‘House of the Dragon’ Season 1 Recap: What to Remember Before Season 2

“House of the Dragon” Season 2 is finally here, and the Dance of the Dragons civil war is taking center stage.

There were a lot of moving parts in the first season of the show. Many new faces, tangled family trees, a full decade time jump that saw characters swapping actors. It can be a lot to hold in your head and feel caught up in the near two years since the series premiered. We’re here to help and give you the distilled SparkNotes version of “HotD” Season 1 and remind you of all the major players before jumping in to Season 2.

Dive into our “House of the Dragon” Season 1 recap for everything you need to know to get you ready to head back to Westeros.

Question of Succession

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Milly Alcock as the young Rhaenyra in “House of the Dragon” Season 1 (Ollie Upton/HBO)

The series begins 200 years before “Game of Thrones” with the death of Old King Jaehaerys I Targaryen. A council is convened to decide who the next Westerosi ruler will be and Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine) is selected over his cousin Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best) despite her having the stronger claim.

Viserys’ rule is largely a peaceful one until his latest attempts at producing a male heir ends with the death of both the son and his wife Aemma Arryn. Rather than announce that his brother Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) would become heir, Viserys controversially decrees his only living child – his daughter Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock/Emma D’Arcy) – would succeed him on the throne. The choice to place a woman there is the first of many decisions that lead to civil war.

Hightower Schemes

Following Viserys’ announcement, many powerful houses begin trying to convince the king to remarry and produce a son. Chief among them is Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) who serves as Hand of the King. He places his daughter Alicent Hightower (Emma Carey/Olivia Cooke) in Viserys’ path and soon the king begins to fall for the girl he had only seen before as a friend of Rhaenyra’s.

Despite the Velaryons also trying to turn the king’s head with a daughter of their own – the very young Laena Velaryon – eventually Viserys decides on Alicent and the two are wed and produce a son, Aegon II.

Rhaenyra’s Messy Love Life

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Emma D’Arcy as Rhaenyra and Matt Smith as Prince Daemon in “House of the Dragon” Season 1 (HBO)

It wouldn’t be a show set in Westeros without some incest and it’s clear early on in Season 1 that young Rhaenyra is drawn to her uncle Daemon. The two have a bond and she seems pretty set on him, at least until a tournament finds Daemon defeated by a young soldier named Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel). Rhaenyra and the new knight begin their own fling even as she’s set to marry Laenor Velaryon (John Macmillan). Learning that her planned-betrothed prefers the company of men, Rhaenyra and Laenor agree to see others in secret and her relationship with Cole continues.

Eventually, Cole pitches Rhaenyra the idea of her leaving Westeros, throwing away her claim to the throne and living with him across the Narrow Sea. She refuses, which not only ends their relationship but spurs Cole to cause a scene at Rhaenyra and Laenor’s wedding where he kills Laenor’s lover. His feelings are so jilted he’ll end up siding with Alicent and Team Green, becoming obsessive over making sure Rhaenyra never sits the Iron Throne.

A time jump 10 years into the future finds Rhaenyra and Laenor still married but now with three kids. The worst kept secret in King’s Landing is that the kids aren’t actually a product of their marriage but of Rhaenyra and her secret lover Harwin Strong (Ryan Corr). Alicent becomes suspicious of Rhaenyra’s children after being proposed a Targaryen/Hightower marriage and has Larys Strong – Harwin’s brother – look into it. Larys responds by having his brother and father both killed.

A short time later, the death of Daemon’s second wife brings the many tangled families to Driftmark for a funeral. It’s there – after a fight between Rhaenyra and Alicent’s kids leaves Alicent’s second son Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) without an eye – that Daemon helps Laenor fake his death and escape across the Narrow Sea. With him out of the picture, Daemon and Rhaenyra are finally free to marry which helps strengthen her claim to the throne right as things are reaching a tipping point between herself and Alicent.

Deathbed Misunderstanding

Olivia Cooke as Allicent in “House of the Dragon.” (Ollie Upton/HBO)

While all this was going on, Viserys was having serious health problems. Whatever the Westerosi equivalent of leprosy was, the king had it. By the season’s eighth episode, it’s hard for the king to even get out of bed and when he does he’s hunched over, using a cane, and wears a gold mask to hide the fact that his face is falling off.

Years earlier, after announcing Rhaenyra to be his heir, Viserys confided in his daughter a secret that only Westeros’ rulers knew – a prophecy passed from Aegon the Conqueror called “A Song of Ice and Fire” that told of a coming darkness that would take the entire kingdom united to defeat. This prophecy is what plays out in “Game of Thrones.”

Cut back to the present, Viserys gives a rousing speech at what would be his last supper about the family coming together. Largely, it seems to work as Alicent and Rhaenyra cheer, the kids dance, and there’s generally a feeling of the hatchet being buried.

That night Viserys dies with Alicent in the room, but not before muttering to himself. All Alicent hears are “Aegon” and “Prince That Was Promised.” She interprets this as the king actually wanting their son Aegon II (Tom Glynn-Carney) to sit on the throne instead of Rhaenyra when his final thoughts were actually on the “Ice and Fire” prophecy.

Alicent informs her father Otto and the two convene The Green Council. In it they plot to place Aegon on the throne, pushing out or outright killing anyone loyal to Rhaenyra and forcing her to flee King’s Landing. They’re successful in placing the son on the Iron Throne but loyalties across the kingdom remain split.

The Bloody Season 1 Finale

Ewan Mitchell as Aemond in “House of the Dragon” (HBO)

With Aegon II now seated on the Iron Throne, Rhaenyra continues to claim herself as the Queen – backed by the fact that the crown was secreted out of King’s Landing and brought to her on Dragonstone where she and her own council planned their next move.

What they need is allies so she sends her two sons – the eldest, Jace (Harry Collett) and the younger, Luke (Elliot Grihault) – as envoys to Winterfell and Storm’s End respectively. The hope is to get the Starks and Baratheons to side with Rhaenyra and her claim to the throne.

When Luke arrives at Storm’s End he finds Aemond and his massive dragon Vhagar already there. Alicent and Viserys’ second born beat Luke to the Baratheons and offered to marry a daughter to secure their alliance. When Luke sees there’s nothing better for him to offer he leaves – but Aemond and Vhagar follow.

Aemond and Vhagar begin toying with Luke and his much smaller dragon Arrax in the air but when Arrax burns Vhagar, the larger dragon disobeys Aemond and ends up killing both Luke and his dragon. The season ends with Daemon informing Rhaenyra about the death of her son and her vowing vengeance.

Team Black vs. Team Green

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Matt Smith in “House of the Dragon” Season 2 (Photo Credit: HBO)

With the beginning of Season 2, the Dance of the Dragons civil war is beginning in earnest. The back room dealings and shadowed alleyway fightings from the first season are over and people are picking sides as the war takes the main stage for all to see. These are where the main players’ allegiances are when the second season ramps up.

Team Black:

  • Rhaenyra Targaryen

  • Daemon Targaryen

  • Rhaenys Targaryen

  • Lord Corlys “The Sea Snake” Velaryon

  • Jacaerys “Jace” Velaryon

  • Baela Targaryen

  • Rhaena Targaryen

  • Mysaria – “The White Worm”

  • Erryk Cargylle

Team Green:

  • Alicent Hightower

  • Otto Hightower

  • Aegon II Targaryen

  • Helaena Targaryen

  • Aemond Targaryen

  • Ser Criston Cole

  • Larys Strong

  • Tyland Lannister

  • Borros Baratheon

  • Arryk Cargylle

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