Game of Thrones fans, steady yourselves: the much-anticipated prequel series House of the Dragon has finally arrived.
While the original show hooked fans in with a worldwide clash focusing on numerous far-flung houses and kingdoms, in House of the Dragon, which is set around two centuries before the events of Game of Thrones, the battle lines are drawn within a single family: House Targaryen.
As a succession war emerges over who should sit on the throne following the reign of King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine), factions emerge that threaten to do what House Targaryen has always feared: bring about its own destruction.
But what exactly happened in the first episode of House of the Dragon? Read on for everything you need to know about the plot. However, be warned: there are spoilers ahead.
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A voiceover delivered by an adult Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D'Arcy) narrates the story of how her father, King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine), came to sit upon the Iron Throne.
At a Great Council held in Harrenhal in the year 101 AC (after Aegon's Conquest of the Seven Kingdoms), Viserys's elderly grandfather King Jaehaerys I Targaryen - who had ruled over 60 years of peace in Westeros - asked the lords of the Seven Kingdoms to vote on who should succeed him following the death of his sons.
Prince Viserys was selected over his female cousin, Princess Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best), who was dubbed the 'Queen Who Never Was' thereafter. Jaehaerys hoped this would avoid war as he knew the dangers if ever House Targaryen turned on itself.
We then jump forward to see the events nine years into Viserys's reign, which is set 172 years before the death of the Mad King Aerys and the birth of his daughter, Princess Daenerys Targaryen.
The action begins with a teenage Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) flying on the back of her dragon Syrax over King's Landing. After landing Syrax to be placed in the Dragonpit, Rhaenyra is greeted by her guard Ser Harrold Westerling (Graham McTavish) and her best friend Lady Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey), the daughter of Ser Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), the Hand of the King.
They all return to the Red Keep and Princess Rhaenyra pays a loving visit to her pregnant mother Queen Aemma (Sian Brooke) who is nearing the end of her pregnancy. Queen Aemma instils in Princess Rhaenyra how important it is for women in their position to give birth to children.
Princess Rhaenyra then pays a visit to her father King Viserys as he leads a Small Council meeting attended by Ser Otto, Grand Maester Mellos (David Horovitch), Lord Lyonel Strong (Gavin Spokes), Lord Lyman Beesbury (Bill Paterson), and Lord Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint), the Master of Ships and husband of Princess Rhaenys.
As Princess Rhaenyra serves as cupbearer, the lords notice the absence of the King's brother Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith), who leads the City Watch.
Lord Corlys pushes for action against enemies in the Velaryon shipping lanes by the islands of the Stepstones that are under threat from forces from a Triarchy of the Free Cities of Lys, Myr and Tyrosh, led by Craghas Drahar, dubbed 'The Crabfeeder'.
However, in response, Ser Otto advises that they should not take action.
King Viserys soon turns to talk of the tourney in honour of his coming heir, who he is sure is a boy, and Princess Rhaenyra seems pained by his excitement. Preparations are made for the large event which they are sure will bring out Prince Daemon.
Meanwhile, Princess Rhaenyra pays a visit to the throne room as her uncle Prince Daemon has secretly returned to the city, and she and Ser Harrold find him sitting on the Iron Throne. Rhaenyra approaches and playfully scolds him.
The pair speak on friendly terms and Prince Daemon produces a necklace made of Valyrian steel and places it on his niece's neck himself, and there is a hint of incestuous sexual tension.
Later, Princess Rhaenyra sits with Lady Alicent and they discuss what is happening, and Rhaenyra makes clear that she would rather travel the world together on a dragon with her than deal with the politics of King's Landing.
King Viserys, meanwhile, is attended to by his maesters who note that he has a diseased wound on his back. They plan to cauterise it, and Ser Otto wants this kept a secret.
Afterwards, King Viserys pays a visit to Queen Aemma in her bath and she notes how many previous children they lost to miscarriage, stillbirth and premature death, revealing that she can't go through this again if something tragic befalls the latest heir. Viserys affirms his love for his wife.
At night, Prince Daemon arms the City Watch and has them wear gold cloaks as they viciously restore 'law and order' by brutally dispatching and mutilating various criminals around King's Landing.
At a council meeting about his actions, Prince Daemon defends himself against Ser Otto who dislikes his tyranny, but Prince Daemon is defended for performing his duties by Lord Corlys.
Later, a resentful Prince Daemon has sex with his beloved prostitute lover, Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno), and she reminds him of his skill and ambition.
The day of the grand tourney arrives and it is the same day that Queen Aemma goes into labour. Princess Rhaenyra attends the tourney with her father, Ser Otto, Alicent and other members of the court. Princess Rhaenys is also present with Lord Corlys and their children, Laenor and Laena.
During the joust, newcomer Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) beats the sons of House Baratheon, before Prince Daemon beats Lady Alicent's brother Ser Gwayne Hightower and then asks for her favour.
Following this, a bloody clash sees Ser Criston beat a humiliated Prince Daemon, and the common-born knight then asks for a smitten Princess Rhaenyra’s favour.
As this happens, Queen Aemma’s baby is in breach and King Viserys is told he will lose them both or can give her a Caesarean section. They cut the baby from a resistant Aemma and she dies in a bed of blood while the baby is born as Prince Baelon, named after King Viserys’s father. However, the baby soon dies too. King Viserys is devastated.
A funeral is held for both the late queen and her baby and Princess Rhaenyra gives the order "Dracarys” to immolate them both with her dragon Syrax.
At a Small Council meeting, talk turns to succession as Ser Otto is adamant that Prince Daemon should not sit upon the Iron Throne, while Lord Corlys argues for Daemon despite resistance from the council. King Viserys notes that Ser Otto has always resisted Prince Daemon, and the Hand of the King suggests choosing Rhaenyra instead. Prince Daemon is seen to be listening to the discussion from behind a screen. King Viserys refuses to choose between his brother and daughter, while Lord Corlys suggests even Princess Rhaenys or their children, to Ser Otto's anger. King Viserys turns furious at the discussion and leaves.
Afterwards, Ser Otto then sends a raven to his family's ancestral seat of Oldtown. An emotional Lady Alicent visits her father and Ser Otto asks her to care for King Viserys and wear one of her late mother’s dresses to charm him. Lady Alicent then approaches Viserys in his chambers and offers to read to him, connecting with him over grief as she had lost her own mother.
Meanwhile, Prince Daemon attends a revel in a brothel in King’s Landing with his lover, Mysaria. A speech is called for Prince Daemon to speak. Reports soon reach the Small Council that Prince Daemon toasted the late baby Baelon as "heir for a day".
An angered King Viserys calls Prince Daemon to see him in the throne room and tells his brother that he is not his heir and will leave the city for his abandoned wife Lady Rhea Royce in the Vale. Prince Daemon calls King Viserys weak and says Ser Otto is self-serving and that the council preys on the king. Prince Daemon takes his leave.
Later, Princess Rhaenyra visits King Viserys in the depths of the Red Keep and he tells her the truth that Targaryens don’t control the dragons. King Viserys tells her he will make her his heir and that she is fit to rule. He also tells her of the secret handed down to Targaryen monarchs: Aegon’s Dream that drove him to conquest. It is said an endless winter will come down from the North towns and destroy all life in this world.
However, the Prince That Was Promised will come to defeat it and unite the world of men, and this person is descended from their line. Aegon called his dream the 'Song of Ice and Fire'.
Later, as we see Daemon fly out of King’s Landing on the back of his dragon Caraxes with Mysaria, a lavish ceremony sees the lords of the realm swear fealty to Princess Rhaenyra as Princess of Dragonstone and heir to the Iron Throne at King Viserys’s urging.
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