Warning spoilers ahead for the first episode of House of the Dragon. The new fantasy TV series House of the Dragon takes us back to Westeros, but the Seven Kingdoms are not as you remember them. This is a peaceful kingdom ruled over by House Targaryen at the height of their power.
With ten full-grown dragons, the Targaryen dynasty’s grip on the Iron Throne seems unchallengeable, but we know that this golden age won’t last. The house of the dragon will eventually be undone through infighting and inbreeding, which will leave them enfeebled, weak, and ultimately mad.
Eventually, the Targaryen dynasty will be overthrown when Aerys II, who’s been driven insane by inbreeding, oversteps his authority and demands the execution of Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon. This order – combined with his son Rhaegar kidnapping Lyanna – ultimately leads to a civil war known as Robert’s Rebellion and the Targaryen’s armies being crushed by the combined might of The North, Vale, Riverlands, and The Stormlands. With his bannermen wiped out, Aerys is betrayed by his King’s Guard and thus ends 300 years of Targaryen rule.
Game of Thrones always treated Robert’s Rebellion as a just war against a cruel tyrant, but House of the Dragon has flipped this narrative on its head. In the final moments of the first episode, we learn the Targaryen family’s dark secret.
Aegon Targaryen, the man who conquered Westeros and forged the Seven Kingdoms, did not do so out of pure ambition. According to Viserys Targaryen, Aegon was motivated by an apocalyptic vision which began with a terrible winter.
“Just as Daenys foresaw the end of Valyria,” Viserys tells his daughter and heir Rhaenyra. “Aegon foresaw the end of the world of men. It is, to begin with, a terrible winter gusting out of the distant North.”
“Aegon saw absolute darkness riding on those winds, and whatever dwells within will destroy the world of the living,” he continued. “When this great winter comes, Rhaenyra, all of Westeros, must stand against it. And if the world of men is to survive, a Targaryen must be seated on the Iron Throne. A king or queen strong enough to unite the realm against the cold and the dark.”
Viserys finishes by explaining that this secret has been passed from king to heir since Aegon’s time and that it is now her duty to share the secret. So there we have it, Aegon’s dream is clearly about the White Walkers, and by overthrowing the Targaryen family, Robert accidentally robbed Westeros of its best early warning system, leaving them undefended.
It’s probably for the best then that the Lannisters, in their petty quest for power, began a civil war which eventually put Jon Snow (a secret Targaryen) and Daenerys in a position where they could unite the world of men against the White Walkers.
House of the Dragon is streaming now on HBO Max in the US and NOW in the UK. If you love Westeros, check out our list of the best fantasy movies, or we have a guide to the best Game of Thrones characters.