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The Only Reason I’ll Watch ‘House of the Dragon’ Is Because of the Dragons Themselves

A screenshot from the trailer for House of the Dragon, Game of Thrones' prequel series, featuring a Targaryen dragonknight on top of a dragon flying over King's Landing

*** Spoilers for the events of House of the Dragon ahead. These have all been mentioned before, both in the A Song of Ice and Fire books and in Game of Thrones, as well as in the companion anthology The World of Ice and Fire, but proceed at your own discretion.***

Raise your hand if you have ever been personally victimized by Game of Thrones. I would probably raise both my hands and my feet, just for good measure. My relationship with, what was supposed to be, “the defining show of the 2010s” (and actually ended up being a textbook definition of how not to write the final seasons of your worldwide hit) is long and complicated. GOT is like that one ex who you invested an avalanche of emotions and time on before the whole thing came crashing down. 

And now that the release of House of the Dragon is coming closer, all those feelings are bubbling back up. On the one hand, I’ve never been as disappointed and insulted by a show as I was by Game of Thrones—and more specifically, by seasons seven and eight. On the other hand, though…dragons. I love dragons so much. 

I JUST!!! LOVE DRAGONS!!! SO MUCH!!! THEY’RE SO COOL!!! (HBO)

Is it the lingering impression The Hobbit left on me as a bedtime story when I was in kindergarten? Maybe. Is it having read books like Eragon and the Italian Chronicles of the Emerged World during my formative years? Possibly. Are dragons secretly real and I was one in a past life? Almost definitely, but the point is that any fantasy story with dragons in it immediately piques my interest.

So, you can see my conflict here as House of the Dragon is supposed to be absolutely filled with dragons. It’s right there in the title!

Just how many dragons are we talking about here?

Of course, I can’t tell you exactly the number of dragons that will be featured in the show—there were only a couple of them in the most recently-released trailer, but I’m still hopeful. Look, the Targaryens are supposed to have many dragons at this specific point in their history. Let me pull out my sources—also known as The World of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin himself—which I’ve absolutely devoured as the good Targaryen history nerd I am and explain.

House of the Dragon is set almost 170 years before the events of Game of Thrones—which happen around 298 AC, meaning, After the Conquest (Aegon Targaryen’s and his sisters’, of course). This means that the events of the new prequel series are set around 130 AC—the time period when the Targaryen dynasty was in full control of the Iron Throne. Though, not of its succession, since the main plot of House of the Dragon will be the war dubbed “the Dance of the Dragons.”

The Dance of the Dragons, known in-universe as one of the worst civil wars to ever shake the Seven Kingdoms, is the conflict for the crown that was sparked after the death of King Viserys I—played by Paddy Considine in House of the Dragon. From his first wife, Aemma Arryn, Viserys I had only one daughter, Princess Rhaenyra—known as the Realm’s Delight and chosen by the King himself as his successor. We see all the major lords of the Seven Kingdoms swear fealty to a young Rhaenyra, played by Milly Alcock, in the trailer.

But when Queen Emma died, Viserys I remarried—this time to Alicent Hightower (played by Olivia Cooke), daughter of Otto Hightower (played by Rhys Ifans), the Hand of the King. And Alicent gives him four children, including three sons (so you can definitely see where I’m going with this).

Matt Smith and Emma D'Arcy in House of the Dragon (2022) as Targ trash
An older Rhanyra Targaryen (played by Emma D’Arcy) with her uncle, Daemon Targaryen (played by Matt Smith) (HBO)

Once Viserys I dies, it’s open “when you play the game of thrones you win or you die” season. On the one hand, there are those who support Princess Rhaenyra’s claim to the Throne, as the eldest child of the old King. On the other, there are young Prince Aegon supporters who say he should be the one to rule as Aegon II since he’s the oldest male heir. 

The Great Houses of the Seven Kingdoms pick one side or the other, as do the other members of House Targaryen—including prominent members like Daemon Targaryen (played by Matt Smith), King Viserys I’s brother and eventually the second husband of Princess Rhaenyra (because of course), and Rhaenys Targaryen (played by Eve Best). And since the Targaryens have plenty of dragons at this point in their history, things get heated pretty quickly.

I expect this for ten episodes straight. (HBO)

Now, back to our important dragon research—The World of Ice and Fire mentions twenty-one of them. It’s unlikely we’ll see them all during House of the Dragon—three of them, for example, were too little to be actually used during the fighting (though that means baby dragons which, awwww).

This first season is also only ten episodes, which means that it’ll probably cover the foundations of the conflict and the start of the Dance itself—so, some of the dragons that come into play later in the war might be skipped altogether. And we’ll probably see the whole dragonseed plot—meaning people of some Valyrian descent who were invited to try and tame the dragons since “proper” Targaryen riders kept being killed in battle—in later seasons, if there are any.

We’ll be seeing plenty of the Dragonpit as well, and back in its full splendor. (HBO)

So, here’s a breakdown of the dragons I think will make an appearance in the episodes that will be released in June—starting from Rhaenyra’s side:

  • Syrax, Rhaenyra’s dragon; described as huge and ferocious
  • Caraxes, Prince Daemon’s dragon; known as the Blood Wyrm
  • Meleys, Princess Rhaenys’ dragon; known as the Red Queen, one of the oldest but also one of the most fearsome
  • Since Prince Jacaerys, one of Rhaenyra’s sons, is listed as one of the characters of House of the Dragon we might also see his mount, Arrax, who is young but not strong enough to survive in battle
  • Lady Baela Velaryon, the granddaughter of Princess Rhaenys, also appears as a character in House of the Dragon, meaning we might see her dragon Moondancer as well, a beautiful and slender dragon
  • Baela’s twin sister Rhaena Velaryon also appears as a character, so we could catch a glimpse of her dragon, Morning, one of the youngest in the Dance

Then, there are the dragons of Prince Aegon’s side:

  • Sunfyre, Aegon’s mount; beautiful but inexperienced
  • Vhagar, claimed by Aegon’s brother Aemond; the last of Aegon the Conqueror’s dragons, belonging to his sister-wife, Visenya
  • Dreamfyre, belonging to Aegon’s sister-wife Helaena; also considerably old

It’s definitely an interesting moment in the history of Westeros, both in and out of the universe. The Dance of the Dragons is arguably the start of the decline of House Targaryen—yes, they will continue to rule for another century and a half, but a lot of their dragons will die here, and their power has always been tied to them.

So, will House of the Dragon be just another huge disappointment? Or will all those magnificent dragons save the day? Hard to say, there’s plenty of the political intrigue we loved from the first seasons of Game of Thrones promised, and there will likely be lots of fights to keep up the splatter quota. Plus…you know…dragons. So, from dragon loving self, I’d say it’s got potential. But we’ll see when the show comes out.

(featured image: HBO)

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