“The Gods are yet to make a man who lacks the patience for absolute power.”Otto Hightower
The much-awaited Game of Thrones spin-off, House of the Dragon, finally premiered on HBO Max and very much lived up to the humongous expectations set by its predecessor. The first episode sets the base for major power politics, the issue of succession, and also questions the role of gender in choosing an heir.
House of the Dragon is a spin-off of the popular fantasy series, Game of Thrones, and is loosely based on Fire and Blood by George R.R Martin, who is also the author of A Song of Ice and Fire series. The prequel show is set 172 years before the birth of Daenerys Targaryen and the events of Game of Thrones.
House of the Dragon focuses on the Targaryen dynasty and the events that led to the civil war that destroyed their house, commonly called The Dance of the Dragons. The first episode of season 1 premiered on HBO Max and managed to live up to our expectations.
The episode begins with Jaeherys Targaryen choosing his son, Viserys I Targaryen, as the heir to his throne over his daughter, Rhaenys Targaryen, as the Iron Throne has never had a woman sitting on it.
Viserys rules over the Seven Kingdoms for 7 years, but he remains without a male heir. The episode introduces us to Viserys’ only daughter, Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, who gives major Daenerys Targaryen vibes. Rhaenyra does not seem particularly interested in sitting on the throne yet but seems disturbed by her father’s obsession with a male heir.
In the beginning, Viserys’ Queen, Aemma, is pregnant, and we learn that she has had five unsuccessful pregnancies already, apart from Rhaenyra. But Viserys is confident that this time his Queen will give birth to a boy.
Viserys organizes a tournament to celebrate the birth of his newborn. The tournament is reminiscent of Game of Thrones and its popular duels and will give you a boost of nostalgia if you’re a fan.
As the tournament continues, Viserys receives news of his Queen’s pregnancy growing more complicated. The Maester asks Viserys to make a crucial decision – to choose between his wife or his unborn child. The child can be saved, but the King must sacrifice his wife in that case.
As expected, Viserys chose to sacrifice his wife for his unborn child. To his relief, the child turns out to be male. But his happiness is short-lived, as the child does not survive for more than a few hours.
The episode also introduces us to another major character, Prince Daemon Targaryen, brother to Viserys Targaryen and uncle to Princess Rhaenyra. Rhaenyra welcomes her uncle into the Red Keep, where we see him sitting on his brother’s Iron Throne.
Daemon’s introduction scene clearly hints at the role he will be playing in the series and establishes his dark and dicey personality. He gifts Rhaenyra a necklace made of Valyrian steel and seems to be pretty fond of his niece. This fondness will play a major role in the series if we go by the books.
The death of the Queen and his newborn heir leaves Viserys Targaryen in a dilemma to name his heir, and he receives all kinds of advice from his court. Though a majority of the King’s court is apprehensive of Daemon Targaryen being declared the heir, they are also not eager to have a female heir to the throne.
Viserys is now left with three choices for naming his heir- Rhaenyra, Daemon, or Rhaenys, his sister who lost the throne to him. Though Viserys remains confused and disturbed at first, it becomes an easy choice for him when he learns about Daemon’s celebration of the death of his wife and child.
He questions Daemon in court about calling his newborn “An Heir for a Day” and asks him to return to Runestone to his wife, ruling him out as his heir. He decides to name Princess Rhaenyra as his heir instead, going against the advice of his subjects.
In a powerful scene, Viserys passes down the generational secret of Aegon the Conqueror to his daughter, describing to her the impending doom of mankind with the advent of winter or the white walkers. Who’s going to tell them winter came and went all in a day?
The episode ends with Viserys Targaryen naming Princess Rhaenyra as his heir and all the lords of the Seven Kingdoms swearing to respect his decision. Though knowing the GOT universe, no one respects anything. It is just the beginning.
The premiere episode was brilliantly written and executed and managed to lay down the base for some stellar succession politics. In Game of Thrones, we saw the various houses of Westeros battle for the Iron Throne. In House of the Dragons, the Targaryens themselves will be fighting each other for the throne.
The episode introduces most of the people who would stand in Rhaenyra’s way to the Iron Throne, such as Daemon Targaryen and Rhaenys Targaryen. She will surely have more standing against her, which we can expect to see in further episodes.
Two other significant moments from the episode are Viserys’ unhealing wound and Alicent Hightower being sent to Viserys’ chambers to ‘comfort’ him.
Viserys is shown to have an unhealing wound in his back, which seems to be expanding itself. While he himself thinks it is simply an injury resulting from sitting on the Iron Throne, the Maester seemed worried.
Alicent Hightower is the daughter of Otto Hightower, the Hand of the King and a close confidante of Princess Rhaenyra. After the Queen’s death, her father sends her to King Viserys’ chambers to ‘comfort’ him.
These small moments are significant as it hints at how the story will proceed in subsequent episodes and also tells us what to expect next.
All in all, the House of the Dragon premiere was a brilliant watch and reminded me of the Game of Thrones premiere to a great extent. The show seems to be equally promising as of now, but subsequent episodes will further reveal if the show will be able to live up to the standards of Game of Thrones.
When the episode ended with Ramin Djawadi’s signature Game of Thrones theme song, one can’t help but feel nostalgic and expect the series to keep up the good work.
New episodes of House of the Dragon premiere every Sunday on HBO Max.
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.