POSSIBLE SPOILERS MAY ABOUND. This article is speculation based on the materials available: Fire & Blood, A Song of Ice and Fire, and other Game of Thrones canon materials. With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s get into the fun!
The first official House of the Dragon teaser trailer came out on October 5, 2021, with much acclaim and also some trepidation. As a huge fan of Game of Thrones ever since my friend introduced me to it, I’m absolutely ecstatic for this show. In fact, “ecstatic” doesn’t cover the endless rambles, rants, and research I’ve done regarding this franchise. Adding fuel to the fire (pun intended), House of the Dragon isn’t set up to run into the pitfalls that plagued our beloved characters in Game of Thrones. The source material is readily available, Martin himself is reportedly happy with the work being done, and Game of Thrones is still beloved in many hearts, including my own. Thus, both the passion, resources, and energy are there for HotD. It’s safe to say both fans and newcomers can expect not only the lush cinematic extravagance GOT fans are used to but the glorious twisting and turning plot that put asses in seats from the start.
In this article, I’m breaking down some of the most important shots from the teaser trailer. This show will cover the Dance of the Dragons, a tumultuous and visceral section of Targaryen history from ASOIAF lore. For clarity and simplicity, here’s a brief summary of what is sometimes referred to as the Dance:
The Dance of the Dragons was a civil war between two factions of Targaryen rule. It started as a war of succession between half-siblings Rhaenyra Targaryen and Aegon II Targaryen over who would inherit their father, Viserys I’s, throne. The Dance lasted from 129 to 131 AC, and without spoiling how it ends, suffice it to say there will be 17 dragons in House of the Dragon, and canonically, many of them aren’t making it out alive. (As a note, if you truly want to be surprised all the way around–though often television takes creative liberties–maybe don’t read Fire & Blood, the fandom wiki, or this article just yet.)
Now, let’s get into what we can expect from House of the Dragon, Season One. Screenshot by screenshot. Yep, better buckle in, ‘cause shit’s about to get fictionally historical up in here.
BALERION, THE BLACK DREAD
Named after an ancient deity of the Valyrian Freehold, Balerion the Black Dread came with the Targaryens as they fled the Doom of Valyria. Notably, he was the last living creature to have seen Valyria at its peak. The enormous dragon served as Aegon Targaryen’s mount during the Conquest (Aegon’s conquering of Westeros) and saw the Iron Throne change hands many times before his death in 94 AC, less than a year after Viserys I Targaryen claimed him as his mount. Viserys is the current king we are looking at in the trailer to give you an idea of where that stands in the timeline. He rode Balerion once before his coronation, before the dragon's death, and Balerion did not live to see the events of the Dance. His death is an important timestamp and is likely why it is one of the first images we get to see. It may tell us when the show will kick-off.
HAND OF THE KING
Here, we see Otto Hightower, who served as the Hand of the King under Viserys I Targaryen’s father Jaehaerys Targaryen’s rule. He continued as Viserys’ Hand and is father to Alicent Hightower, who became Viserys’ wife and the mother of Aegon II Targaryen (among other children). Aegon II rivals Rhaenyra (Viserys’ elder daughter) in the Dance for the succession, though some sources say he accepted the crown unwillingly. Here, the focus on the pin helps viewers place Otto as the current Hand of the King.
Blackfyre, a hand-and-a-half Valyrian steel longsword, was most famously wielded by Aegon the Conqueror. It has been passed down through the Targaryen lineage and went from Jaehaerys to Viserys’ eldest son Aegon II. This sword is legendary throughout the history of Westeros, along with Dark Sister, which was wielded by Aegon I’s sister and wife, Visenya. Let’s not get started on the Targaryen tradition of incestuous marriages; this article isn’t long enough to cover the absolute ick. This screenshot shows the seated king tightening his grip on the blade. While the sword is reportedly historically wielded by Jaehaerys and then Aegon II without Viserys in between, perhaps creative liberties are being taken. Before his death, Viserys was often beset with requests to change the line of succession from his eldest daughter, Rhaenyra, to his eldest son by Alicent, Aegon II. We may be seeing one such moment of contention here.
Geek Moment: Can we talk about how cool these sword names are? “All the best swords have names, you know.” - Jon Snow
Rhaenyra, daughter of Viserys, precedes Aegon II in birth order but contends with him after their father’s death for her inheritance–the Iron Throne. I initially thought the trailer was showing flashbacks. However, upon reading further into Fire & Blood, I think the show may be starting before the Dance officially begins. Here, we likely see a young Rhaenyra before her father Viserys’ death. She was being prepared to rule for some time and was named his heir. In fact, there is a moment in Fire & Blood where Rhaenyra sits near the Iron Throne, and lords and landed knights pay obeisance to her. Based on the position of the swords in the background of this image, I’d bet that’s what’s happening here.
Daemon Targaryen is brother to Viserys I and second husband of Rhaenyra. He was an experienced warrior at the time of the Dance, a dragon rider who wielded Dark Sister and rode Caraxes, and a prominent supporter of Rhaenyra’s claim to the Iron Throne. He and Rhaenyra are pictured here, looking out over the water. You can see dragons in the distance if you watch the trailer at a slower speed, at this timestamp [ 0:13 if you need a YouTube video, that’s here. ].
What are they looking at, you may wonder? I have some theories. One theory is that this has something to do with the Dance over Shipbreaker Bay, which makes the most sense chronologically. Prior to this event, Rhaenyra sends two of her sons, Jacaerys and Lucerys, to win houses for her cause. During this mission, the dragons Vhagar (ridden by Alicent’s second son Aemon) and Arrax (ridden by Rhaenyra’s second son Lucerys) fight in a raging storm. I won’t spoil who wins.
There is also the Battle of the Gullet, which is one of the bloodiest sea battles ever to take place in Westerosi history. However, if the theory of an early beginning to the series holds true, that may be beyond the scope of the first season. The Battle occurs in 130 AC, which would be about halfway through the Dance.
Thirdly, in my personal theory, I think this is the scene where they are sending Rhaenyra’s two sons on their mission to rally certain major houses to their mother’s cause. It would explain the dragon wings in the far distance, the timing, and the somewhat worried faces.
A TOURNEY & A DUEL
There are a few options for the events here, as well. The second screenshot above is probably Daemon Targaryen, complete with his dragon helm. Daemon fought Ser Criston Cole at the Tourney for King Viserys’ accession. Perhaps this is that fight, which timestamps this scene as a precursor to the Dance and holds with our early-start theory.
Another somewhat stronger theory is that this will be the Tourney of 111 AC, held on the fifth anniversary of Viserys and Alicent’s marriage. Rhaenyra wore red and black at this event, and Alicent wore green. Thus, denoting their respective Targaryen factions thenceforth as the “blacks” and the “greens.” Regardless of which theory holds up, this scene places us chronologically before Viserys’ death and the beginning of the Dance.
House Velaryon is a proud and ancient house descending from Old Valyria. Front and center in this screenshot, we have none other than Corlys Velaryon himself, the Sea Snake. I am incredibly excited to see such an important character from Fire & Blood brought to life, and I am so, so happy to see diversity in the onscreen adaptations. To his left is his wife, Rhaenys Targaryen. Behind them, his daughter Laena and son Laenor. To Corlys’ right presumably stands Ser Vaemon Velaryon, eldest of Corlys’ six nephews.
House Velaryon is an ancient house with historical ties to the Targaryens, and for a time, they were the richest house in Westeros. Corlys is Master of Driftmark, Lord of the Tides, and the head of House Velaryon, making him a pivotal player in the game. Rhaenys and her and Corlys’s children Laena and Laenor were all passed over in succession for the throne when it was given to Viserys after the assembly of the Great Council of 101 AC to determine Jaehaerys’ successor. Notably, Laenor and Rhaenyra were married for a time before Laenor’s death, preceding when the true brutalities of the Dance commenced. Are we arriving for a wedding? The faces look a little stern, but that might be expected considering the tumult of the time.
Mysaria is a dancer from Lys who became Daemon Targaryen’s paramour. Beyond this, she becomes known as the unofficial mistress of whispers to Rhaenyra during the Dance. Also known as Lady Misery, she is far more than a consort. Daemon, Rhaenyra, and Mysaria develop a complicated relationship, and Mysaria strongly allied with Rhaenyra’s faction. Here, we may be seeing an early moment in their story when Daemon sent her back to Lys after Viserys learned Mysaria was pregnant. Daemon had given Mysaria a dragon egg for the child, which angered his brother, Viserys, and prompted Viserys to have Daemon send her away. Mysaria lost the child on the voyage, and Daemon’s heart hardened against his brother, the king.
VALYRIAN STEEL DAGGER
This is (probably) the blade that killed the Night King in Game of Thrones Season 8. Here, Alicent Hightower races forward carrying this highly recognizable dagger. This may be the same weapon used in Bran Stark’s attempted assassination, wielded by Arya Stark, and eventually plunged into the Night King’s frozen heart hundreds of years after the Dance of the Dragons.
I thought I knew what was going on in this scene. I thought it was the Small Council Meeting of the “greens” where Queen Alicent and her people conspired about the succession and set plans for her son, Aegon II’s ascension to the Throne. However, the presence of Ser Harrold Westerling throws off that theory and timestamp. According to the source material, Westerling died in 112 AC and was succeeded as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard by Ser Criston Cole, and the Dance starts in 129 AC.
With that said, and Ser Harrold mentioned, can we please direct our attention to the Kingsgaurd in the background who looks suspiciously like Graham McTavish? Uncharted, Outlander, and Witcher fans will recognize him here as the aforementioned Ser Harrold Westerling, Lord Commander of the Kingsgaurd under Viserys I Targaryen (again, presumably). Though his presence complicates the timestamp for what I thought this scene was, as with Game of Thrones, where many characters outlived their time in the books on the show, maybe Ser Harrold sticks around. If that’s the case, Alicent may be racing toward Lyman Beesbury, who is on the cast list and a supporter of Rhaenyra’s claim.
I'll be content with being pleasantly (or unpleasantly, as it looks pretty violent) surprised.
THEORY: Laenor’s Death?
There would have been two contenders for this scene; however, after further research, if we really are looking at the events leading up to the Dance, that leaves one main possibility. This may be Laenor Velaryon’s death. Laenor died in 120 AC while in Spicetown attending a fair and was slain by one of his favoured knights, Ser Qarl Correy. Possibly, the show is taking some creative liberties with the location, which may be why they’re in a castle instead of the scene in Spicetown. Ser Correy reportedly stabbed Laenor to death after a loud quarrel beforehand.
First of all, can we talk about how much more book accurate this Iron Throne is? Here, we see who I presume to be Viserys I seated upon the Iron Throne in the Red Keep’s throne room. Walking in, based on the silver hair, this is probably Rhaenyra. Could this be a private confrontation between father and daughter? Is he telling her she is named as his heir? We’ll have to wait and see.
Regardless, I’m so happy that the swords Balerion forged during Aegon’s Conquest are more accurately represented here than in the Game of Thrones TV show. Plus, you can see that the Red Keep is still under construction, somewhat, at this time which is fantastic worldbuilding. We know that Martin is very happy with how things on the show are going, and that gives me both joy and hope.
So, to bring this article to somewhat of a summary, we have the possibility of the following events in chronological order (more or less):
I, for one, am beyond excited for House of the Dragon. It should have all of the storytelling prowess, political intrigue, action, and dragons Game of Thrones is beloved for without running into the perils that befell its final season (which I still enjoy, though I acknowledge the flaws). I think it would be a fantastic end-of-season shot to have Aegon II’s coronation in the Dragonpit juxtaposed with his sister Rhaenyra’s coronation on Dragonstone, with dragons roaring in the background. With the first season covering the events leading up to the Dance, viewers will have a firm understanding of the plot, characters, and stakes, which sets up for a strong series from a storytelling perspective. One thing is for certain: I will be sitting right in front of the biggest, loudest TV I can find, snacks and drinks in hand, cell phone on silent, and I will not be interrupted.
What about you? Are you tuning in for the premiere, or would you rather wait to see how our new glimpse at Westeros is received first?