Image Credit: HBO/Warner Media

By Joshua McCormack

June 16th will usher in a second tranche of the decades-spanning chronicle of treachery, murder, affairs, court intrigue, ringing swords, roaring dragons and rivers of blood, HBO’s House of the Dragon. Season 1 was … expansive, to say the least; characters that swapped actors as the years marched on, ever-branching family trees, an endless accumulation of grudges, twisted alliances and reversals of fortune. A nightmare to track, and indeed, remember – this from someone who’s read the book – especially over two years since the first season debuted. Hence, the following crash course in all things Season 1.

Episode 1:

King Jaehaerys, after a plague of misfortunes wipes out all his direct heirs, calls a Great

Council to decide his succession. Two contenders; Princess Rhaenys and Prince Viserys.

Rhaenys has the better claim, but alas, the patriarchal society passes her over in favour of

Viserys. Flash forward fifteen years or so, and we are introduced to Princess Rhaenrya,

Viserys’ firstborn; his wife, Emma, great with child; and his firebrand of a brother, Daemon.

Daemon is Viserys official heir, but the birth of Viserys’ son changes that … for a day. Emma dies in childbirth; Viserys’ desperation for an heir brought about her death, and his son lived only for a day. Daemon is somewhat delighted with this state of affairs, and toasts the ‘heir for a day!’ His brothers gets wind of this and exiles him, naming Princess Rhaenyra in his place.

Viserys Hand of the King, Otto Hightower isn’t exactly thrilled by this development, but contents himself with a long-game scheme; farming his teenage daughter off to the bereaved King.

Episode 2:

Princess Rhaenryra chooses her Swornshield – knight protector – Cristin Cole. Some longing looks between the two that totally won’t be relevant later. Meanwhile, the Velaryons – the dragon-riding, sea-faring second-fiddle house of Westeros, move in on the bereaved King.

Corlys Velaron and his wife, Rhaenys – the queen the realm passed over – propose a marriage between Viserys and their child-daughter, wedding the realm’s strongest houses in blood, and securing the succession against the … gasp, horrifying possibility of a woman in charge. Viserys, the epitome of honour draws the line at a child-bride, and instead weds Rhaenyra’s best friend, Alicent – her father Otto Hightower is the happiest you’ll see him this series.

Also, there was a whole thing with Daemon stealing a dragon egg and being pouty on Dragonstone, then giving the egg back … nothing of lasting importance.

But never fear Rhaenyra fans; her succession is still secure … for now.

Episode 3:

War in the Stepstones! An archipelago south of Westeros which sits athwart an important trade route, seized by a pirate king, the Crabfeeder. Hungry for glory, Daemon has abandoned his moping to make war on the usurper with the Velaryons – Corlys, Vaemond, and Laenor. Surprise, team Daemon wins just before his well-meaning brother Viserys can steal the W by sending him aid … the audacity.

Alicent now has a three year old son by Viserys, Aegon, and another is on the way. Her father, meanwhile, urges her to badger Viserys into naming Aegon as heir. Alicent rebuffs his efforts.

And, last but not least, we are introduced to a swivel-eyed man with a clubbed foot and a Tarantino-esque obsession with feet. More on him later.

Episode 4:

Rhaenrya is paraded on a tour for would-be suitors. Frustrated by the endless river of greybeards and young boys that seek her hand she abandons the tour, much to Viserys displeasure.

Fresh from his victory in the Stepstones, Daemon struts into the throne room wearing a Driftwood Crown and looking mightily pleased with himself. Tension, then he kneels, surrenders his crown and the brothers embrace. A family reconciled … for all of five minutes.

Daemon takes Rhaenyra out on a tour of the town and – keep in mind Targaryens and their liberal views on incest – half-sleeps with her, then disappears. Sexually awakened, Rhaenrya returns to the Red Keep and beds Ser Criston Cole, her sworn shield.

Otto Hightower receives word of the adulterous affair between nephew and niece, and informs the King. Alicent overhears this and interrogates Rhaenrya who denies anything happened … big lie. Viserys confronts Daemon who, grinning, admits everything and pitches a marriage between himself and his niece.

Viserys is not amused, and exiles him … again.

There follows a tense exchange between father and daughter. Rhaenrya lies again, and, sensing Otto’s Hightowers desire to place his grandson Aegon on the throne, has him removed as Hand of the King. In exchange, Rhaenrya is to wed Ser Laenor Velaryon.

And on a final, ominous note, the King is increasingly ill.

Episode 5:

Rhaenrya and Laenor have a private meeting where they both discuss their different tastes; he in men, and she in off-limits swordsmen. Both agree to a stable marriage, children for the realm and so forth, with neither infringing on the other’s private desires.

Returning to King’s Landing, Criston Cole asks Rhaenrya to run away with him, abandon her inheritance, and voyage with him across the world. It’s a hard no from the princess, but she still says they can see each other during her reign. Pissed about being considered nothing more than her paramour, Cole stalks off.

Back at King’s Landing, Larys ‘Clubfoot’ returns and informs Alicent that Rhaenrya was delivered an anti-pregnancy potion the night where nothing happened between her and Daemon. Alicent also discovers that Cristone Cole slept with Rhaenrya. Alicent realises that there is truth to what her father said: Rhaenrya’s word can’t be trusted, she could pose a danger to her children in the event of a succession. She must stand against her friend.

The wedding begins. Lots of glares between various parties. Poor Viserys interrupted several times. But the worst loser of the evening goes to Rhaenryra’s husband, Laenor, whose lover, Joffrey Lonmouth is beaten to death by Cristone Cole. Lonmouth had discerned his relationship with the princess and made the mistake of taunting Criston about it, blackmail style.

Vows disgraced, the episode ends with Criston drawing his blade to commit sepukai, but Alicent stops him.

Episode 6:

Skip forward a decade or so; Rhaenrya and Alicent have aged into different actors, and most of the story’s main players have children. Alicent has three, Daemon two, and Rhaenrya three, all old enough to play at swordfighting, all old enough to fight each other, and all the legitimate fruit of legal unions between husband and wife … oh, wait.

Rhaenrya’s children are not her husband, Laenor’s, but that of the Captain of the City Watch, and son of one of Viserys’ new Hand of the King, Harwin Strong.

This is the worst kept secret in King’s Landing. Only the King refuses to see the truth of the boy’s parentage. Try as she might, Alicent cannot convince Viserys that they are not legitimate – such an admission would secure her own son’s succession.

In the sword yard, the King’s grandsons – legitimate and not – undergo instruction at the hands of the heavily biased Criston Cole, now Rhaenrya’s sworn enemy. Harwin Strong arrives, and Cole alludes to what everyone knows resulting in a fight which sees Strong stripped of his rank

Tension boiling over, Rhaenrya attempts a truce by offering to wed her firstborn Jacaerys to Alicent’s daughter Helaena. Alicent rejects this proposal. The disgraced Harwin bids farewell to Rhaenyra and her boys, and returns to Harrenhal, his family seat, with his father, Ser Lionel Strong, Hand of the King – keep in mind, he replaced Alicent’s father Otto.

Interlude, Daemon has two children, he is chilling in the far east, having abandoned adventure for a quasi-simple life. His wife is pregnant, it doesn’t go well and she dies. Poor Daemon.

In King’s Landing, Alicent despairing of Viserys wilful ignorance and wishes her father were still Hand. Larys Clubfoot takes this remark and runs it all the way to a murderous scheme which sees both Strongs, father and son, burned alive in Harrenhal … an accident.

Episode Seven:

The whole cast gathers for the funeral of Laena Velaryon, Daemon’s wife and the sister of Laenor. Otto, smug as ever, is returned as Hand of the King. Viserys is increasingly ill-looking. Rhaenrya and Daemon bond over their mutual loss, then bond over a distinct lack of clothing, looks like this funeral could spring into a wedding. If Rhaenrya weren’t married that is.

Meanwhile, the kids are up to some shenanigans. Aemond, Alicent’s second son, always ribbed by Aegon for not having a dragon, steals Laena’s riderless dragon, Vhagar, the largest in the world and takes it for a joyride around Driftmark. Landing, he meets his cousins, insults are thrown, accusations levelled – the word bastard is thrown out – and before you know it, Rhaenrya’s second son Lucerys has drawn a knife and slashed Aemond’s eye.

The king presides over a tense investigation of the incident, Daemon smirking in the corner at the unfolding disaster. Alicent demands an eye for an eye, is refused by her husband, then snatches a dagger and runs for the offending child. Rhaenrya blocks her and gets slashed in the process, across the arm. Nothing fatal, but oh so ominous.

After this, Rhaenrya and Daemon agree to align themselves against Alicent’s faction, the Greens with a wedding, and Laenor is kind enough to oblige this union by faking his death and sailing away, and out of this season.

Episode 8:

Succession is the festering wound from which all of this episode’s corruption spread, but for once it’s not the Iron Throne in the hot seat, but that of the Velaryon’s seat, Driftmark. Corlys, injured after another fight in the perennial battleground of the Stepstones, hovers between life and death. There is a chance that his seat will now pass through his – apparently – deceased son Laenor to his – not – son Lucerys, Rhaenrya’s second son. Corly’s brother, Vaemond isn’t happy with this as Lucerys is actually a Strong and not a Velaryon and it will mean the end of the family line.

To King’s landing, to secure the claim for himself. With the hawks circling around Luke’s succession, Rhaenyra, Daemon and family return to King’s landing where her father Viserys is so ill he’s been given a permanent subscription to Milk of the Poppy/Opium. Act of care or a political scheme, you decide. In any case, the greens are in control and Otto presides as Hand, and Alicent is in de-facto control.

Rhaenyra entreats her father to pull himself out of his drug-addled funk and help her son, if he still wants her to be his heir. In the throne room, with Otto looking smug atop the Iron Throne, Vaemond makes it clear that if Alicent chooses him to succeed Driftmark he and Driftmark’s considerable military might will stand at her disposal, should, say, a civil war erupt.

But then, the doors creak open, and Viserys arrives. Of the drugs and wincing from the pain, he takes the throne and reaffirms Luke’s inheritance. Vaemond screams his fury, and declares Rhaenryra’s children bastards. Daemon knocks his head off.

Onto a tense family dinner, Viserys begs everyone in the family he “loves so dearly,” to get along. It seems to work; Rhaenrya and Alicent bury the hatchet, with Alicent declaring that Rhaenrya will make a great queen. Polite and friendly chatter ensues, but then the King’s injuries prove too much and he retires. Things sour from there, especially between the children. More bastardy remarks.

Later, Alicent retires, and her drug-addled husband mutters about Aegon, the original one, not her son, but Alicent mistakenly interprets this as him endorsing her son as ruler.

The episode ends with Viserys’ death.


Episode 9:

Overall there’s not too much to be said for this chapter. Alicent secures power in King’s landing. Aegon, a somewhat unwilling King is dragged into the throne, but then seems to warm to it. Princess Rhaenys, the queen-who-never-was is imprisoned, then escapes with one of Rhaenrya’s allies, and the realm looks set for war. No Daemon or Rhaenyra in this episode.

Episode 10:

And for our final spin of the dice!

Princess Rhaenys arrives on Dragonstone and warns Rhaenrya of the Green’s treachery. Daemon flies into a rage and begins preparations for war, and Rhaenrya, heavily pregnant with her and Daemon’s third child, goes into labour and suffers a miscarriage. One of the kingsguard, now a split faction, presents her with Viserys’s crown – her brother Aegon wears that of his namesake, Aegon the Conqueror.

Otto Hightower arrives and demands her surrender, offering what he deems generous terms; she will maintain Dragonstone, Driftmark will pass to her son, and they will avoid a war. Back in the War Room/Chamber of the Painted Table, Daemon prepares for a bloody conflict, but Rhaenrya hesitates at such destruction.

Lord Corlys Velaryon arrives, and, after a dressing down from his wife, Rhaenys, pledges his navy and military to Rhaenrya’s cause. But before Rhaenrya makes a move, one way or the other, she wants to know who her allies are; and to that end, she dispatches her sons Jace and Luke to Houses Stark and Baratheon to shore up their support.

We follow Lucerys as he arrives at Storm’s End. Lightning scars a thunderous sky, rain hammers down around him, and what’s worse than ominous weather … the dragon Vhagar, Aemond One-Eye’s mount, the cousin Luke blinded not a few episodes ago, and a staunch supporter of Team Green, has already arrived.

Needless to say, the reunion is not a happy one. Aemond, looking for Luke’s eye as payment for his, whips out a knife, but Lord Barratheon shouts ‘not under my roof.’ Luke mounts his dragon and flies for Dragonstone, but Aemond catches up on Vhagar, and a brief dragon fight ensues, and Lucerys is killed.

For our final scene of the series, a mournful, slow-motion shot of Daemon delivering the news to Rhaenrya. She turns, tears scarring her cheeks, but resolved, an anger burning in her eyes that we haven’t seen all series.

It’s time for war.