
King Viserys’ health is not ideal hence the pressure is real to name his successor. In one scene, we find him slouched over a chair being attended to by maesters. Viserys scoffs that the filthy, pus-filled gash on his lower back is only a cut from being seated on that most uncomfortable throne. The wound won’t heal, an attending maester worries.
Otto Hightower, Hand of the King, states, “Whatever it is, it ought to be kept quiet.”
Cut to Viserys’ child’s birth day and the Heir’s Tournament, a jousting competition. Viserys boasts that a huge celebration is necessary because he will undoubtedly give birth to a boy.
The King is notified of problems in the midst of the Heir’s Tournament. When he arrives at Aemma’s chambers, he discovers that the baby is breech and that all attempts to turn him or her around have failed. The Grand Maester claims that although the queen is battling, it might not be enough and a difficult choice must be made right away. In the next scene, the heir is cut out and the mother is left to perish but unfortunately the infant does not last long.
Following the funeral, the king finds himself in a meeting of the Small Council where Otto Hightower, the Hand, urges him to name a new heir right away.
Rhaenyra is suggested by Hightower because she is the king’s eldest child. The concept of a “girl” reigning, which would be unusual, is mocked by the other lords. According to Hightower, forsaking tradition would be a little price to pay to avoid the disaster that Daemon, the king’s brother, would bring about as king.
In the concluding scene of the episode Rhaenyra is enthroned as King Viserys’ heir. We witness a montage of Westeros’ lords, including the Baratheons and the Starks, promising to support Rhaenyra as the successor as he converses with her in the Red Keep.