This House of the Dragon premiere recap contains spoilers. That’s a recap. Adapt.
Again, HBO, the Seven Kingdoms, you, and me, who recapped Game of Thrones for NPR years ago. All aboard our Dragons.
I’ve written some primers to help us all get in the appropriate mindset, but basically: forget what you know. The story begins 200 years before the first Game of Thrones. The 100-year-old Targaryen Dynasty rules over 10 full-grown dragons.
Aegon the Conqueror, founder of the Targaryen Dynasty, dracarysed Harrenhal a century ago. The Great Council of 101 AC will pick the Iron Throne’s heir.
Rhaenys Targaryen, the king’s granddaughter, stands with her husband, Corlys Velaryon, dubbed the Sea Snake.
Viserys Targaryen, the king’s grandson, stands with his expectant bride, Aemma Arryn. (I know, we’re not even two minutes in and already there are two Rhaenys. Most characters wear the same platinum-blonde wig. Hello, Targaryens! Edgar Winter arrives.
Viserys is chosen over Rhaenys because the patriarchy is predictable.
Featuring a dragon-drop interface
Titles! We don’t fly over a map of Westeros to visit clockwork versions of this week’s locations. We zoom into House Targaryen’s three-headed dragon insignia.
The House of the Dragon’s main war won’t be as global as Game of Thrones. Here, battle lines will be established inside a single family in a few familiar places. Unneeded map
We get a dragon’s-eye perspective on King’s Landing, which is looking better. HBO’s VFX servers have been updated four years since GoT ended, and it shows.
The skyline-dominating dome? The Great Sept of Baelor won’t be built for years. The royal dragons live in the Dragonpit.
Rhaenyra and Alicent Hightower, daughter of the King’s Hand, are teenagers. They walk through Cersei’s giant courtyard in the Red Keep. A centuries-old Where’s Carmen Sandiego? board.
The show adds chess pieces. Queen Emma is pregnant and tells Rhaenyra to “lay back and think about Westeros.” Corlys Velaryon reports that certain Free Cities have created the Triarchy, and its admiral, Craghas Drahar, alias Crabfeeder, is violently purging the Stepstones of pirates. Pin it; it’ll return.
Daemon Targaryen is the king’s cheeky younger brother. He’s sitting atop a jagged, dangerous-looking Iron Throne. Just tetanus.
Daemon and Rhaenyra are friendly. If that surprises you, you’re watching the wrong show about the wrong family. He offers her a Valyrian steel amulet, the same material as his blade, Dark Sister.
Here comes the blood
The King’s back wound won’t heal. He says it’s from sitting on the Iron Throne, something Game of Thrones never picked up on; the throne isn’t meant to be comfortable. Band-Aids and hydrogen peroxide are likely royal budget items.
Right? The House of the Dragon seems low on Game of Thrones-level bloodshed, right? Oh, summer baby. King Daemon leads the City Guard (called the Gold Cloaks) as they attack King’s Landing’s filthy underbelly with swords.
The next day, Ser Otto Hightower tries to disgrace Daemon, but Corlys Velaryon and the king back him. The king says a tournament will be conducted shortly to commemorate the birth of the king’s child, a boy. Many nobility. The Monarch thinks Daemon’s strength will safeguard the people. Daemon leaves before anyone can yell “Gold Lives Matter.”
In a typical George R.R. Martin brothel scene, Daemon’s paramour, Mysaria, tells him he’s had problems landing the dragon. He’s married to a Vale lady, but he doesn’t like her. All of this shows that he’s a true Targaryen with plantinum-haired tastes.
The jousting tournament is vicious and barbaric, with primarily untested knights. Otto’s son smugly defeats Daemon. Rhaenyra’s favourite, Ser Criston Cole, defeats him. Remember his name; he’ll be important.
The queen goes into labour, and things don’t go well. A child is violated. The king is summoned to her side and they have a sweet moment before he approves her baby’s surgical removal. The queen isn’t consulted. If the purpose is to remind us how deadly delivery may be, even in a magical world, mission accomplished.
died. Then, her male heir dies.
Rhaenyra asks her dragon to burn her mother and brother’s corpses on a bonfire. Metallic
This meeting could have happened over chain-mail
The king’s High Council is divided over his successor after the tragedy. Corlys defends Daemon with precedent. Otto says Daemon is too impulsive, ambitious, and vicious for the Iron Throne. (Daemon is Jay Leno-ing this meeting, or listening in. He doesn’t drive a classic automobile or wear jeans. (To clarify.)
The others suggest Rhaenyra. Cue mandatory “Girl? “What is the Iron Throne?”spitting, pearl-clutching, monocle-dropping The king leaves without answering.
Otto tells his small daughter Alicent to visit the king’s rooms. A kind ear.
Gross, but part of George R.R. Martin’s story. Dads must exploit their daughters like fish and birds.
Alicent visits the king, who seems to be carving a stone replica of King’s Landing.
The Daemon calls the king’s late young son “The Heir for a Day.” This angers the king, who calls Daemon on a Westerosi carpet.
The brothers are angry. The king tells Daemon he’s no longer heir to the Iron Throne and orders him to leave King’s Landing. The Iron Throne responds by cutting the king again.
In the cellars of the Red Keep, the king and Rhaenyra speak under the skull of Balerion, the dragon whom their ancestor, Aegon the Conqueror, rode.
The king informs his daughter that their ancestors shouldn’t have toyed with dragons. Then he reveals that she’s the new Iron Throne heir.
The Iron Throne The Seven Kingdoms’ lords vow devotion to Princess Rhaenyra, the king’s successor. House Velaryon, House Hightower, House Baratheon, and then Rickon Stark swearing the oath with those round Northern vowels I’ve missed so much. Stylish.
Daemon and Mysaria storm out of King’s Landing.
A huff is the dragon Caraxes’ saddle. Taking Maria with him means he won’t return to the Vale.
- Milly Alcock is Rhaenyra. She gives you the usual calm, aristocratic haughtiness, but she also shows you the emotions beneath. I’ll miss her when Emma D’arcy plays adult Rhaenyra later in the season.
- Is King Viserys weak or just…nice? Viserys is a Game of Thrones figure I don’t yet understand. In Grimm’s universe, tenderness is a sign of doom.
- House of the Dragon is based on the 2018 book Fire & Blood, which tells different versions of history that don’t match up. Lots of things are left open to interpretation, which makes it a pleasant read, but serialized TV can’t be so coy. It’ll be interesting to see whether the program picks a side and dramatizes it.