We just received our first look at HBO’s Game of Thrones prequel series, House of the Dragon; sure, there was probably less than 60 seconds of footage in there, but it can still feel inexplicable if you don’t know all the background material George R.R. Martin wrote for the history of Westeros. So let’s meet all of the game’s newest players.
Some quick background: House of the Dragon is based primarily on the “Dance of the Dragons,” a long period of civil war between different members of the Targaryen family that took place centuries before the events of Game of Thrones. There were all the political machinations and bloodshed you’d expect, but multiplied because this time each side had its own slew of dragons. If you haven’t watched the teaser, do so now, and then discover who the hell these people are.
The Skull of Balerion
The greatest dragon of the Targaryens, and the one King Aegon the Conqueror flew when he defeated and united the seven kingdoms. He lived long enough to be ridden by Viserys I, but was old enough to die well before Viserys ascended to the Iron Throne. (This skull was still in the catacombs of the Red Keep during the events of Game of Thrones.)
Ser Otto Hightower
This hand of the Hand of the King belongs to Sir Otto Hightower, played by The Amazing Spider-Man’s Rhys Ifans. Hightower advises the current occupant of the Iron Throne, King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine). Before that, however, he ruled the Seven Kingdoms in all but name while Viserys’ father was bedridden for years.
King Viserys I Targaryen
And this is the hand of King Viserys I — not to be confused with Viserys II, Daenerys’ brother and the arsehole who got a Dothraki golden shower in the first season of Game of Thrones. He’s one of the “good” Targaryens, peacefully reigning over the Seven Kingdoms for years. But during his rule, a civil war fomented.
Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen
Played by Milly Alcock (seen here), the young Princess Rhaenyra is the daughter of King Viserys I and his first wife, who died later giving birth to a second son. In the books, when that son died, Prince Daemon supposedly made jokes about it while at a brothel, which enraged the normally placid Viserys so much he formally declared Rhaenyra as his heir to the Iron Throne.
Prince Daemon Targaryen
It’s a very dark night on the beach for Prince Daemon (Doctor Who’s Matt Smith), the hot-tempered, powerful warrior and dragon-rider. Since his brother Viserys I has no male heir, he feels he should be the next successor to the Iron Thrones rather than his niece, and many in the patriarchal Seven Kingdoms agree. By the way, that’s the older Princess Rhaenyra, played by Emma D’Arcy, next to him, which means this is likely a tense conversation.
Lord Corlys Velaryon
The greatest seafarer the world of Game of Thrones had known or ever will know, Corlys (played by Steve Toussaint) was the Lord of the island of Driftmark. His family was from High Valyria, like the Targaryens, and Corlys’ travels made him rich enough to ensure he was a major player at King’s Landing after the Conquest. His nickname was the “Sea Snake,” after his ship, and he’s currently the Master of Ships for the Targaryens, controlling the royal fleet and having a seat on Viserys I’s small council… but during the upcoming civil war, he sides with Princess Rhaenyra.
Corlys was in fact so powerful that he married Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best, on the right), who once was a contender for the Throne herself until the realm chose Viserys. Suffice it to say, she’s no fan of the patriarchy.
The “Dance of the Dragons,” the Targaryen Civil War that HBO’s House of the Dragon will chronicle, takes place over many, many years, so all the major characters have several opportunities to ally with, betray, or scorn the others. For example, there are multiple times Corlys and Rhaenys Velaryon visit the Targaryen court. and the cool reception pictured here doesn’t really narrow it down.
Played by Sonoya Mizuno, Mysaria is a mysterious dancer from the far Eastern city of Lys, who came to King’s Landing with almost nothing. However, she rose in influence and power by assisting Daemon Targaryen, enough to earn her the epithet “Lady Misery,” a title she used becoming Rhaenerya’s unofficial chief spy — or Mistress of Whispers.
The current queen of the Seven Kingdoms, Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke) is also the daughter of the Hand of the King Otto, leading some to believe that Otto himself was responsible for engineering her marriage to Viserys I. However, she knows how to play the game of thrones as well as anybody.
It’s impossible to tell what jousting tournament this is from so little footage, but we do know in the books a tourney was held to commemorate the five-year wedding anniversary of Viserys I and Alicent. During, it, Queen Alicent wore green, while Princess Rhaenyra wore red and black. Afterward, those who supported Rhaenyra’s claim to the throne were called “blacks,” while those who back Alicent and Viserys’ son Aegon II became the “greens,” setting the stage for the divides in House Targaryen that would form the opposing sides of the Dance of Dragons.
The Iron Throne
Still there, still sharp — arguably even sharper than we knew it with all those extra swords flanking it — and everybody still wants to sit on it. Some things never change in Westeros, it seems.
House of the Dragon is set to air on HBO some time in 2022.