A thrilling season finale episode, featuring some much-awaited dragon action, closed House of the Dragon season 1 on 24 October 2022 on HBO Max and prepared the groundwork for an even more anticipated season 2. Based on George R. R. Martin’s 2018 book, Fire & Blood, the epic high fantasy series is a prequel to Game of Thrones (2011-19). If you haven’t seen the show yet, this is our spoiler warning!
House of the Dragon episode 1 premiered on HBO on 21 August and instantly became one of the most talked about television or streaming shows of the year. The series has been co-created by Martin and Ryan Condal. Miguel Sapochnik joins Condal as showrunner. Executive producers include Martin and the two showrunners, along with Sara Hess, Jocelyn Diaz, Vince Gerardis and Ron Schmidt.
Sapochnik, Greg Yaitanes, Clare Kilner and Geeta Vasant Patel are credited as directors. Ramin Djawadi, who composed the music for Game of Thrones, scored for House of the Dragon.
The cast of House of the Dragon
The main cast members include Paddy Considine as King Viserys I Targaryen, Rhys Ifans as Ser Otto Hightower, Steve Toussaint as Lord Corlys Velaryon aka Sea Snake and Eve Best as Princess Rhaenys Targaryen. Of note is Matt Smith, whose performance as the rogue Prince Daemon Targaryen has been extremely well-received by fans and critics.
In keeping with the story’s timeline, which jumps many years between some episodes, the series also features characters who are played by more than one actor. While Milly Alcock plays the teenage Rhaenyra Targaryen, Emma D’Arcy portrays as the older princess. Similarly, Emily Carey plays the young Alicent Hightower while Olivia Cooke takes on the character’s older version.
Aegon II Targaryen, portrayed as the young king by Tom Glynn-Carney and as a young prince by Ty Tennant, is another central character essayed so far by two actors.
The plot of House of the Dragon
One of the most highly anticipated series and one that was as much talked about as Amazon’s epic series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, House of the Dragon is essentially the story of a civil war that brought ruin to the powerful Targaryen dynasty and killed their fearsome dragons.
It is noteworthy that unlike Game of Thrones, where almost equal focus was given to more than one regal house, House of the Dragon concerns itself with just one — House Targaryen. It is set around 200 years before the events depicted in the Game of Thrones when the Targaryen family is ruling the Seven Kingdoms on the continent of Westeros.
A decision taken by King Viserys ends up creating a conflict between his family. His daughter (and named heir) Rhaenyra and his younger brother Daemon are on one side known as the black council. On the other side is his second wife, Alicent, and their son, King Aegon II Targaryen as part of the faction known as the green council. House of the Dragon shows both councils with their own band of respective supporters from across Westeros as well as dragons.
Yet, as fans of Martin’s books know, there was always a Targaryen on the Iron Throne even after the civil war until King Aerys II Targaryen, or the Mad King, was deposed by Robert Baratheon. So, in a way, there is a reason to expect a lot more from the series besides the war itself. But it is unclear exactly how many episodes will it take for House of the Dragon to reach the civil war and, if at all, eventually the story of the Mad King.
Big-budget show with outstanding visual elements
One of the most expensive shows made for television audiences, House of the Dragon has received praise from critics and fans for its CGI and cinematography. The show dives into the rich backstory of the Targaryens and their majestic dragons, revealing them in great detail.
It underlines how some of the most significant members of the royal line bonded with the flying, fire-breathing beasts. Unique Targaryen customs, beliefs and traditions are also depicted, as well as the family’s preference for pure blood Targaryens, whose silver hair is believed to be a result of inbreeding.
There are also scenes of treachery, conspiracy, conflict and debauchery — expected from something that serves as a prequel to Game of Thrones and is about a fiery war.
Overall, the series has been widely appreciated by fans of Game of Thrones for staying true to the story in the book on which it is based and effectively bringing back memories of its predecessor.
Things viewers may have missed
The eggs of Dreamfyre
In the book, Fire & Blood, Dreamfyre is described as a pale blue female dragon who bonded with a young Princess Rhaena Targaryen, Aegon the Conqueror’s granddaughter and Rhaenyra’s great-grandfather’s sister.
The dragon is known for having produced numerous eggs throughout her lifetime. A woman named Elissa Farman stole three of Dreamfyre’s eggs from Rhaena and was never seen again. There is no mention of what happened to the three eggs, but fans believe that they were the very eggs Daenerys Targaryen, portrayed by Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones, received centuries later as a wedding gift.
Anyone who has seen Game of Thrones knows that the three eggs hatched into Drogon, Viserion and Rhaegal, making them Dreamfyre’s children.
In House of the Dragon, one of Dreamfyre’s eggs is stolen by Daemon — an act that becomes a point of conflict between him and the ruling family.
Princess Helaena, the only daughter of King Viserys and Alicent whose young adult version is played by Phia Saban, later rode Dreamfyre. In the book, she dies with the dragon during the civil war.
The ruins of Dragonpit
One of the most easily identifiable buildings in King’s Landing, the Dragonpit is situated on the Hill of Rhaenys. It was built by Maegor Targaryen, also known as Maegor the Cruel because of his brutality, as a stable for the dragons of the Targaryen family. Its size was explained in Martin’s literature by Ser Barristan Selmy who said that the Dragonpit is a “cavernous dwelling…with iron doors so wide that thirty knights could ride through them abreast.”
Dragonpit, which appears many times in House of the Dragon, including its trailer, is set to be one of the key buildings most affected by the civil war.
Part of the Dragonpit is destroyed in House of the Dragon season 1 episode 9 when Rhaenys breaks through its walls riding on her dragon Meleys during the coronation of Aegon II. But its eventual collapse — which symbolically indicates the fall of the Targaryen family and their dragons — will happen much later.
In the book, it was attacked by those revolting against Targaryen rule during the civil war. The attack turned the Dragonpit into the graveyard of five dragons, including Dreamfyre and Rhaenyra’s mount Syrx. In fact, the massive dome of Dragonpit was brought down by Dreamfyre when she tried to escape the mob.
The completely ruined Dragonpit appears in Game of Thrones season 7 episode 7 is where Cersei Lannister, Daenerys, Jon Snow and Sandor Clegane aka The Hound along with others meet. Also present in the ruined pit is Tyrion Lannister, portrayed by Peter Dinklage.
Jon and The Hound, played by Kit Harington (who is set to return in a Game of Thrones spinoff) and Rory McCann, respectively, try to convince Lena Headey’s character Cersei to join forces against the threat from the supernatural White Walkers by presenting before her a captured wight.
Balerion the Black Dread
The massive horned skull of a dragon is seen inside the Royal Sept, with hundreds of candles lit beneath it, creating an extremely captivating iconography in multiple episodes of House of the Dragon.
That dragon is Balerion the Black Dread — the largest of all dragons to have taken to the skies in Westeros’ history. It was mounted by Aegon the Conqueror and Maegor the Cruel before King Viserys himself rode it when he was a prince.
Balerion the Black Dread was neither born nor raised inside the Dragonpit, which is explained in the literature as having contributed to its growth. Balerion is practically the symbol of supreme power in the land of Westeros.
He was one of the five dragons that survived the Doom of Valyria, a volcanic event that brought an end to the Targaryen civilisation of Valyrian Freehold on the continent of Essos. After settling in Dragonstone, Aegon the Conqueror rode Balerion to conquer most of the continent. It was also Balerion who forged the Iron Throne with his fiery breath, described as black in colour. Despite his participation in absolute ferociousness, Balerion died peacefully of old age just before Viserys became the ruler.
The massive skull of Balerion was also seen in some scenes of the Game of Thrones in the dungeons, where it had been transferred by King Robert Baratheon. In particular, Arya Stark passes the skull while wandering in the cellars of the Red Keep.
Helaena Targaryen has the ‘gift’ of her ancestors
So far in House of the Dragon, Helaena has displayed an uncanny ability to predict future events. This is a gift known to have been present with Daenys Targaryen, also known as the Dreamer, who foresaw the Doom of Valyria, which helped her convince her family to escape to Dragonstone with their dragons while all other dragon-riding clans died.
Throughout House of the Dragon season 1, Helaena has displayed her gift in cryptic words. In the sixth episode, she tells her mother, Alicent, about how her brother, Aemond, will have his own dragon but will have “to close an eye.” In the seventh episode, Aemond bonds with Vhagar, the largest living dragon in Westeros, but he loses one eye in a fight with Rhaenyra’s sons and Daemon’s daughters.
In the eighth episode, she speaks of a “beast beneath the boards” and utters it again in the ninth episode. Soon after, Rhaenys smashes through the Dragonpit on her dragon Meleys during the coronation of Aegon II. However, it is unclear if Helaena referred to this incident in her prophecy, as many other dangers and conspirators lurk in the shadows for her family.
As fans know, Helaena becomes the wife of her brother Aegon II. Together, they would have three children before Helaena dies with her dragon during the civil war.
The prophecy about the White Walkers
One of the most intriguing things about House of the Dragon has been King Viserys retelling a legend to his daughter after naming her his heir. It was first spoken in the very first episode of House of the Dragon where the King and Rhaenyra are talking in front of the skull of Balerion.
The King tells Rhaenyra of Aegon the Conqueror’s dream, which was called ‘The Song of Ice and Fire.’
“And just as Daenys foresaw the end of Valyria, Aegon foresaw the end of the world of men. ‘Tis to begin with a terrible winter gusting out of the distant north,” says Viserys, adding, “Aegon saw absolute darkness riding on those winds and whatever dwells within will destroy the world of the living. When this great winter comes, Rhaenyra, all of Westeros must stand against it, and if the world of men is to survive, a Targaryen must be seated on the Iron Throne, a king or queen, strong enough to unite the realm against the cold and the dark.”
Viserys utters part of Aegon’s dream even on his deathbed in episode 8, indicating how crucial it is to his lineage.
The prophecy, as fans are fully aware, is the arrival of the White Walkers with the onset of the Great Winter in Westeros.
Interestingly, in case viewers missed the moment, when Viserys mentions “distant north” while telling Rhaenyra of the prophecy, a cut scene shows Rickon Stark, Lord of Winterfell, accepting the princess as the heir to the Iron Throne.
Winterfell is in the north and it was the stage of the final battle against the White Walkers. Yet the only problem, as several reviewers have pointed out, is that Aegon’s dream doesn’t exactly get fulfilled in the way he envisioned. The Night King was killed by Arya, a Stark, and Cersei, a Lannister, was on the Iron Throne. Thus, no Targaryen — neither Daenerys nor Jon, whose real name was Aegon Targaryen — was involved in the manner as Aegon’s dream went.
The Valyrian steel catspaw dagger
In Game of Thrones season 8 episode 3, Arya Stark, played by Maisie Williams, killed the Night King in what is perhaps one of the greatest scenes in the entire series. The weapon she used? A Valyrian steel catspaw dagger.
The same dagger appears when King Viserys is narrating Aegon’s dream to Rhaenyra. While speaking, the King clutches his Valyrian steel catspaw dagger.
In episode 4 of the series, King Viserys tells Rhaenyra that the dagger “once belonged to Aegon the Conqueror…it was Aenar’s before that and before that, well, it is difficult to know.” All of this indicates that the dagger is kind of an ancient weapon in Westeros’ history.
Eagle-eyed fans of Game of Thrones had first been able to connect the weapon to the one wielded by Arya from a trailer of House of the Dragon where it was prominently seen in the hands of Alicent who uses it to attack Rhaenyra.
It first appeared in Game of Thrones when an assassin attempts to kill a paralysed Bran Stark, portrayed by Isaac Hempstead Wright, with it. Later, Aidan Gillen’s character, Petyr Baelish aka Littlefinger, gave Bran the dagger to keep as a memento. Bran gave it to Arya, who famously used it to slit Petyr’s throat for conspiring against the Stark siblings before plunging it into the Night King and ending the White Walker threat with a single move.
Stepstones’ connection to Children of the Forest
The island chain of Stepstones serves as one of the major sites of dispute in the House of the Dragon because they fall along a major trade route. But it has a far deeper connection to the Children of the Forest, the non-human beings who created the White Walkers.
Those who have read the books by Martin understand this significance. The Stepstones were actually a kind of land bridge connecting the continent of Westeros to the continent of Essos to the east.
“The First Men made their way from Essos across the great land bridge [called] the Broken Arm of Dorne,” writes Martin in The World of Ice & Fire.
The First Men attacked and destroyed the worlds of the Children of the Forest — the first inhabitants of Westeros. To protect themselves, the Children of the Forest used their magical powers to smash the land bridge into multiple islands. This incident happened some 12,000 years before the events of Game of Thrones.
It was also during their conflict with the First Men that the Children of the Forest drove dragonglass into the chests of captured men to turn them into the first White Walkers, including the Night King — an incident depicted in Game of Thrones season 6 episode 5.
Jefferson Hall in three roles
Jefferson Hall plays both Jason and Tyland Lannister. This makes Hall the first actor to play a double role in the combined Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon universe.
However, the more interesting bit is that Hall played Ser Hugh of the Vale in Game of Thrones season 1 in 2011 — a good 11 years ago. This makes him the first actor to have appeared in both the original series and its prequel. The role of Ser Hugh was albeit a short one. The character dies a brutal death at the hands of Ser Gregor Clegane aka The Mountain, played by Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, in Game of Thrones season 1 episode 4.
However, Hall’s two characters in House of the Dragon are not only integral to the eventual civil war but also noteworthy because they are the ancestors of the Lannister clan everyone hates in the Game of Thrones.
The other twins are actual twins
Jason and Tyland Lannister aren’t the only twin characters in House of the Dragon season 1. There is another set of twins — Erryk and Arryk Cargyll. But unlike the Lannister twins, the Cargyll brothers, who are knights in the Kingsguard, are played by actual twins — Elliott and Luke Tittensor.
In the book, the Cargyll brothers are depicted as pitted against each other on the two sides of the factions, which will eventually go to war. As such, they are at different places at the time of the death of King Viserys. Ser Erryk, who sides with the faction led by Rhaenyra, is with her as her personal guard on Dragonstone at the time of her father’s death.
But in the series, the two brothers are present in King’s Landing when the climactic event occurs. They are also shown as working together to find Aegon II, which does not happen in the book. Yet, the series drops clear indications that both will go different ways very soon.
Pirate King Racallio Ryndoon
The mention of this legendary character from Martin’s works is in only one episode, but it was enough for fans to be excited.
In episode 6 of House of the Dragon, John Macmillan’s character Laenor Velaryon mentions a Tyroshi General to Rhaenyra while discussing the political turmoil at Stepstones. Laenor says that the general has a purple beard. Fans of the book know that the general being mentioned is Racallio Ryndoon, who is technically a pirate but is also one of the men who succeed Daemon as the King of the Narrow Sea.
The timing of Racallio’s mention was also significant in the timeline depicted in the episode, which takes a time jump of 10 years over the previous episode. While House of the Dragon brings his name up only as a passing reference, Racallio was already way too deep in the conflict over Stepstones during the same timeline in the book.
Fans, however, now expect that the powerful, over six-feet-tall character, who is much loved by those who like the book, will make an appearance in subsequent seasons.
(Main and Featured images: IMDb)
This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia India