House of the Dragon‘s sixth episode answered one of Fire & Blood‘s biggest questions. We finally know who caused the fire that killed Lord Lyonel Strong and his oldest son. It was Ser Harwin’s younger brother, Larys. His bloody betrayal is not only shocking, it completely reframes everything we thought we knew about The Clubfoot and his motives during the Dance of the Dragons. Thanks to House of the Dragon, Larys Strong is no longer the war’s greatest enigma; he’s one of the greatest villains in all of Game of Thrones.
House of the Dragon has revealed to viewers what book readers already know about Larys Strong’s allegiances during the coming Targaryen civil war. He has aligned himself with Alicent’s faction. But why he he chose her side is a revelation to everyone.
George R.R. Martin’s history of House Targaryen never provides a tangible reason why The Clubfoot chose to support the Queen. None of the many figures whose versions of events shape Fire & Blood‘s unreliable recounting ever claim to know Larys’s motivations. He’s remembered as someone who spoke little and kept his own counsel, a mysterious man whose true reasons for what he did died with him. Until House of the Dragon, the only logical explanation for the Clubfoot’s actions came entirely from subtext.
Ser Harwin Strong was the real father of Rhaenyra’s black-haired children. That open-secret is much bigger than just being a dishonor to the late Hand of the King and his family, though. It could rip the Realm apart. The Princess, the first female heir to the Iron Throne, has always known she will face opposition to her claim. But to have any children out of wedlock—with her sworn shield no less—is a scandal that could cost Rhaenyra all her allies. It would also likely lead to her exile if not worse. That’s why King Viserys doesn’t want to even acknowledge the possibility Ser Harwin fathering her three children. He’d be forced to disown her.
Rhaenyra’s ascension to the throne is now also a more complicated issue than whether or not Westeros will accept a woman as its ruler. Her own heir will be thought a bastard. And Game of Thrones fans know why that would cause issues in a kingdom that sneers at people like Jon Snow.
That’s why, even though no Westerosi historian ever wrote it plainly, there was always a logical reason to explain Larys Clubfoot’s alliance with Queen Alicent. Princess Rhaenyra’s affair with Ser Harwin brought shame upon House Strong. But worse, their affair seemed to also lead to his father and brother’s death. Fire & Blood never determines the cause of the deadly fire at Harrenhal, but it provides plenty of suspects.
Some say it was Corlys Velaryon looking to kill the man who brought shame upon his son, Rhaenyra’s husband Laenor. Others accuse King Viserys himself, desperate to protect his daughter’s secret. Or that it was his brother Daemon, the newly-widowed Prince who wanted to marry Rhaenyra long ago. And some chalk it up to the curse of Harrenhal, whose lords and ladies always seem to die curious deaths shortly after claiming the castle.
The least likely suspect named by historians has always been Larys himself. Some thought he killed his father and brother so he could inherit Harrenhal. But the bonds of family in Westeros, combined with the curse of kinslaying, made that seem absurd. Especially since at the time of the fire Lyonel Strong was still Hand of the King, one of the most powerful people in the Seven Kingdoms. And there was never any documented enmity between father and son, or between brothers.
Larys’ allegiance to Alicent only made sense after her brother’s affair and the fire. Or at least it did until now.
Now House of the Dragon has shown that Larys Strong aligned himself with Alicent years earlier. He then killed his only family in a quest to gain something far greater than her favor or the ruins of a cursed castle.
He sees the war that is coming to Westeros. He’s picked his side early to show his value, loyalty, and unwavering commitment. And as thanks for murdering his own kin for Alicent, Larys “knows” the Queen will find a way to one day reward him for his service. Because none of this is about right and wrong, or even revenge for Larys. It’s all about him.
The Clubfoot is not a brokenhearted brother. He did not grow to hate the Princess who sullied his family name as so many always thought. The cunning Larys Strong’s greatest secret was that he is a devious, amoral monster who did not love his family and saw the coming chaos of House Targaryen as a ladder of opportunity. All of which makes him one of Westeros’s greatest villains.
Even Littlefinger didn’t murder his own father to get ahead.
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.