Welcome back to Westeros, TV Fanatics.
House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 1 picked up almost 200 years before Game of Thrones, leaving us with plenty to talk about.
Below, TV Fanatics Denis Kimathi, Diana Keng, and Paul Dailly discuss “The Heirs of the Dragon.”
Princess Rhaenyra is heir to the throne. React.
Denis: I mean, this is the most significant plot point in the series. It is what will drive the narrative forward as various characters act about and react to the declaration. Daemon feels like he is owed that throne, while Rhaenys must also feel some way about it.
She should have been the heir if patriarchal precedents didn’t rob her of it. It must all feel unfair to her. Rhaenyra is also quite young, and her father is old. If she is to ascend to the throne at this age, it will be quite a challenge for her. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Diana: Knowing that Rhaenyra’s situation is based on England’s Matilda, whose father, Henry I, had his nobles swear fealty to her as his sole heir, it’s more than foreshadowing for the conflicts down the road.
Those nobles immediately forgot their oaths as soon as Henry passed, and we see that many of the lords of Westeros have no interest in bending the knee for a queen. I agree that Rhaenys is probably royally irate about this. According to the source text, there actually was no precedent to choose Viserys over her. It was the misogyny of the lords that set the precedent.
I believe that Daemon wanted the role of Hand of the King because he knows that’s where the true power lies. He may seek to puppet his niece as her Hand or ingratiate himself to Rhaenys if it looks like her claim may prove successful. Rhaenyra herself is a reluctant heir. The internal conflict of obligation and inclination may develop more fully as she ages up.
Paul: We knew it was coming, but it didn’t make it any less fascinating. We don’t know much about this timeline, and I’m excited for the series to delve deeper into it.
There will be plenty of civil unrest in the cards, which will surely make everything considerably different going forward.
Daemon stole a dragon egg and left King’s Landing with Mysaria. What do you think his next move is?
Denis: The strength of House Targaryen lies in their ownership of the dragons. The biggest misconception from the general public is that they control the dragons. Daemon will try to test this theory with devastating consequences. His next move is to try and lay claim to the throne – using the dragons. He is a man full of himself, believing that justice is his to meet.
Diana: To use dragons to fight a war against his own family would require a breeding pair to ensure more dragons to shore up his claim to power and boost his status. That also takes time. Furthermore, he’d need more support from those in power.
He has the Gold Cloaks’ loyalty and the charisma of Mysaria, but being Prince of the City/Lord of Flea Bottom has not and will not impress the lords of the Small Council. We know from Game of Thrones that the Vale and the Royces are not people to be trifled with.
Daemon would be smarter to use his wife’s influence to climb the Iron Throne, but I don’t think that will even occur to him. I predict he’ll attach himself to Rhaenyra or Rhaenys. He might even try to play both sides of that conflict.
Paul: Daemon is such a multi-faceted character that I want to see him go full carnage, but there have to be some repercussions to his actions. He desperately wants to ascend the throne, but he will probably try to get closer to people who can make his dream a reality.
If that means stealing a dragon, then so be it.
Aemma’s demise was heartbreaking to watch. Do you think those scenes were necessary to show how much Viserys wanted a male heir to the throne?
Denis: Absolutely. In a society where having a son is seen not only as a sign is security for the bloodline but also strength, it was necessary. It was painful to watch, but that’s part of the Game of Thrones Universe’s charm. Graphic scenes that will forever be embedded in our brains. For Viserys, having a male heir is the summit of his existence that he couldn’t quite get to despite being a powerful man in Westeros.
Diana: It very much demonstrated the triumph of fear over love. Viserys knows that his claim to the throne was only sanctioned by the lords of Westeros because he was the male claimant.
He is rife with insecurities despite being the king. The Iron Throne literally wounds him. He needs a son not only to inherit but to prove to himself that he is able to dream true like the Targaryen kings of old. He suffers from imposter syndrome, and Daemon sees it and throws it in his face.
Paul: It was harrowing. I think even people who didn’t read Fire & Blood would know that was coming, and for me, it reiterated how important it was for all of these people to have a male heir to the throne.
I wouldn’t say they were necessary, but it definitely highlighted the desperation of Viserys and those in his inner circle. However, the funeral was beautiful, and I’m far more invested in the ramifications of this action.
Viserys shared details of Aegon’s dream with Rhaenyra. Now that we know how that plays out in Game of Thrones, what are your thoughts on it?
Denis: These details are an important piece of information to be had by anyone who sits on the throne. It reminds them that they are not fighting for their house or their own interests.
They must try to hold the whole of Westeros together, for there is something bigger than them. But that is so far away it’s only natural that they can’t hold out that long.
Diana: As a spin-off series, I think it was important to them to tie the narratives together. Even the opening screen text drew specific attention to how this series connected to the time of Daenerys. Along with the glimpses of members of the Houses we’re familiar with, I think it was an effective way to establish the continuity of Westeros.
However, I’m honestly more interested in their introduction of Ten Thousand Ships and the Dornish lineage, which would send them back in time even further on the next spin-off series.
Paul: It didn’t feel as forced as I thought on the first watch, and hey, it was a decent way to tie the two shows together. However, knowing what happens, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
I’m never one for retconning anything, but I would take a multiverse of Westeros at this stage to rewrite, or at least slow down the pace of the final two seasons.
That’s how bummed I still am about the end of the original series.
Now that the premiere is over, do you think the series lives up to the hype?
Denis: Usually, I give a new show three episodes to determine whether it’s good or bad. I didn’t need more than the pilot to determine that this will be a great show.
The episode didn’t drag on. It put the viewers right into the social and gender politics of Westeros, the violence, the sex, the love, and the loyalty – or lack thereof – that is part Game of Thrones.
Diana: The premiere lands well for both fans of HBO’s Game of Thrones and potential newcomers to the world. It does a better job of casting characters based on the literary source material than Game of Thrones did in that GOT needed to age up multiple characters to make many of the exploitative scenes filmable.
For example, Milly Alcock was maybe a couple of years older than Rhaenyra when they filmed the heir-naming scene, but that’s less significant than if they’d married Drogo to the 14-year-old Dany of the books. I appreciate the production value and visual fidelity to the established world.
When Game of Thrones premiered over a decade ago, it was revolutionary in its look and feel. House of the Dragon has the task of preserving that presence while innovating its own characters and conflicts. I could use a little less of the musical score constantly beating us over the head with the nearly-GOT theme.
Paul: Personally, I went in with low expectations and came out pleasantly surprised. There’s always that worry that a spinoff will ruin the good of the predecessor, but there are genuine stories here that can span seasons.
What are your hopes for the season ahead?
Denis: All I want is to see Rhaenyra kicking ass. I want to see the narrative expand beyond House Targaryen and see other families and their sentiments towards the ruling class. While Daemon is an absolute tool, I would love to see him rise to be a huge villain only to fall harder. Oh, and the dragons. I want to see these majestic beasts roar and lay waste to everything in their path.
Diana: Knowing what interesting characters Corlys and Rhaenys are in the book, I’m hoping to see more of their relationship and how their courtly machinations play out.
I’m curious how the show will handle the time jump from Rhaenyra’s childhood to her young adulthood when the Dance of Dragons really starts up, although I suspect Season 1 will only lay the groundwork for that.
We’ve been promised seventeen actualized dragons. I expect some spectacular visual effects. Mostly, I’m hoping for some really clever plot twists and What-The-Tyrion? moments. Less sex, more strategy.
Paul: I want bloody battles, complicated family dynamics, and backstabbing. This particular plot can have all of these aspects, so I’m here for it.
House of the Dragon continues Sundays at 9 p.m.
Paul Dailly is the Associate Editor for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.