Eve Best as Rhaenys Targaryen hugs her dragon Meleys in House of The Dragon season 2

For Targaryens, Their Greatest Power Will Always Be Their Biggest Tragedy Too

There’s some cruel humor in the fact that fans have been clamoring for war in House of The Dragon, only to finally get one in season 2 episode 4 and lose one of the best, most loved characters of the show by the end of it. 

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Now imagine how that would feel if you were a Targaryen yourself. Imagine there’s war at your doorstep, and your only option is to send forth your two strongest weapons—a family member you love along with your beloved and pampered pet. And FYI, no guarantee that they survive this.

It is said that the Targayens are closer to Gods than to men. And their bonding with dragons is an inexplicable magic the secrets of which have long been lost in the Doom of Valyria. But unlike the unbounded nature of Gods, dragons and dragon riders, like fossil fuels, are a limited resource on the planet. And the moment there’s a war, the house is at risk of losing one or all of its power sources, with no guarantee that more eggs will hatch dragons.

As we see in HOTD, the dragons that Rhaenyra sends for safekeeping with Rhaena Targaryen are the same dragons that Daenerys receives as a wedding present. They don’t hatch for years. In fact, a few years after the end of the Targaryen civil war, the Dance of Dragons, the last dragon in Westeros dies and one is not seen again until Dany flies in with Drogon and Rhaegal. Dany is also the last of the Targaryens alive by the time she arrives in Westeros (or so we’re told then). And she is constantly reminded that without her dragons, she won’t have the power to claim what she believes is her birthright.

So who are the Targaryens without their dragons, then? They’re only human.

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen cries when Viserion the dragon is killed by the Night King on Game of Thrones

Like humans, they too have their weaknesses. They love, not just humans, but also their dragons. In Game of Thrones, we see the grief that Daenerys plunges into when her dragon Viserion is felled by the Night King. In the latest episode of House of The Dragon, we see the bond between Rhaenys and her dragon Meleys, who’ve both weathered several storms together. And we see the playful friendship between King Aegon II and his dragon, Sunfyre, as he nudges him and makes Aegon smile right before they set out for war.

So come battle, when a Targaryen must dispatch its greatest weapon to war, they must also dispatch one of their own to steer it. A Targaryen needs a dragon to win. A dragon needs a Targaryen riding it to do what it does best. And if the dragon is felled, the rider most likely is lost too.

And thus, the greatest weapon of the Targaryens—the dragons—will also be their biggest weakness and tragedy, for they love their dragons, and their dragon riders are usually their own loved ones. No wonder Rhaenyra, who already lost her second son Lucerys to a dragon attack, refused to let her eldest, Jaecaerys, fly into battle on his dragon. Yes, she needs the dragons to be there as a show of her strength, but that would also mean sending members of her family to their possible deaths.

Similarly, Sunfyre and Vhagar are both fierce dragons. But for Alicent, sending her sons to war on their dragons would mean losing two children. It is for this reason that both queens on either side of the water are hesitant to begin the war. Most royal families can choose to let their armies fight their wars for them. Cersei Lannister had two sons who were kings who reigned during wars, but not one of them died on the battlefield.

Ewan Mitchell as Prince Aemond Targrayen riding Vhagar the dragon in House of the Dragon season 2

But Targaryens have only ever fought with dragons and armies. The only way to defeat another opponent on a dragon is to kill. So heavy casualties in their family tree are inevitable.

What happens at the end of episode 4, at the battle of Rook’s Rest, and the fallout from it is proof of this. Rhaenyra decided to send forth a dragon to show her strength, and in the process, lost one of the strongest, bravest supporters on her side, Princess Rhaenys, and the biggest dragon on her team, Meleys. A huge loss that might deal a major blow to House Velaryon’s support for the Blacks’ cause, because Lord Corlys loved his wife a lot.

As more battles take place in House of The Dragon with each episode, main characters and dragons are going to start dropping like flies. Wars are going to be won, but at what cost? At great personal cost! 

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Jinal Bhatt
Jinal Bhatt (She/Her) is a staff writer for The Mary Sue. An editor, writer, film and culture critic with 7+ years of experience, she writes primarily about entertainment, pop culture trends, and women in film, but she’s got range. Jinal is the former Associate Editor for Hauterrfly, and Senior Features Writer for Mashable India. When not working, she’s fangirling over her favourite films and shows, gushing over fictional men, cruising through her neverending watchlist, trying to finish that book on her bedside, and fighting relentless urges to rewatch Supernatural.