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‘House of the Dragon’ Precap: One Burning Question Ahead of Episode 8

Every Friday, Ringer staffers who haven’t read any of the ‘Game of Thrones’ books gather to answer one key question ahead of Sunday’s ‘House of the Dragon’ episode. This week’s topic: preventing civil war.

HBO/Getty Images/Ringer illustration

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 Ringers 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 2: What would you do to prevent civil war if you were King Viserys?

Andrew Gruttadaro: It should first be stated that any measures King Viserys might now take to avoid civil war would be WAY TOO LATE, DUDE. This guy still had all his fingers when he put the realm on track toward all-out calamity. But even so, it’s never too late for now, so if the king would like to quell the fire burning within King’s Landing, there are only two options. Option no. 1: Euthanize all the dragons. Methinks all of these people will be much less eager to go to battle without their weapons of mass destruction. Option no. 2: Marry all the kids to each other. The only thing these maniacs in fancy robes care about is their legacies, so if you tie them all together, they have no choice but to get along (or at least not kill each other).

Obviously, neither of these things is gonna happen. The Targaryens and Velaryons won’t eliminate the thing that led to them ruling Westeros in the first place, and Rhaenyra already tried the marry-off-the-kids thing; Alicent responded by calling attention to Rhaenyra’s lactating and then betrothing two of her own children TO EACH OTHER. But maybe there’s a final, last-ditch option? Maybe Viserys could make everyone in court wear eyepatches in solidarity with Aemond?

Claire McNear: Nationalize dragons. There’s a reason nuclear weapons are the provenance of national governments, and not, for example, the head of state’s cousin’s granddaughter (or the head of state’s brother’s daughter, or the head of state’s daughter’s stepdaughter, or however we’d like to describe the unholy multitude of ties leading to Baela and Moondancer). Three Targaryens atop three dragons managed to conquer the near entirety of Westeros. At present, we’re at eight dragons. Come on! If you’re running a government, you simply cannot have that kind of deadly, potentially world-altering firepower running around unchecked—especially with the specter of a devastating civil war so apparent. Loose nukes do not a stable world make.

Not that the actual checking of that power would be easy. It’s hard to imagine any dragonrider would willingly part from their mount. And unlike a nuke, which will placidly obey whoever has access to the button, a dragon takes orders from only its rider. You can’t fully separate the Targaryens from their dragons, either: Dragons won them the Iron Throne, and as we know from Game of Thrones, their reign will falter once they’re gone. (And, gulp, be restored once they return.)

So how do you turn dragons from a concerning personal arsenal into a productive—and stabilizing—national resource? Do you somehow convince some subset of dragonriders to enforce the rule of law—e.g., no dragonrider may melt any castles into sad little puddles unless by order of the king (or queen)? Do you find a way to physically separate dragons from riders? Do you, ahem, attempt to find more cooperative riders—an option available only upon the death of the original, and with the dragon’s approval? It won’t be easy. Then again, neither will a war with eight (and counting) self-replenishing nukes being lobbed hither and thither across the kingdom. Do your job, Viserys. Nationalize the dragons!

Khal Davenport: Would I be able to turn back time? No DeLorean whatsoever? At this point, Viserys may be too far gone. If I’m being honest with you, we’d need to go back to before the Season 1 premiere and help him figure out how to better talk to (and rule) those under him. The seeds for this civil war were sewn well before we began to suffer in darkness. Any measures Viserys would take now would need to be drastic—but what drastic measures do you realistically think Viserys could pull off? A lot of this dragon talk sounds good, but it’s another thing to put in place regulations on dragons before people start flying them around and taking over regions. At the end of the day, this ship’s on course to Civil War Island, and Viserys looks like a king with few real shipmates to help him get this vessel back on the right track. (A DeLorean would be nice, though.)

Megan Schuster: Does Westeros have family therapy? Westeros should have family therapy. More than perhaps any other fictional world, the Seven Kingdoms of Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon—with all their betrayal, patricide, killing-of-daughter-in-law-icide, and oh yeah, incest—could use some counselors who specialize in intra-relative dynamics. Of course, even if the maesters did realize that mental health is also physical health, you’d need a head of the family who was willing to acknowledge that his crew needed help and be able to push them all into it. Fortunately in this case, Viserys seems like he’d be down.

It’s clear our king is at his wit’s end trying to navigate the ongoing cold (now extremely hot) war between Queen Alicent and Princess Rhaenyra, and I’m sure any avenue that would have those two talking it out instead of threatening children’s eyes and coming at each other with Valyrian-steel daggers would be a welcome change. Unfortunately, we may have passed the point when Rhaenyra is willing to negotiate, and Alicent never really was in the first place. But if you can get those two together in a room long enough, they’ll either kill each other or find some way to rediscover the friendship that tied them together so long ago. Maybe both of those options are preferable to what’s otherwise coming?

Arjuna Ramgopal: Have a spine maybe? I mean, look, let’s be honest, Viserys has got to be on the list of all-time-weakest kings we’ve ever seen on-screen. The dude gets overruled by literally everyone around him: his wife, his hand, his daughter, his grandchildren, his Kingsguard. His words and actions carry no weight whatsoever. His son gets his eye gouged out and Viserys’s response was to tell his family to hug and make up? What?! Alicent refuses to listen, holds a knife to his daughter, cuts her, and then … nothing happens? So the best way for Viserys to avoid civil war is to go back in time, reject the crown, and let Rhaenys become queen. The only thing he could do in the present at this point is execute Alicent and Otto. Clearly those two have been up to no good for years, and have poisoned the minds of many. Civil war seems all but inevitable at this point. Viserys has royally messed this up for YEARS. Maybe Daemon would have been the best successor to him after all.

Aric Jenkins: Honestly? Money. Pay a few people a lot of money and make them go away. While I hate to pry the crown away from the would-be first queen, Rhaenyra seems an easier option than Viserys’s wife and new children. If anything, this course of action is a compliment to Rhaenyra: She seems to value intangible attachments other than power—like love, the pursuit of pleasure, and the bonds she shares with her kids. The unfortunate reality we all learn at some point or another is that material wealth is an avenue to such things: Offer Rhaenyra the cash so she can comfortably run off with Daemon and the boys. Have her abdicate the future throne so she can enjoy a charming life full of romance and self-determination in the Free Cities, which Daemon now knows like the back of his hand. Basically what I’m saying is Rhaenyra should be like King Edward VIII and choose Wallis Simpson instead of the archaic obligations of a monarch. I can’t see another path for Viserys that doesn’t involve killing people in order to prevent them from killing each other. Godspeed, good sir.

Jonathan Bartlett:

Two words: BEACH. PARTY. Listen, I know things are tense and the daggers are flyin’, but let’s all just take a deep breath, get into our chill clothes, and kick back. A bonfire at dusk, anyone? Maybe a couple of roasted marshmallows and a bottle of red? I’ll Invite that one singer-songwriter guy to play some DMB tunes and we can all just eat, drink, and be merry. Who could stay mad after that!