Returning to Westeros after the conclusion of Game of Thrones was always going to be bittersweet, but House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 1 is a welcome change of pace.
We have so much conflict off the bat that it’s hard not to ponder who will turn against who by the season’s end, and I am so here for this ride.
Princess Rhaenyra narrating the series is a nice touch. Considering that “The Heirs of the Dragon” primarily revolves around her going from a young woman determined for a simple life to heir to the throne, it makes sense.
Rhaenyra’s tale promises to be epic, but it will be difficult to watch her thrust into these scenarios she never imagined herself being in.
The past was sexist to female descendants of the throne, and it’s hard not to think Princess Rhaenys will be royally pissed off at this development years after she was overlooked despite having the most substantial claim to it.
At the top of the premiere, Rhaenyra was riding her dragon, hoping for a future that involved her and Alicent traveling to different places and participating in the odd battle.
It sounds almost like a dream in this universe, but the journey ahead for her will not be easy.
Alicent: Did you read it?
Rhaenyra: Of course, I read it.
Alicent: When Princess Nymeria arrived in Dorne, who did she take to husband? Rhaenyra: A man.
Alicent: What was his name?
Rhaenyra: Lord Something.
Alicent: If you answer with “Lord Something,” Septa Marlow will be furious.
Rhaenyra: She’s funny when she’s furious.
Alicent: You’re always like this when you’re worried.
Rhaenyra: Like what?
Alicent: Disagreeable. You’re worried your father is about to overshadow you with a son.
Rhaenyra: I only worry for my mother. I hope for my father that he gets a son. As long as I can recall, it’s all he’s wanted.
Alicent: You want him to have a son?
Rhaenyra: I want to fly with you on dragon back see the great wonders across the Narrow Sea And eat only cake.
Alicent: I’m being serious.
Rhaenyra: I never jest about cake.
Alicent: You aren’t worried about your position?
Rhaenyra: I like this position. It’s quite comfortable.
[Alicent gets up to leave.]
Rhaenyra: Where are you going?
Alicent: Home. The hour has grown late.
Rhaenyra: Princess Nymeria led her Rhoynar across the Narrow Sea on 10,000 ships to flee their Valyrian pursuers. She took Lord Mors Martell of Dorne to husband and burned her own fleet off Sun spear to show her people that they were finished running.
Alicent: So you remember.
[Rhaenyra rips a page from the book.]
Alicent: If the Septa sees this book then…
Rhaenyra: Fuck the Septa.
There will be plenty of naysayers about her being heir to the throne, and just like in the real world, people are rarely receptive to change.
It’s possible Rhaenyra never considered having much influence because her father was so devoted to the cause of having a son to stop people talking about who would ascend the throne.
Visery’s vivid dreams about having a son certainly set him up for disaster, and watching Aemma’s death play out was difficult.
It was inevitable when you consider that this universe isn’t synonymous with happiness. There’s a struggle with everything; nothing good rarely happens to the characters.
As the first century of the Targaryen dynasty came to a close The health of the Old King, Jaehaerys, was failing. In those days, House Targaryen stood at the height of its strength with ten adult dragons under its yoke. No power in the world could stand against it. King Jaehaerys reigned over nearly 60 years of peace and prosperity but tragedy had claimed both his sons Leaving his succession in doubt. So, in the year 101 The Old King called a Great Council to choose an heir. Over a thousand lords made the journey to Harrenhal. Fourteen succession claims were heard But only two were truly considered. Princess Rhaenys Targaryen, the King’s eldest descendant and her younger cousin, Prince Viserys Targaryen The King’s eldest male descendant. It is declared by all lords paramount and lords vassal of the Seven Kingdoms That Prince Viserys Targaryen be made Prince of Dragons tone! Rhaenys, a woman, would not inherit the Iron Throne. The lords instead chose Viserys my father. Jaehaerys called the Great Council To prevent a war being fought over his succession. For he knew the cold truth. The only thing that could tear down the House of the Dragon was itself.
Viserys was understandably worried about the future battle that we saw play out on Game of Thrones, so putting his daughter on the throne seemed like the best foot forward.
Whether Rhaenyra actually ascends the throne is another story. There’s so much that could change between now and then.
There was definitely a sense of regret in Viserys’s voice when he told Rhaenyra about the looming battle and how imperative it was that a Targaryen would be on the throne when it happens.
It’s hard to tell what’s really going through his mind because he’s being pulled in so many different directions.
Alicent: Syrax is growing quickly. She’ll soon be as large as Caraxes.
Rhaenyra: That’s almost large enough to saddle two.
Alicent: I believe I’m quite content as a spectator, thank you.
Another thing to consider here is the way that message flowed from Viserys.
There has been much debate about the creative choices of the original series, with many believing Daenerys or John Snow would have helped win the battle against the Night King if either of them were on the throne.
Thinking about that makes me frustrated about how those final arcs were handled on the original series. Maybe they’ll manage to retcon it in some way in the planned Jon Snow sequel series.
It’s clear the Iron Throne isn’t exactly thrilled about Viserys’ presence on it, whatever that means.
Aemma: You know I don’t like you to go flying while I’m in this condition.
Rhaenyra: You don’t like me to go flying while you’re in any condition.
Alicent: Your Grace.
Aemma: Good morrow, Alicent.
Rhaenyra: Did you sleep?
Aemma: I slept.
Rhaenyra: How long?
Aemma: I don’t need mothering, Rhaenyra.
Rhaenyra: Well, here you are, surrounded by attendants all focused on the baby.
Aemma: Someone has to attend to you. You will lie in this bed soon enough, Rhaenyra. This discomfort is how we serve the realm.
Rhaenyra: I’d rather serve as a knight and ride to battle and glory.
Aemma: We have royal wombs, you and I. The child bed is our battlefield. We must learn to face it with a stiff lip. Now take a bath. You stink of dragon.
He’s constantly cut whenever he sits on it, and whatever it’s doing is perplexing those around him. They don’t want anyone to know, perhaps because it would be a sign of weakness.
And, considering the response to Rhaenyra being elevated to heir status, it would be just another reason for those naysayers to question his reign.
Viserys has some big decisions to make, but first, he’ll need to come to terms with whatever’s plaguing him.
Aemma’s funeral scene was beautiful and very Targaryen-like. It was hard-hitting and effective that no line of dialogue told us about the death of the baby.
There’s something else that I need to tell you. It might be difficult for you to understand but you must hear it. Our histories they tell us that Aegon looked across the Blackwater from Dragonstone. Saw a rich land ripe for the capture. But ambition alone is not what drove him to conquest. It was a dream. And just as Daenys foresaw the end of Valyria, Aegon foresaw the end of the world of men. ‘Tis to begin with a terrible winter gusting out of the distant north. Aegon saw absolute darkness riding on those winds. And whatever dwells within will destroy the world of the living. When this Great Winter comes, Rhaenyra, all of Westeros must stand against it. And if the world of men is to survive, a Targaryen must be seated on the Iron Throne. A king or queen strong enough to unite the realm against the cold and the dark. Aegon called his dream “The Song of Ice and Fire.” This secret it’s been passed from king to heir since Aegon’s time. Now you must promise to carry it and protect it. Promise me this, Rhaenyra. Promise me.
The visual of being next to its mother was striking.
The Daemon of it all brought some much-needed levity to some of the plots.
Matt Smith embodies this multi-faceted character to perfection, and while he has a sharp tongue and a mean streak, it’s clear he cares about his family.
He has a funny way of showing it sometimes and based on the first episode alone, he lashes out when people question his motives.
His desire to ascend the throne is understandable, but his reign would be a culture of fear, and it wouldn’t be fun for anyone.
He wants to make his mark. That much is clear, but stealing a dragon egg will only further earn him the ire of his peers.
His plan to restore order in King’s Landing was brutal, but perfectly on-brand for this type of character. The bigger question will be whether there will be any sort of pushback.
Alicent is a much more difficult character to read because she’s more of an observer. She takes information in, and I can only assume she’ll use it to her advantage down the line.
I, Viserys Targaryen, first of his name King of the Andals, and the Rhoynar, and the First Men Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, and Protector of the Realm do hereby name Rhaenyra Targaryen Princess of Dragons tone And heir to the Iron Throne.
Her friendship with Rhaenyra is strong, but we know she doesn’t like Rhaenyra’s nonchalant attitude about everything.
Another thing I picked up on with Alicent is the way she looks at her friend. It makes me sometimes wonder whether she’s plotting her downfall, jealous, or genuinely caring about her.
As a viewer, this type of character is terrifying, because things can change on a dime.
The dragon scenes were breathtaking. HBO must have upped the budget because everything was a spectacle.
Even the camera work made familiar locations feel different.
“The Heirs of the Dragon” took viewers back to Westeros in a blaze of glory, beginning what is sure to be an exciting new chapter in this franchise.
What did you think of Viserys’s decision?
Do you think he spent too much time trying to bring an heir into the world?
What do you think of Aemma’s demise and the subsequent funeral?
Do you think Daemon will blossom into a full-fledged villain?
Hit the comments.
House of the Dragon continues Sundays on HBO and HBO Max.
Paul Dailly is the Associate Editor for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.