House of the Dragon has a release date! And just dropped the official teaser trailer! It's about time! The Targaryens are taking to the skies on August 21, 2022, which means we get to see some of the most fearsome action ever to grace the screen. Am I counting down the days on my calendar? Absolutely!
If you haven't had a chance to see the trailer, by all means, treat yourself to the drama:
Now that you've seen all the big names in the trailer, I'm breaking down the main roster. This article is a little spoiler-y because I'm outlining all the major characters teased in House of the Dragon's first season and why they're major characters. If you want to be completely clueless and soak it all in like a brand new kitchen sponge, be my guest. But as anyone who's jumped head-first into a new fiction show knows, there's an initial period of "what the heck is going on and who the hell are all these characters." For some, being able to put a face to a name increases the enjoyability factor. If that's you, I gotcha covered. Honestly, considering this is the Targaryen family tree that George R. R. Martin shared on Twitter, feel no shame 'cause we're all confused AF:
The Tea, The Drama, and The Dragons
If you have no idea what House of the Dragon is about, it's covering a time period in George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire lore known as the Dance of the Dragons. That's the name given to the Targaryen civil war of succession that tore the house apart about 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones. In it, Rhaenyra goes head-to-head with Aegon II over their conflicting claims to the Iron Throne. Most of the major families in Westeros pick sides. There are ships, battles, deaths, murders, betrayals, spies, and dragons. To what end, you ask? Who wins? Unless you want spoilers or have read Fire and Blood, I'm not tellin' ya!
Let's look at who Rhaenyra, Aegon II, and the other major players are, and why they're playing the game of thrones. If you haven't read the books but still want to jump into the dragon-y mayhem, this article should spare you most of the initial confusion.
Nope, we're not talking about Daenerys' sniveling brother from Season 1 of Game of Thrones. We're talking about his ancestor. This Viserys I Targaryen is the fifth Targaryen king to sit the Iron Throne in Westeros. He's the grandson of Old King Jaehaerys I, one of my favorite Targaryens whose dragon Vermithor we actually get to see on the screen!
Superfan rambles aside, Viserys is the father of Rhaenyra Targaryen, the leader of the Blacks (a faction of the Targaryen family during their civil war). Westeros decided to follow male-preference primogeniture in a momentous council meeting, but when Viserys' first marriage bore no sons, he named his eldest daughter Rhaenyra as his heir. Then, he remarried and had sons with his second wife Alicent Hightower, so the line of succession muddied. Yet he refused to rescind his decision that Rhaenyra inherit the throne. Why is he important? Basically, he set the wheels in motion for the Dance of the Dragons to begin.
Speaking of Rhaenyra, she is Viserys' firstborn daughter by his first wife. He named her heir to the Iron Throne, and he refused to remove the title even after his second wife, Alicent, bore him sons. She was also named as ruling Princess of Dragonstone, the title given to the chosen Targaryen heir. Really big honorary title, right there. She's also Daemon Targaryen's niece and eventual wife. (Targaryens intermarried and it's super gross so let's all issue a collective "YUCK" now before the show starts and the Jamie/Cersei stans get wild.) Rhaenyra is dauntless and relentless, and while the show appears to start early in her history, the drama between her and Alicent is real.
Alicent Hightower is the daughter of Otto Hightower and is Viserys Targaryen's second wife. She bore him his first, second, and third sons (Aegon II, Aemond, and Daeron), all of whom are power players in the Dance. Aegon II becomes Rhaenyra's rival for the throne. Alicent is also Rhaenyra's stepmother, and though they start out with a pretty good relationship, it deteriorates. Keep in mind that the Hightowers hail from the Hightower (of course, they do) in Oldtown, one of the oldest and largest cities in the Seven Kingdoms. It predates Aegon's Conquest and was the seat of the most prominent religion in Westeros for a very long time. House Hightower is a BIG name, so Rhaenyra and Alicent going toe-to-toe is a huge deal.
Otto Hightower is a powerful part of House Hightower at the time, and is the Hand of the King for Viserys. He was actually Hand to Viserys' grandfather Jaehaerys I who, along with his wife, was beloved by Westeros throughout his very long reign. Otto detests Daemon (Viserys' younger brother), so he wanted Viserys to name Rhaenyra his heir so it wouldn't go to Daemon if anything happened. Except then Otto's daughter Alicent married Viserys and had sons. So he was like, "Well, you've got sons now with my daughter, make them heirs." Viserys basically goes, "Nope, too bad, so sad, not gonna happen." Rhaenyra remains the named heir to the Iron Throne, much to Otto's displeasure. Otto is very important to the overall plot, so I think he's our new Tywin Lannister-type character.
Dun, dun, dunnnnn. I introduce you to one of the baddest BAMFs to ever walk Westeros. To keep it short and sweet, Daemon's been in a bunch of battles, rides a skilled and seasoned dragon, and has lots of drama with Otto and his elder brother... you got it... Viserys. He would've been next in line for the throne before Viserys' sons were born, but Viserys named Rhaenyra his heir. Viserys also refused to name him Prince of Dragonstone, the title going to Rhaenyra as Princess instead, and it was a huge slight. He's cruel and ruthless in Fire and Blood (the Dance of the Dragons source text), so he's absolutely not a hero. I think he'll be the "we love to hate 'em" character. Why's he important? Ironically, considering rivalry and all that, he's actually one of Rhaenyra's strongest supporters and is a skilled, experienced warrior at the time of the Dance.
Ah, Lady Misery. Mysaria was a dancer from Lys and quickly became Daemon Targaryen's lover. There were a lot of issues surrounding their relationship that are far beyond the scope of this article, but if you want a bunch of spoilery details you can check out my other article outlining my teaser trailer theories. Suffice it to say that she eventually becomes Rhaenyra's unofficial mistress of whisperers during the war. She's sort of serving the same purpose Varys was in Game of Thrones, and is an overall dangerous woman. I am so, so excited to see her character because she's a pivotal informer throughout the war.
This guy is just the definition of salty, if you ask me, but that's my humble opinion. Criston started off as a knight and became Lord Commander of the Kingsguard under Viserys' rule. It's rumored that he had a whole thing for Rhaenyra, but she turned him down flat when it was time to have the DTR (define the relationship) talk. After that, he sided with the Green faction of House Targaryen and supported Alicent Hightower in her efforts to seat her son Aegon II on the throne. Just the definition of hurt, but he's not to be taken lightly. He knocked Daemon's famed sword Dark Sister from his hand and unhorsed him in a joust during a tourney, so he's a dangerous opponent.
Corlys Velaryon, also known as the Sea Snake, is the head of House Velaryon and has the superior fleet in the war. Rhaenys, The Queen Who Never Was, is a dragon rider and one of the most fearless women in the Dance. She was passed over in favor of Viserys' father Baelon when Baelon was chosen to inherit the throne. There are a lot of conflicting emotions, but they side with Rhaenyra to support her claim to the Iron Throne and bring all the power of Driftmark, House Velaryon, and a formidable dragon with them. These two are one of the best power couples in ASOIAF lore and I will go to keyboard war for them.
Okay, Enough With The People! Let's Talk Dragons!
We need to talk about the dragons, specifically the ones suggested in these promotional posters. Now, this is 1000% just theory because I'm guessing based on the color of scales and my own knowledge of marketing tactics. Three dragon posters appeared online to announce the show's premiere date. Here are my guesses on which dragons we're looking at:
Sunfyre the Golden was a male dragon with stunning golden scales and pale pink wing membranes. He was ridden by Aegon II Targaryen, the Green claimant to the Iron Throne. "Well, these scales look sorta red," you may say. I think it's the light and the fire effect. In keeping with my theory about the second poster, I think HBO is showing us the dragons of the two rivals in the Dance.
Syrax was a she-dragon with yellow scales. She was ridden by Rhaenyra Targaryen, the Black faction's claimant to the Throne. Named after a goddess of Valyria (where the Targaryens came from), she was formidable but not as battle-tested as Caraxes, Daemon's red dragon known as the Blood Wyrm. The scales here are a little green, but the image of Syrax on her A Wiki of Ice and Fire page depicts her as a greenish-yellow, so we're still within theory parameters. This bolsters my thought that they're showing us the two lead dragons. We probably won't see a bunch of Syrax throughout the show because she wasn't utilized as much as the other dragons in the Dance. Regardless, her appearance on the poster boosts the Rhaenyra supporter hype. As for me, I'm most excited to see Caraxes.
Tessarion… or Vhagar?
Calling all ASOIAF dragon loving Internet peeps! I need your help. I swiped this image straight from the blog of G.R.R.M. himself. Now, Tessarion is a blue she-dragon (known as the Blue Queen) and these scales look decidedly blue to me. Buuut let's consider the marketing angle. Sunfyre and Syrax are the dragons of the two warring factions of House Targaryen. Sunfyre for Aegon II and Syrax for Rhaenyra, the two bitter relatives.
Vhagar was a very, very important dragon in the Dance. Her coloring was never specifically mentioned in the books. However, an artist who was commissioned to work on the 2021 A Song of Ice and Fire Calendar was told Vhagar was “bronze with greenish-blue highlights and bright green eyes.” Now, Vhagar was originally ridden by Aegon the Conqueror's sister-wife Visenya Targaryen and has a huge part in this story. She's ridden by Prince Aemond Targaryen, Aegon II's younger brother, and Prince Regent for part of the Dance.
While Tessarion is important, Vhagar is pivotal. With this in mind, I'm convinced this very well could be Vhagar, the last of the original three Targaryen dragons that came over with Aegon during Aegon's Conquest (Balerion, Vhagar, and Meraxes). I think we're looking at the ultimate dragon triple threat, here, folks.
Let me know! Do you think we're peeping Tessarion or Vhagar in Martin's HotD teaser poster? Which dragon are you most excited to see? I'm torn between Vhagar, Caraxes, and Vermithor.