Milly Alcock in House of the Dragon (2022)

Here’s What ‘House of the Dragon,’ the GOT Prequel, Is About

Getting ready for some fire and blood.

*** Spoilers from the A Song of Ice and Fire books for what could be the entire plot of House of the Dragon. Proceed with caution. ***

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The premiere of House of the Dragon is finally upon us. The first episode of Game of Thrones’s spin-off show will air on HBO on August 21, and even though it was announced in the immediate aftermath of GOT’s disastrous final season, it actually might have some good legs to stand on!

The trailer for the Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon on HBO Max showed what looks like a detailed and well-crafted production design, similar enough to Game of Thrones to not feel completely alien and still different enough so that we know that we’re in a whole other moment of Westerosi history. 

The CGI also seems at the top of its game—something that it has to be, considering the sheer amount of dragons that we’ll be seeing when (compared to the “mere” three we have come to know in Game of Thrones).

What might truly set House of the Dragon apart, though, and save it from a Game of Thrones-esque destiny, is the fact that this is a story that has a very definitive start, middle, and ending. The final seasons of GOT were left without solid and detailed source material—what with The Winds of Winter being stored in George R.R. Martin’s WIP folder for the past decade— which meant that creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were left to rely on bullet points (and their general disinterest of themes and cohesive storytelling) to craft the script for Seasons 6 through 8.

The plot of House of the Dragons, however, has already been written— it’s been referenced several times throughout the A Song of Ice and Fire books and detailed in the companion works that George R.R. Martin has published, the worldbuilding guide The World of Ice and Fire and the chronicle of the three centuries of Targaryen rule, Fire and Blood.

That means that the major story beats have already been planned and developed by the author—which would suggest that the show’s creators only have to faithfully follow it to put together something equal parts entertaining and satisfying.

House of the Dragon acts as a prequel to Game of Thrones—and not even a direct one since everything that we will see happen is set way before the starts of the events of GOT’s first season. So let’s do a quick recap to know where we stand story-wise and what exactly is going to go down in House of the Dragon.

The Game of Thrones Prequel House of the Dragon Explained

The story is set some one hundred and fifty years before Robert Baratheon goes to Winterfell to ask Ned Stark to be his new Hand of the King. At this time, the Targaryens are still the royal dynasty on the Iron Throne, and their dragons—alive and well—ensure that they remain in power. 

Everything seems well in the Realm, what with the reign of what is widely considered the best Targaryen King to ever rule the Seven Kingdoms—Six at the time, technically, since Dorne was still independent—Jaehaerys I, being still fresh in people’s memory. That is, of course, until the Iron Throne becomes open for the taking.

house of the dragon is womans war
Like another queen famously said, “when you play the game of thrones you win or you die” (HBO)

What is House of the Dragon About?

It all starts with Jaehaerys’s son and the current King, Viserys I, who will be played by Paddy Considine in House of the Dragon. From his first wife, Aemma Arryn, he has only one living daughter—Rhaenyra Targaryen, known as the Realm’s Delight. She will be played by two actresses in the show—Milly Alcock, who we’ll probably see in the first episodes of House of the Dragon since she portrays Rhaenyra as a young girl, and then Emma D’Arcy, who will be Rhaenyra in the thick of the struggles for the throne.

Back to the King—after Aemma’s death, Viserys I was persuaded by his Hand, Ser Otto Hightower (who will have the face of Rhys Ifans), to marry his young daughter, Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke). Rhaenyra and Alicent start out as the best of friends, but things get complicated when Alicent gives birth to four new Targaryen children, including three boys—Aegon, Helaena, Aemond and Daeron. 

Milly Alcock and Emily Carey in House of the Dragon (2022)
Rhaenyra and Alicent as young girls, before the matter of the succession opened up (HBO)

The Dance

That’s why things get thrown up in the air when Viserys dies and the Kingdoms get basically split in half—on the one side are Rhaenyra’s supporters, who believe she should ascend the Iron Throne as the previous ruler’s eldest child; on the other is the faction led by the Dowager Queen Alicent, who champions her son, Aegon’s, right to the crown as the first male heir. 

So even though Rhaenyra and Alicent started out as friends, they end up becoming mortal enemies, the leading forces in this war for succession that will become known as the Dance of the Dragons. They even have one distinctive color each, stemming from the gowns they chose to wear during a tournament— “the blacks” was the name by which Princess Rhaenyra’s party came to be known, while Queen Alicent led “the greens.”

But why Dance of the Dragons? Because pretty much every Targaryen you’ll see on the screen comes equipped with a fully-grown and fight-ready dragon, which they’ll definitely use to battle each other in the skies.

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
Dragons are the thing I’m most hyped about, ngl (HBO)

In fact, the Dance of the Dragons is what could potentially be marked as the start of the Targaryen decline that would bring to them to almost being totally wiped out during Robert’s Rebellion—and it’s because so many dragons and so many pure-blooded Targaryens end up being killed in the struggle for the Iron Throne.

Two more dragon knights

I won’t tell you how the actual Dance ends and who wins the crown, but there are two more main players that definitely need to be mentioned.

The first is Daemon Targaryen, played by Matt Smith in House of the Dragon—King Viserys’s brother and the most fearsome warrior of his time. Daemon has always been hungry for the crown and will stop at nothing to get more power. He had a tumultuous life that had him banned from his brother’s court, and he will side with Rhaenyra during the Dance—quite obviously so since by that time she was his wife.

The second is Rhaenys Targaryen, known as the Queen Who Never Was in Westerosi history and is played by Eve Best in the show. The cousin of both Viserys and Daemon, at the time of the Dance she has been wed for a long time to Corlys Velaryon of Driftmark (Steve Toussaint), one of the most powerful lords of the Kingdoms. Rhaenys is a proficient dragon knight who will also side with Rhaenyra during the Dance—maybe because she herself was supposed to be queen and was denied the crown because she was a woman.

I’d say that now we’re all caught up and ready to see if House of the Dragon will deliver on its honestly pretty good premise. See you all on the other side of the pilot episode!

(via: AWOIAF; image: HBO)

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Benedetta Geddo
Benedetta (she/her) lives in Italy and has been writing about pop culture and entertainment since 2015. She has considered being in fandom a defining character trait since she was in middle school and wasn't old enough to read the fanfiction she was definitely reading and loves dragons, complex magic systems, unhinged female characters, tragic villains and good queer representation. You’ll find her covering everything genre fiction, especially if it’s fantasy-adjacent and even more especially if it’s about ASOIAF. In this Bangtan Sonyeondan sh*t for life.