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 already have 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 7: Now that you’ve met the next generation of Targaryens and Velaryons, which would you choose to be heir?
Jonathan Bartlett: Ah, to be young and free to play with your dragons, your bugs, or your … swords. (Aegon, dear me!) It was a thrill to meet the little lads and ladies in the most recent episode and ponder who might be most fit to rule. My personal pick is Jacaerys Velaryon, Rhaenyra’s first-born son. Sure, he has the birthright and would be next in line after Rhaenyra regardless, but the kiddo shows serious potential, most notably in the awareness category. In the moment when Harwin Strong must say goodbye to the Princess, Jacaerys shows himself to be incredibly observant and even willing to face the hard questions, no matter how uncomfortable they might be. “Is Harwin my father?” he asks Rhaenyra. Not exactly an easy truth to potentially face as a child!
If there is anything House of the Dragon and Game of Thrones have taught us, it’s that being keen at understanding others is critical to successful leadership, and amongst all the children, Jacaerys seems to have that in spades. He’s getting pretty good with dragons as well.
Miles Surrey: With the understanding that Game of Thrones has provided ample evidence that monarchies should be abolished: Let’s give the crown to Helaena Targaryen. We got only a brief scene with Helaena in House of the Dragon’s sixth episode, but in that time she gave off serious Luna Lovegood energy while playing with a centipede. (Shout-out to Alicent Hightower for her half-assed attempt at indulging her daughter’s weird hobby; parents across the realm can certainly relate.) With her siblings either obsessing over dragons (seems dangerous!) or masturbating out of a tower window like medieval Roman Roy, Helaena easily comes across as the most level-headed Targaryen child. Her curiosity with the centipede, and the fact that she’s not immediately dissecting it—something Joffrey Baratheon would totally do—is a promising indication that she is, at bare minimum, not a psychopath. (That is how low the bar is for monarchs in this universe!) There’s a chance that Helaena could prove to be just as ineffectual as her father, Viserys, but considering the other options on the table, Westeros could do far worse than swapping out one ruler’s model replica of Old Valyria for another’s burgeoning insect collection.
Claire McNear: Is it too much to hope for a union between—and a shared throne by—Rhaena and Aemond Targaryen? (A perfect world would probably feature some more genetic distance, but Westeros is not that world.) Poor little guy, all dragon-less and insecure in this firebreather-eat-firebreather world. And while we admittedly haven’t spent much time with them just yet, they are free of their siblings’ and cousins’ early disqualifiers: rampant horniness and occasional violence (Aegon), embrace of problematic parental favoritism (Baela), creepy affection for bugs (Helaena), and brown hair (Jacaerys, Lucerys, and Joffrey). They seem, dare I say it, like pretty nice kids, even as both are picked on by the tots whose eggs actually hatched cribside. With rumbles of war, why not knit together two sides and let their nuclear families’ many dragons spend some, ahem, quality time together until these two can take to the skies as well?
Megan Schuster: My first instinct is to respond “none of them,” as all of these children are sub-15 years old and clearly immature—unless you’re big into rulers who masturbate out tall windows, taunt their step-uncle with a flying pig, are woefully inept in combat, or are literal infants. Then there’s the fact that half my options are illegitimate: No judgment, but Jacaerys, Lucerys, and Joffrey were all obviously fathered by Ser Harwin Strong (RIP), and if they were found out after ascending the Iron Throne, they could face rebellion or—as we saw with Joffrey “Baratheon” in Game of Thrones—even death.
So I think the best option, or at least the least offensive, would be to crown Aegon II Targaryen. He certainly has the name for it, sharing his moniker with the conqueror who united the Seven Kingdoms. And though he’s an absolute idiot throughout Episode 6, he can clearly fight; he’s already the leader of his siblings and step-nephews; and he got a brutal lesson in politicking from his mother when she warned him that his mere existence is a challenge to the established order of succession. If that was a wake-up call in any way, then he’s probably more ready to rule than any of these other yahoos.
Arjuna Ramgopal: What if we got rid of kings and queens and had elected officials? Everything would be better, right? Maybe a dragon could come and melt the throne down? What could possibly go wrong?
OK fine, you’ve forced my hand, I’ll pick Jacaerys Velaryon. It’s a small sample size, but the kid doesn’t seem like a complete asshole like his uncle, Aegon II. He’s got great awareness in knowing he is, in fact, a bastard; he seemingly loves his parents and family. And sure, he needs some work as a swordsman, and hopefully he’s not doomed to burn like his real dad just did (RIP, Harwin). But, as Viserys (and only Viserys, mind you) keeps telling us, Rhaenyra is the rightful heir to the throne, which means Jacaerys is, rightfully, next in line. So, really, he is the rightful choice. Keeping Criston Cole 2,000 feet away from that kid is key, because it’s pretty clear he’s got a 10-plus-year grudge going against his mom. Leaving King’s Landing will hopefully keep the kid from being screwed up, but only time will tell.
Andrew Gruttadaro: Gods be good—what a disastrous pool to choose a ruler from. We’ve got a pervert, an idiot who keeps getting too close to dragons, a girl who’s way too into bugs, a couple brunettes who seem to possess none of the “break bones” strength or “smeared boar blood on my face” intensity of their parents, and two little ladies who just lost their mom, leaving them to be raised by a dad who’s dead-set on marrying his niece. No wonder civil war is approaching. As for this question, I’m left with no choice but to elect the newborn Joffrey. Sure, he’s named after the paramour of his “father,” and sure, in the future there will come another King Joffrey who, uh, sucked. But perhaps this one will turn out OK; it might even be a good thing that he’ll grow up without the weird dynamic of being reared by the lord commander of the City Watch who’s definitely not his real dad. Joff is the best we’ve got at the moment, because at the moment we’ve basically got nothing else.