House of the Dragon, HBO’s upcoming Game of Thrones prequel show, premieres later this month. HBO recently made a bevy of beautiful photographs available. Let’s ogle them, starting with what is very likely a scene from the top of the first episode, where we’ll get a glimpse of King Jaehaerys I Targaryen (Michael Carter) before his death:
We didn’t know if we were going to see Jaehaerys, but I’m glad he’ll show up at least for a second, since the story of House of the Dragon — a brutal civil war for succession — has its origins in his death, and the choice of who should succeed him.
That person is Jaehaerys’ grandson King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine), who will be sitting the Iron Throne for most of the first season.
Viserys is chosen over his cousin Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best), although there are many who think she had the better claim.
That includes her husband Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint), one of the most powerful lords in the Seven Kingdoms during this time.
Then there’s Viserys’ little brother Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith), whom Viserys initially makes his heir.
Ah, but Daemon is a bit of a wild child with a taste for blood and battle. There are those among Viserys’ inner circle who vehemently oppose the idea of him being first in line to become king, most prominently the Hand of the King Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans).
Otto works with his daughter Alicent Hightower (played by Emily Carey as a young woman and by Olivia Cooke as an adult) to destabilize Daemon’s claim to the Iron Throne. Otto works on Viserys in the small council, and Alicent exerts influence on the king as his new wife.
Eventually, Viserys will decide to name as his heir his daughter Rhaenyra Targaryen (played as a young woman by Milly Alcock and as an adult by Emma D’Arcy).
Rhaenyra is a very important character, so there are a lot of pictures of her, including this one with Lord Commander of the Kingsguard Ser Harrold Westerling (Graham McTavish):
And she is attending her father during Small Council meetings, learning the ropes of rulership:
And here’s Viserys imparting wisdom to his daughter at the foot of the skull of Balerion the Black Dread, one of the most important of the Targaryen dragons:
As the heir apparent to the Iron Throne, Rhaenyra naturally has lots of potential suitors interested in her. In her early life, one of the most prominent is a young knight named Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel).
As Rhaenyra gets older, she strikes up a romance with…well, with her uncle Daemon. Targaryen incest is in full swing during this period, I’m afraid.
But one of Rhaenyra’s most important relationships is with Alicent Hightower. Although Alicent goes on to become Rhaenyra’s stepmother, the two girls are actually pretty close in age and grow up together at court. In their youth, they have a very close friendship:
Unfortunately, that sours as they get older and their ambitions fork in different directions. Rhaenyra still wants to succeed her father on the Iron Throne, but Alicent wants her sons by the king to be the new heirs. Their conflict will lead to a lot of pain in the Seven Kingdoms.
War is ugly enough by itself. But in this case, it’s made much worse because there are dragons involved. Rhaenyra rides Syrax while her uncle Daemon rides Caraxes.
Who will sit the Iron Throne? A new battle begins very soon.
House of the Dragon premieres on HBO and HBO Max on August 21.