As you’re probably aware by now, House of the Dragon is a prequel. The Game of Thrones spinoff, based on George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood, takes place nearly 200 years before the events of the original HBO series. Unlike the original series, which ran out of material to adapt by the end of its fifth season, key details from the Targaryen dynasty have already been published in Martin’s fictional history. If you want to know how the story ends, you could easily Google it—or, you know, read a book.
But since some of The Ringer’s staff have yet to read any of Martin’s novels, we decided to create this weekly precap for those of you who remain blissfully unaware of what’s about to happen next. This is a dialogue for the viewers treating House of the Dragon like a good ol’ mystery box that twists and turns from week to week. Without further ado, let’s get to this week’s prompt.
The burning question heading into Episode 9: Civil war looms in King’s Landing. Of the people we’ve met so far, which single character would you back to seize the Iron Throne?
Megan Schuster: This one’s easy: Daemon. It’s true that we haven’t seen his kingly ambitions in a few episodes—after Rhaenyra was named heir, our problematic hero took out his frustrations on the Crabfeeder in the Stepstones and has been pretty content to just fuck around in the Free Cities since. When his (now deceased) wife Laena Velaryon begged him to go back to Driftmark and help rule there, he not-so-politely declined, preferring to lend the might of his dragons to Pentos and receive mounds of cash in exchange.
But now he’s back in Westeros, married to his niece/the future queen, and we’ve seen those ambitions return. He’s cut down (literally) those who’ve questioned Rhaenyra and her children’s claims to the Iron Throne, baited his nephews into showing their true, treasonous colors, and even found himself at least somewhat back in King Viserys’s favor. Sure, Daemon won’t be able to gain full control of the kingdom without snatching power away from Rhaenyra, but given how fed up she’s been with the whole “succession” thing lately, maybe she’d be happy enough for at least someone in her immediate family to rule and prevent a war that may claim her life, and the lives of her kids.
Miles Surrey: There may be plenty of political operatives scheming within the walls of the Red Keep, but at the end of the day there’s nothing that wields more influence in Westeros than dragons. With that in mind, I’m all in on Aemond Targaryen, the one-eyed prince who just so happens to possess the mightiest dragon in the realm. Despite losing one of his eyes in the messy aftermath of riding Vhagar for the first time—a moment that sealed a lifelong bond between them—Aemond knows the trade-off is worth it. You can understand why: Even among fellow dragons, Vhagar is an absolute unit. (I’d imagine facing Vhagar in battle is as brutal as trying to tackle Derrick Henry.)
Vhagar alone gives Aemond an advantage, but as the latest House of the Dragon time jump revealed, my dude isn’t just going to rely on his dragon to vanquish adversaries. Aemond had, by far, the biggest growth spurt of all the Targaryen kids—do the maesters in King’s Landing have access to PEDs?—and he apparently spent all his free time training with Ser Criston Cole for the inevitable civil war to follow. Really, the biggest (only?) obstacle in Aemond’s way appears to be Daemon Targaryen, but even in a classic showdown of youth versus experience, Aemond still has the realm’s most grizzled dragon on his side. While his brother Aegon would technically inherit the Iron Throne, all signs point to Westeros becoming Aemond’s to lose.
Arjuna Ramgopal: Aegon, Aemond—it doesn’t matter; give me RHAENYRA, the queen who was actually named by the dying king himself, Viserys I. Like damn, does the word of the reigning monarch mean nothing to anyone? Sure, Viserys wasn’t the best king. In fact, he was pretty terrible by the end because literally no one listened to him … about anything. But if we’re just going to circumvent what the king decreed and stood by for decades, then what kind of world are we living in here? Where is the honor and the respect?
Also, do you really want the Joffrey Baratheon–esque Aegon and Aemond running the show? They’re already awful in every way imaginable, and they’re barely adults. Give them a kingdom to rule and you’re just asking for trouble. Rhaenyra isn’t perfect: She’s certainly made some mistakes, but who hasn’t in this show? She was actually named and raised to lead, and has the qualities needed to do so effectively. She’s caring, she can negotiate when needed, and she recognizes problems that others don’t seem to see. Also, she’s got dragons, a fleet, and a Daemon. So come at her if you want, but she’s the one I’ll back for that throne 10 times out of 10.
Katie Baker: Aemond’s potential might + bitterness combination is definitely starting to alarm me, but let’s be honest: that Mac Tonight–headed dude WISHES he could be like Daemon, and it’s going to take more than his obvious cosplay to make me a believer. I’m sticking with Daemon, by which I mean I support the reign of Rhaenyra, just as her bumbling-till-the-bitter-end father intended. (This means Matt Smith can play the Prince Philip role once again!) This pair has proved themselves crafty and mostly, but not entirely, without scruples. Rhaenyra clearly still knows how to push Alicent’s buttons. She and Daemon have all those cute kids running around who I’m sure will grow up to be appropriately demented adults perfectly suited to become heirs. Yeah yeah, there’s that whole issue of those older sons and their “seed [being] strong,” but can’t we fire up the trusty Gendry-Laenor Slow Rowboat to Nowhere one more time for those three and be done with it? They can go pretend to be lesser Starks or Greyjoys or something and no one would be the wiser.
Jonathan Barlett: I’m sticking with my Queen Rhaenyra on this one. Since we were first introduced to her, Rhae has proved time and time again that she deeply understands the game that’s being played. And while, yes, that game may be a burden on her shoulders—which we’ve seen expressed in her private moments—she always lifts herself up with steady courage and grace. On the other side, Team Green (composed of Alicent, Otto, Larys Strong, notable psychopath Aemond, and pretty much every other person on the Small Council) will be a formidable challenge. But in the end, doesn’t it just feel like there are too many cooks in the kitchen, with too many agendas? Give me the leaner, tightly knit squad of Rhaenyra, Daemon, and Princess Rhaenys with a clear direction. It may not be easy, but I do believe they will sit the Iron Throne. All hail Queen Rhaenyra.