‘House of the Dragon’ Premiere: Welcome Back to Westeros

SPOILER ALERTDo not read if you have not watched the series premiere of “House of the Dragon,” titled “The Heirs of the Dragon.”

Welcome back to Westeros! It’s been three years since we last stepped foot in the fantasy world. Now, we’re zooming back nearly 200 years to meet a new cast of characters from an older generation of “Game of Thrones” history. This time, instead of a sprawling tale across different families and cities, “House of the Dragon” mostly centers on the royal Targaryen family in King’s Landing.

The spinoff sets the scene by showing us how King Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine) came to power. Years ago, a council had to decide whether Viserys or his cousin Rhaenys (Eve Best) would succeed their grandfather,. They chose Viserys, since there had never been a woman in charge before (foreshadowing!).

Now, jump ahead several years into Viserys’ rule as king: he’s stressed out about not having any male heirs to take up the Iron Throne after him. He has one daughter, Princess Rhaenyra (who’s played as a teen by Milly Alcock), but she much prefers riding dragons to ruling nations. Also, her best friend is Alicent Hightower (played as a teen by Emily Carey), who’s the daughter of Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), the Hand to King Viserys.

While we’re at it, let’s meet the other major players on Viserys’ council: Lord Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint), who’s married to Viserys’ cousin Rhaenys, and Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith), Viserys’ trouble-making younger brother who rides dragons, leads the city watch and kills criminals in the streets. Rounding out the Targaryen family is Queen Aemma Arryn (Sian Brooke), Viserys’ wife, who’s pregnant with what he hopes will be a male heir. If Viserys doesn’t have a son, then the next in line to the Iron Throne is Daemon, and Viserys and Otto Hightower don’t want to see that happen.

To celebrate the impending birth of his child, Viserys plans a jousting tournament with all the fiercest knights in Westeros, including a couple Baratheons, an elite Dornish jouster, Otto Hightower’s son and Daemon in some impressive armor. While the knights hack each other to bloody pieces, much to the delight of the King’s Landing citizens in the crowd, Queen Aemma goes into labor. However, there are some complications with the delivery. The grand maester gives Viserys an impossible choice: sacrifice one or lose both.

Desperate for a male heir, Viserys tells the maesters to operate on Aemma and remove the child. This results in the world’s most gruesome, medieval C-section, which kills Aemma but saves the baby — and it’s a boy. However, the child is sickly. Things aren’t looking too bright for Viserys’ heir as the council learns about the birth.

The next thing we see is a funeral pyre with Aemma’s corpse… and beside her is her newborn son’s lifeless body. The funeral service is pretty awkward, with Rhaenyra saying that she hopes her father found happiness in the few hours he had a son. She then tells her dragon to Dracarys her mom’s body, and now it’s time to figure out the line of succession.

Daemon is the heir presumptive to the Iron Throne, since he’s Viserys’ younger brother, but he’s not exactly king material. Rhaenyra is another option, but is Westeros ready for a queen? And let’s not forget Rhaenys, the “queen who never was.” She and Lord Corlys Velaryon seem to be scheming something. Also, are the Hightowers conspiring on some rogue plan for the throne?

Meanwhile, Daemon is at a brothel and goes on a rant about Viserys and his dead son, who was the “heir for a day.” His insolence makes it back to Otto Hightower, who then tells Viserys, who is, understandably, not happy. Viserys commands Daemon to leave King’s Landing, but not before Daemon lobs some insults at his older brother and Otto Hightower. Also, Viserys keeps accidentally cutting himself on the Iron Throne, and the wounds look pretty gnarly — but that’s the least of his worries right now.

Daemon flies away on a dragon with Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno), a former prostitute and now his most trusted confidante. Back in King’s Landing, Viserys tells Rhaenyra he wants her to be his heir. He also namedrops their ancestor Aegon Targaryen, the upcoming Long Winter that may lay ruin to Westeros and “a song of ice and fire,” which is basically the entire plot of “Game of Thrones.” After officially naming Rhaenyra as next in line for the Iron Throne, the council and other lords of Westeros pledge fealty to her and Viserys. It should be a happy moment for Rhaenyra, but she looks pretty bummed about the whole thing and probably just wants to fly away on her dragon.

Nothing bad ever happens in Westeros, so Rhaenyra and her family will surely have a smooth transition of power. No hard feelings, Daemon!

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