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House of the Dragon Banner, with images of Fire & Blood and World of Ice & Fire

As someone who loves George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire world, I was really excited for House of the Dragon. And now it’s here and better than I had hoped! 

According to reports, tons of people are enjoying House of the Dragon. But while there’s a lot of love for the show, there are also a lot of questions. A frequent refrain is, “I enjoyed what I just saw, but I don’t know what happened.” 

Fair! 

There are a lot of names and plot being thrown at you, with not a whole bunch of crossover from Game of Thrones yet. In this show, House Hightower and Velaryon are the big players, not House Lannister and Stark. And while the conflict in Game of Thrones was loosely based on the War of the Roses, House of the Dragon is inspired by The Anarchy, a devasting civil war over King Henry I's throne. 

Now that the series is at the halfway point, we're gonna break down who’s who and what’s what, with spoilers up to Episode 3! So first...

The Premise: House of the Dragon takes place after a century of Targaryen rule. Left without a living son to inherit, Old King Jaehaerys allowed the lords of Westeros to choose their next ruler. Thus, Viserys Targaryen becomes king. Although the decision was meant to head off a succession crisis, one emerges nonetheless...  

Who’s Who:

viserysViserys Targaryen I – The guy chosen to be king. He's meh at it. Viserys was married to Queen Aemma Targaryen, his cousin, and they had one kid, Rhaenyra Targaryen. He was desperate for a son, and after his wife dies trying to give him one, he's pushed to officially name an heir. No one likes his unofficial heir, his brother Daemon. So Viserys names Rhaenyra his heir instead, which causes some trouble after he remarries and starts having more kids. Whoops. 

 

 

daemonDaemon Targaryen – The younger brother of King Viserys and creator of the Gold Cloaks. Daemon is a great warrior with little regard for anyone outside his immediate family. He’s ambitious but deeply loyal to Viserys. After he makes an ill-advised joke about Viserys’ dead newborn, he’s sent away from King’s Landing. Instead of going back to his lady wife, he takes up residence in Dragonstone (before it was Stannis’ place, it was the seat of the Targaryen heir). Then he steals an egg! Then he decides to join Corlys Velaryon in warring against a pirate! All to get his brother’s attention. What a tsundere. 

 

rhaenyraRhaenyra Targaryen – The only living child from Viserys’ first marriage. Rhaenyra is 14 years old when she loses her mother, becomes heir, and sees her father marry her best friend, Alicent Hightower. That’s a lot for any kid to go through, especially one who’s supposed to be the first ruling queen on the Iron Throne. No one is actually preparing her to rule though. And after her half-brother is born, everyone expects her to be side-stepped. Viserys hasn't changed his mind, however, and Rhaenyra is too bright and strong-willed to be pushed around. There will be friction. 

 

alicentAlicent Hightower – Meet one of the sources of friction. Alicent is the daughter of Otto Hightower, the Hand. She and Rhaenyra are the same age, and it’s no surprise they were close. Their friendship was doomed the second her dad told her to start hanging around a grieving Viserys. All that private time with the king pays off. He decides she’ll be his next wife, and by the time she's 17, she’s already had a son, Aegon, and is pregnant again. Dad should be proud. And he is! He just also wants Aegon to rule instead of Rhaenyra. What a great position for Alicent to be in.

 

ottoOtto Hightower – King Viserys has a wet noodle for a spine, and Otto knows it. He’s the second son of House Hightower, who rule over Oldtown. The city is HQ for the Faith of the Seven and the Citadel, aka maester university, as well as being a major port. The Hightowers have a lot of pull, especially since Otto is the Hand. But he wants more. He successfully maneuvers Daemon out of court, the major threat to his power, and gets the king to marry Alicent. Boom! Now if only Viserys would make Aegon his heir. As it was Otto who pushed the king into naming Rhaenyra heir over Daemon, this is darkly funny.

 

corlysCorlys “the Sea Snake” Velaryon – Corlys is from a Valyrian house as old as the Targaryens. They weren’t dragon riders though. But his sailing made the Velaryons richer than the Lannisters, with the largest navy in the world. He married Rhaenys Targaryen, the Queen Who Never Was. If Corlys comes off as angry at Viserys in the show, it’s because he is! Viserys was chosen to rule over Rhaenys, despite her stronger claim. Viserys later rejects taking his daughter Laena to wife, despite Laena being the best candidate. And Viserys refuses to do anything about the pirate king that’s attacking Velaryon ships and interrupting trade. So when Corlys quits his seat on the Small Council, it’s to take matters into his own hands with Daemon.  

 

Those are Whos, here’s the What. 

What’s What:

The Great Council of 101 A.C.’s decision to name Viserys Targaryen king was supposed to prevent any future fights over the Iron Throne. But after Queen Aemma dies trying to give Viserys a son (during a tourney thrown in said baby’s honor no less), Viserys is widowed and still doesn’t have a son. He does have a daughter though, and since no one wants his brother Daemon to become king, he decides to make Rhaenyra a queen.

Drama ensues when Viserys is pressured to remarry. He decides to wed Alicent Hightower, his daughter’s bestie. Doing this angers Rhaenyra, understandably, and Corlys Velaryon, also understandably. In a fairer world, Corlys’ wife Rhaenys would’ve been queen. Instead, weak-willed Viserys wears the crown. Then, when the opportunity comes for his daughter, Laena Velaryon, to become queen, Viserys passes her over, despite the fact she is the smartest choice. Viewers can say it was the right choice, considering Laena was only 12 at the time, but Alicent was only 14 and also his daughter’s closest friend. Viserys doesn’t look great either way.

But you know who does think this is great? Otto Hightower, who sent his teen daughter to seduce a sad, old guy, while wearing her dead mom’s dresses. The plan works. Alicent becomes queen, has a son, and is pregnant again, less than three years later. She strives to keep the peace between Viserys and Rhaenyra, all while trying to handle her father’s ambitions. 

Because naturally, the next step in the Otto Hightower Master Plan is to get Viserys to formally declare his baby son heir, over Rhaenrya. And what better time to do it, than at the royal hunt held in honor of Aegon’s second birthday? Viserys, as we find out, kind of does regret naming his daughter heir, but he refuses to back down from his decision. He gets increasingly drunk over the course of the hunt, and Rhaenyra leaves the camp after a public blowout with her father. 

Rhaenyra has spent these last three years as the official heir, but has gotten none of the training or duties that are supposed to go along with it. No one acts like she’s the heir because her own father doesn’t treat her like one. Even the men who approach her for marriage, openly assume she’s going to be supplanted by her half-brother Aegon. It’s no surprise she abandons the royal camp to go chill in the woods, accompanied by Ser Criston Cole, her addition to the Kingsguard. They have a heart-to-heart over a fire that's rudely interrupted by a boar who attacks them both. They fight it off, with Rhaenyra managing to kill it. The next morning, as they get ready to head back to camp, Rhaenyra spots the white hart everyone’s been itching to get, as it’s a symbol of royalty. She lets it go and walks back into camp, still sticky with blood and hauling a dead boar behind her. 

Meanwhile, after Daemon’s stunt on Dragonstone, where he stole an egg and lied about making his mistress his second wife, he joined up with Corlys. Aside from Viserys dissing the Velaryons politically, he’s also just not looking out for them in general. A pirate called the Crabfeeder has taken up residence on a chain of nearby islands, and they are killing Velaryon men and messing with their economy. Corlys, along with Daemon, has spent three years waging a war against the Crabfeeder, who is backed by foreign powers.

They are losing. Badly.  

King Viserys, angered by Corlys and Daemon warring without his permission, has been ignoring this. However, pirates are not good news for the country as a whole and Alicent manages to nudge him into sending aid. Daemon is so infuriated by this belated help, he uses himself as bait to lure out the Crabfeeder’s forces. It works and they finally win the war. 

And that's the story up to Episode 3.

If you just can't wait for the rest of the season, and seasons to come, feel free to spoil yourself properly. The World of Ice & Fire and Fire & Blood both discuss the Dance of the the Dragons, the worst of the Targaryens' civil wars. HCPL has it all.

We hope you enjoy!

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