Almost two months ago, House of the Dragons was all the rage on social media. It’s a prequel to Game of Thrones, a series based on a popular novel by George R.R. Martin that took people by storm a few years back. I proudly kept myself away from all discussions related to it because I was deeply disappointed with how the previous show ended. I didn’t want to follow the masses and be let down again. However, before the season finale, I gave in and changed my mind! There was a long weekend around Diwali and rainy weather prevented us from visiting some pandals so we took this opportunity to binge-watch the entire season over the weekend…
Episode 1: The Heirs of the Dragon
The story begins 175 years before Daenerys Targaryen’s birth. King Jaehaerys I Targaryen, the fourth king of Westeros after Aegon the Conqueror united the seven kingdoms, needed to choose an heir to the throne since both his sons had died. He chose his grandson Viserys over his eldest heir Princess Rhaenys. Viserys’ eldest daughter, free-spirited Princess Rhaenyra, wished only to fly on her dragon. Her friend was Lady Alicent Hightower, also the daughter of King’s Hand Ser Otto Hightower.
King and Queen were trying to conceive a male heir as successor to the Iron Throne. To celebrate Queen Aemma’s pregnancy after several miscarriages, Viserys organized a tournament. During this time in small council meetings, Master of Ships Lord Corlys Velaryon warned that Essos’ Free Cities alliance known as Triarchy threatened Westerosi shipping lanes but everyone dismissed it.
The king’s younger brother Daemon returned for the tournament with hopes of receiving successorship if there would be no one else left to challenge him (assuming queen would give birth to another girl or miscarry like previous times). However, Ser Otto reported Daemon’s brutality as the City Watch commander and king let it slide with just a warning to his brother.
On the day of the tournament, the queen went into labor. Due to medical complications, the king decided to save their child over his wife. The newborn prince Baelon lived less than a day and Ser Criston Cole won the tournament over Prince Daemon. Afterwards, Prince Daemon went to a brothel to drink and spend the night. When Ser Otto told the king about Daemon’s private celebration for “The Heir for a Day,” Viserys was outraged and banished Daemon from King’s Landing. Viserys then announced that Princess Rhaenyra would be his heir after him.
I had already heard a lot about Milly Alcock, the female actor playing Princess Rhaenyra. As an audience, we tried to connect the newly introduced characters with those we knew from Game of Thrones. While Princess Rhaenyra looked similar to Daenerys, her character and mannerisms were quite different. Alicent and Rhaenyra’s friendship was pure; Alicent was always respectful towards customs while Rhaenyra was rebellious and didn’t care about the Iron Throne. At the end of the episode, she was given a serious responsibility: to unite the seven kingdoms against their cold enemies in order to realize Aegon The Conqueror’s dream.
My favorite scene in this episode is when Daemon and Rhaenyra have a conversation after he arrives in King’s Landing. They speak to each other in high Valyrian, which makes it even more interesting!
“Everyone says Targaryens are closer to gods than to men, but they say that because of our dragons. Without them, we’re just like everyone else.”Rhaenyra Targaryen
“The idea that we control the dragons is an illusion. They’re a power man should never have trifled with. One that brought Valyria its doom. If we don’t mind our own histories, it will do the same to us.”Viserys Targaryen
Episode 2: The Rogue Prince
After being banished from King’s Landing, Daemon illegally captured Dragonstone with the help of loyal City Watch guards. Crabfeeder posed a greater danger to the kingdom and lurked around the coast. Princess Rhaenyra suggested controlling him by showing force but was ignored and sent to appoint a new Kingsguard knight. She chose Ser Criston for his battle experience over high-born candidates with better political significance.
Meanwhile, Daemon stole a dragon egg and declared himself as the true heir while announcing his decision to marry his mistress Mysaria, who was also a sex worker. Ser Otto went to retrieve the dragon egg and put an end to Daemon’s illegal possession of Dragonstone. The situation heated up as Daemon disagreed, and his dragon started intimidating Ser Otto and company.
Rhaenyra flew on her dragon Syrax to Dragonstone, made Daemon give up his claim over the Iron Throne along with the dragon egg without bloodshed. After Queen’s untimely death, King grieved for months unwilling to remarry until Ser Otto asked Alicent – Rhaenyra’s daughter -to keep him company and gain his trust.
Lord Corlys proposed that Viserys unite their Valyrian houses by marrying their twelve-year-old daughter Laena; however, King ended up marrying Alicent who was slightly older than princess Rhaenyra. Offended lord Corlys reached out to Daemon to form an alliance.
There are 3 scenes which I liked a lot in this episode.
scene #1: Rhaenyra confronted Daemon, asking him to renounce his claim to the throne. The scene and dialogue perfectly showed their unique relationship. Despite being a teenager, Rhaenyra was not a stranger to her power over the rogue prince.
“I’m right here, uncle. The object of your ire. The reason that you were disinherited. If you wish to be restored as heir, you need to kill me. So do it, and be done with all this bother.”Rhaenyra
Scene #2: Little Princess Laena was talking to the old King Viserys when he proposed marriage. Laena was curious about Vhagar, the largest living dragon, which became more relevant in a later episode.
Scene #3: Viserys announced his decision to marry Alicent. Despite not being mentally prepared to marry an old king who happened to be her beloved friend’s father, Alicent followed her father’s wishes. This marriage forever changed the destiny of two little girls and their friendship.
Episode 3: Second of His Name
Three years had passed, and Queen Alicent was pregnant with her second child by Viserys. Their first son, Aegon II, was already the talk of the town due to his extravagant birthday celebration thrown by the king which annoyed Rhaenyra. At 17 years old, Rhaenyra received many proposals from honourable houses but rejected a marriage proposal from Lord Jason Lannister of Casterly Rock. Some began doubting her claim to the throne after Aegon’s birth, yet the king reiterated his decision in choosing Rhaenyra as the rightful heir to the throne. Viserys asked Rhaenyra to marry for political alliance and lineage protection. Lord Lyonel Strong recommended Ser Laenor Velaryon, Lord Corlys’ son, for marriage to settle bad blood that arose when King Viserys chose Lady Alicent over Laena Velaryon for his second wife.
On the hunting day, she took a horse into the jungle to spend time alone. Ser Criston followed her into the jungle to ensure her safety. The two spent the night in the forest and she killed a wild boar when it attacked her. In the morning, she returned to camp.
Meanwhile, Daemon fought alongside Lord Corlys against Crabfeeder and his pirates. As they were about to lose, Vaemond Velaryon asked for help from their brother Viserys but Daemon wanted to win without any aid. He acted as bait and ambushed Triarchy warriors, killing Crabfeeder and winning the battle.
Viserys’s worsening illness was kept secret while King’s Hand Ser Otto schemed with friends to secure Aegon’s claim on the throne and further his house’s political power in Westeros.
After a three-year gap, Rhaenyra and Alicent remained somewhat friends. However, King’s marriage to Alicent had changed a lot between them. Rhaenyra missed her father after her mother’s untimely death and was anguished by how the king’s wish for a male heir took her mother’s life. Viserys knew of her misery but instead pushed Alicent to console her rather than approaching Rhaenyra himself. I pitied Alicent because of her position in the plot; she was used as a pawn by her father to extend his reach to the Iron Throne. She silently followed orders from him and got married to the king, limiting herself only to attending his needs while losing both identity and best friend before making peace with being trapped in a gilded cage.
The battle scene was pretty gross; watching Daemon beat up the king’s messenger when they were about to lose confused me at first… However, I loved all scenes with dragons especially!
Episode 4: King of the Narrow Sea
Rhaenyra met with a group of suitors from different age groups and houses, but abruptly ended her tour to return to King’s Landing. Daemon earned the title “King of the Narrow Sea” by recapturing most of the Stepstones. He returned to swear allegiance to the king and relinquish his crown. The king was pleased to have his brother at his side. Queen Alicent confessed her loneliness as queen to Rhaenyra.
Daemon: Marriage is only a political arrangement. Once you are wed, you can do as you like.
Rhaenyra: For men, marriage might be a political arrangement, for women it is like to be a death sentence.
Daemon: Would that it were, I would have been rid of my Bronze bi— ages ago.
Rhaenyra: Your wife has been fortunate. You haven’t put a child in her.
Daemon: I doubt a child could grow in such hostile environs.
Rhaenyra: My mother was made to produce heirs until it killed her. I won’t subject myself to the same fate.
Daemon: What happened to your mother was a tragedy. But this is a tragic world.
Daemon: You cannot live life in fear, or you’ll forsake the best parts of it.
Rhaenyra: I have no desire to live in fear. Only solitude.
That night, Daemon and Rhaenyra snuck out of their rooms to explore the city in disguise. After roaming around and drinking, Daemon took Rhaenyra to a brothel where they kissed and he seduced her before abruptly leaving without explanation. Confused but still in the mood, Rhaenyra returned home and had sex with her protector Criston Cole. Ser Otto learned about Daemon and Rhaenyra’s escapade and told the king while Alicent overheard but confronted Rhaenyra who denied it. The hungover Daemon admitted everything when Viserys asked him about it, requesting that he be allowed to marry Rhaenyra. Furious at this point, the king exiled his brother to Vale. Shortly after that, he ordered Princess Rhaenyra to marry Ser Laenor instead. Despite his father’s spies’ efforts, Alicent trusted her friend throughout all of this drama until King finally realized how smoothly she had been placed there right after his first wife’s death – leading him to fire Otto from his position as Hand of the King.
Daemon and Rhaenyra’s affair makes me question my sense of morality, but Game of Thrones already did that with Jon and Daenerys. The actors have natural chemistry, but it’s hard to ship an uncle-niece pair. However, what surprised me more was seeing Rhaenyra tricking Ser Criston into her bed on the same night she was with Daemon. It wasn’t because it was him specifically, but rather how quickly she learned and applied the lessons taught by Daemon.
Daemon always confuses me. Was he leading Rhaenyra on for revenge against his brother or because he wanted the iron throne for himself? Or did he actually have feelings for her? Even after watching the whole season, I couldn’t make sense of this sequence or why he left in the middle.
As usual, Alicent was still a pure soul in this twisted world. She naturally supported Rhaenyra’s claim to the throne over her son Aegon II. However, she didn’t oppose much when her father used her to manipulate the king daily. She considered Rhaenyra lucky as a girl for having been given the option to choose her consort while she couldn’t even question her father’s choice. Although displeased with her father’s loss of position, she stayed calm as usual.
Episode 5: We Light the Way
Ser Otto warned Alicent that one day Rhaenyra would threaten her children because of the iron throne. He left King’s Landing. As Laenor was gay, he and Rhaenya agreed to perform their duties without interfering with each other’s affairs. Criston Cole broke his oath by sleeping with Rhaenyra and proposed eloping to Essos to start fresh. However, Rhaenyra rejected his offer and wished to continue their affair after marriage, which displeased Criston. Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen and Ser Laenor Velaryon were betrothed to unite the two houses. Daemon killed Lady Rhea Royce before surprising everyone at the engagement ceremony for Rhaenyra.
Daemon: Is this what you want?
Rhaenyra: I wasn’t aware that what I wanted mattered to you.
Daemon: This is not for you. Laenor is a good man and a fine knight. He will bore you senseless.
Rhaenyra: Marriage is only a political arrangement I hear.
Daemon: Mine was recently dissolved.
Rhaenyra: So take me then. Has this not been your purpose? I am not yet married but the hours pass swiftly. You are surely armed. Cut through my father’s kingsguard. Take me to Dragonstone and make me your wife.
Daemon appeared to be slightly jealous of all the arrangements, while Rhaenyra asked him one final time to marry her. Daemon was also accused by his late wife’s cousin of treacherous murder, but he dismissed him and expressed his desire to inherit her lands. Alicent donned a stunning green gown and arrived very late at the engagement ceremony, interrupting the King’s toast. She remained cold and detached for the rest of the night. When Criston was questioned about Rhaenyra’s relationship with Daemon, he confessed his own affair with the princess to the Queen. Ser Criston was already on edge due to Rhaenyra’s situation. After being repeatedly teased by Laenor’s love interest, he killed him in a bloody fight right in front of everyone at the party. That night he tried to end his life as well; Alicent arrived just in time to stop him. Meanwhile, Rhaenyra and Laenor hastily got married with few witnesses when suddenly King collapsed during their vows.
This episode was more chaotic than previous ones. Daemon’s dark side was particularly prominent, while Rhaenyra improved her negotiation skills to balance personal happiness with her duties to the realm. In contrast, Alicent shed her innocent persona and strengthened the Hightower base when the Targaryens and Velaryons weren’t watching. Ser Criston’s feelings towards Rhaenyra changed dramatically after she rejected him – this was just the beginning.
Check out the breakdown of episode 6-10 here.