The Dance of the Dragons is a sorrowful affair that resulted in immense bloodshed and the near-extinction of dragons. Sadly, the war also served as a “lesson” to other Targaryen kings to never name a female heir.
In its nine episodes, House of the Dragon has explained all the factors that led to the Targaryen civil war. Now let’s look into whether or not this war could’ve been avoided.
The top two solutions for avoiding the Dance of the Dragons were: Viserys shouldn’t remarry to have more children, and second, Viserys should’ve married Laena Velaryon, while Rhaenyra married Laenor Velaryon.
To start off with, Rhaenyra’s situation isn’t the first one that created grounds for a Targaryen civil war. Rhaenys and Viserys were in a similar situation as well, and later down the line too, a few Targaryen heirs would fight for the throne.
The difference is that for Rhaenyra’s claim, there were a lot of forces at play that resulted in two strong sides who refused to back down.
So, could the war ever have been avoided? Along with exploring the hypothetical situations mentioned above, let’s look into some other alternatives as well.
1. Scenario 1: Viserys Doesn’t Remarry
The best solution to everyone’s woes would be for Viserys to abstain from remarrying or siring any more heirs. While he has now proved that he loved Rhaenyra beyond measure, his marriage was a political folly that jeopardize her stance.
Viserys should’ve realized that having any more children (that too, male) would inevitably result in creating an opponent for Rhaenyra.
In light of his failing health, Viserys could’ve also “retired” early and made Rhaenyra the Queen regent. If she was already on the throne when he was alive and of sound mind, it would’ve made it impossible for Aegon II to usurp her position.
2. Scenario 2: Alicent Supports Rhaenyra’s Claim Unconditionally
Now let’s say Viserys followed his heart and got married to Alicent, as he did in HOTD. Would there still have been a chance to stave off the civil war?
The answer is yes, but this would require more emotional maneuvering than political. When Viserys and Alicent tied the knot, Rhaenyra felt betrayed by both her father and her childhood friend. This marriage drove a chasm between both those relationships.
However, there’s a chance that if both the relations were mended, and Rhaenyra kept up with her expected roles/duties (like not sneaking around with a King’s Guard or her uncle), Alicent would’ve wholeheartedly continued supporting her as Queen.
This is depicted in Ep 8 as well when Alicent accepts Rhaenyra as Queen once again. Matters only got muddled when she later misinterpreted Viserys’ unsound mutterings as his dying wish to make Aegon II the king.
3. Scenario 3: Viserys Marries Laena + Rhaenyra Marries Laenor
That image of young Laena walking with Viserys in the garden is enough to make us sick. But sadly, it would’ve been a fitting remedy for the Dance of the Dragons.
Alicent and the Green Council would be out of the picture once and for all.
It is possible that the Velaryons, too, would want their blood on the throne, but they would be pacified if Viserys promised to have Rhaenyra marry Laenor. This would result in an extremely strong alliance where Rhaenyra’s claim to the throne wouldn’t end in a civil war.
4. Scenario 4: Rhaenyra and Aegon II Get Married
Yes, this is just as bad as Viserys marrying Laena but in the world of Game of Thrones where “strange” customs thrive, this could’ve been a saving grace. Marriage between siblings has been used as a solution several times to keep the Targaryen bloodline pure and settle disputes.
Rhaenyra and Aegon II getting married would’ve reunited both their claims to the throne. They could’ve been either given equal ruling powers, or Aegon II could’ve been made King consort given his disinterest in governing the realm.
There’s nothing to say that Otto or Alicent could still find the situation unfavorable and try to get the throne solely for Aegon. But even in this case, it might not result in a full-blown civil war.
5. Scenario 5: Jacaerys Marries Helaena
In the show, Rhaenyra proposes to have Jacaerys marry Helaena as it would once again unite their bloodlines and make Alicent’s daughter a queen. She even offered Aemond a dragon egg as part of the offer.
However, Alicent refused the offer because she was disgusted by Rhaenyra’s ulterior motives, i.e., marrying off her bastard children to royalty and denying Aegon II the throne. Had Alicent accepted the offer, it would’ve eased any future conflicts.
Plus, the two looked so happy together dancing in HOTD Ep 8! I have a feeling that Halaena would’ve much preferred Jace to Aegon, especially because he is someone who’d treat her well.
6. Scenario 6: Otto Hightower Isn’t Made Hand
It is obvious that Rhaenyra’s claim to the throne would always be contested. However, making a unified attack against her would require a ringleader—and Otto Hightower is that ringleader.
Otto is an opportunist. He recognized that he could easily gain power by exploiting the fact that there hasn’t been a precedent for a female heir gaining the throne. He was aware of the prejudice Rhaenyra would face and thus ordered his own daughter to seduce the King.
However, if Otto never had access to the court, he wouldn’t be able to secretly organize a Green council, nor get Alicent married to Viserys.
Otto was the mastermind orchestrating Rhaenyra’s downfall, and taking out the key player could’ve definitely helped avoid the Dance of the Dragons.
7. Scenario 7: Rhaenyra Gives up the Iron Throne
When Viserys is on his deathbed, clouded by the Milk of Poppy, Rhaenyra confesses that she no longer knows if she wants to be Queen. It’s quite understandable that she’s exhausted with all the opposition been thrown her way—something a male heir would never face.
If we keep all the pieces of the story in place as it is in HOTD Ep 9, then the only way to avoid a war is if Rhaenyra bends the knee. This would at least spare both parties and the kingdom a lot of bloodshed.
It is also possible that Alicent would be able to persuade both Otto and Aegon to simply exile Rhaenyra, rather than kill her.
Still, there is no guarantee of safety in this move, nor does Rhaenyra want to let go of the throne that is rightfully hers. So, we must now waltz into the Dance of the Dragons that will begin in House of the Dragon S1’s finale.
8. About House Of The Dragon
House of the Dragon is the prequel series to HBO’s blockbuster Game of Thrones based on George R. R. Martin’s book Fire & Blood.
Set three hundred years before the events of Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon will show Westeros under the Targaryen family’s rule before the dragons went extinct. It will follow the Dance of the Dragons, the Targaryen civil war between siblings Aegon II and Rhaenyra, who fought for the throne after the death of their father, Viserys I.
Directed by Ryan Condall and Miguel Sapochnik, the show stars Paddy Considine as Viserys I Targaryen, Emma D’Arcy as Rhaenyra Targaryen, Olivia Cooke as Alicent Hightower, Matt Smith as Daemon Targaryen, Tom Glynn-Craney as Aegon II Targaryen, Rhys Ifans as Otto Hightower, Steve Toussaint as Corlys Velaryon, Eve Best as Rhaenys Velaryon, Sonoya Mizuno as Mysaria, Fabien Frankel as Criston Cole, and Graham McTavish.