Dragons will soon dance over Westeros. The Greens and the Blacks will officially go to war when House of the Dragon returns for its second season on HBO. How did the Targaryen family get to this deadly point? Who is battling over the Iron Throne? And why will fire and blood engulf the Realm two centuries before Game of Thrones? You might not remember the answer to those questions and more after a two-year hiatus, so before House of the Dragon season two debuts this is everything you need to remember about season one.

The Major Characters, Houses, and Dragons from House of the Dragon Season 1

Milly Alcock as Young Rhaenyra, Emily Carey as Young Alicent in House of the Dragon
Ollie Upton/HBO

Get ready for the Dance of the Dragons with our updated season one primers on all things Targaryen. They’ll help you remember the major figures, families, and fire made flesh creatures of the show’s inaugural year. (Seriously, even if you just rewatched House of the Dragon season one these are all essential reading.)

Every Major New Character On House Of The Dragon
House Of The Dragon Houses That Didn’t Appear On Game Of Thrones
Who Are House Of The Dragon’s 17 Dragons?
Every Major Character Death From House Of The Dragon
The Most Brutal, Shocking, And Gross Moments In House Of The Dragon

King Viserys and His Heir


The Old King, Jaehaerys I, had no obvious heir. To resolve the matter, he called on the Realm to name one for him during a grand gathering at Harrenhal. In the final vote the lords of Westeros chose his grandson Viserys over his cousin, Rhaenys (“The Queen Who Never Was”). Their decision established an unwritten rule that males take precedence over women in the Iron Throne’s line of succession. Their decision also put in motion the future war that would divide House Targaryen and the continent.

King Viserys I and his wife Queen Aemma (who was half Targaryen/half Arryn of the Vale) would have only one surviving child, a daughter Rhaenyra. Viserys told doctors to save their unborn son, whom he believed would one day be king, at the cost of Aemma’s life during a difficult childbirth. However, the baby died a day after his mother. The boy’s death meant Viserys’ brother Daemon remained his legal heir. While the King loved his brother, many, like the Hand of the King Otto Hightower, believed Daemon reckless and dangerous. They thought he would bring ruin to the Realm if he ever ascended to the throne.


After the much-maligned Daemon was overheard toasting about his nephew’s death (“the heir for a day”), an irate Viserys named Rhaenyra his successor and ordered Daemon to leave King’s Landing. Viserys then made the lords of Westeros swear oaths to accept Rhaenyra as his rightful, lawful successor. That’s also when he told his daughter the real reason Aegon the Conqueror united the Realm.

Aegon the Conqueror’s White Walker Dream

Aegon had a dream about the eventual White Walker invasion. He believed only a united Westeros led by House Targaryen could stop the end of the world. This revelation is one of the biggest in the history of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire.

Viserys Shocks the Realm and Marries Alicent

Ollie Upton/HBO

With Daemon out of both King’s Landing and his brother’s good graces, the conniving Otto Hightower was free of his most powerful enemy. With a grieving Viserys vulnerable, the Hand of the King made his move. He instructed his daughter to console the Viserys during his time of grief. The obvious, creepy power play paid off, as the King shocked everyone by marrying Alicent rather than a more politically savvy suitor.

They would go on to have four children: the detestable, lazy, amoral Aegon, the sweet, simple Helaena (who has prophetic dreams), the focused, driven warrior Aemond, and Daeron who did not appear in season one. Aegon also married his sister Haelana. He was a terrible, uncaring, unattentive husband who likely fathered many children out of wedlock while drinking his life away in King’s Landing. But the two did have three children, the twins Jaehaerys and Jahaera and their young sibling Maelor, who did not appear in season one.

Ollie Upton/HBO

Some people thought Aegon should have usurped Rhaenyra as heir, but Viserys did not change his succession plans. (Though during one drunken evening he did express doubts to Alicent about whether or not he should.) His unexpected marriage did lead to Rhaenyra losing something else, though. It caused a deep rift in the previously loving friendship Alicent had with the Princess.

Rhaenyra’s own actions pushed them even further apart.

Rhaenyra Almost Loses Her Spot as Heir


The obstinate, independent Rhaenyra refused to pick a husband from the innumerable suitors (including lords of Great Houses) who came forth to offer their hand in marriage. Lacking the political savvy and/or will to treat them gently, she also left many feeling insulted. Viserys finally forced her into an arranged marriage with Laenor Velaryon—son of the powerful Lord of the Tides and Master of Ships, Corlys Velaryon—after Viserys heard scandalous reports about his daughter cavorting in Flea Bottom with her uncle Daemon. In response an irate Viserys said if Rhaenyra did not agree to the marriage he would name her half-brother Aegon as his lawful heir instead.

While Rhaenyra maintained her position as heir, her evening did result in two powerful figures losing their place in the King’s court. Viserys finally realized how Otto had manipulated him into marrying Alicent and removed Otto as Hand of the King. And Daemon, who had returned to King’s Landing in glory after winning a war in the vitally important Stepstones alongside Corlys Velaryon, saw his scandalous evening with Rhaenyra lead to a second estrangement from his brother.

Ollie Upton/HBO

What no one knew was that Rhaenyra had actually ended that night with her sworn protector and member of the Kingsguard, the worst human on the planet, Ser Criston Cole. Their relationship would also forever change the Realm.

The Many Loves of Rhaenyra


Before her marriage, Criston Cole, who’d violated his sacred Kingsguard oath already, proposed that Rhaneyra run off to Essos with him. She refused to give up her future crown and the world-changing prophecy entrusted to her. That ended their relationship. The awful, despicable loser grew to hate Rhaenyra and instead swore his life to protecting her rival, Queen Alicent.

Rhaenyra’s first marriage also helped lead to the coming civil war. She had no problem that Laenor was gay, and the two agreed to live their own lives will still maintaining a strong personal bond. He spent his time with his paramours while she spent hers with Ser Harwin Strong, the son of new Hand of the King Lyonel Strong. Rhaenyra’s three dark-haired sons were all clearly Harwin’s offspring, an open secret everyone but Viserys knew.


Eventually Rhaenyra and Laenor came up with a plan to fake his death so he could live freely in Essos and she could marry her uncle Daemon, recently widowed for the second time. (He caused his first wife’s fatal accident and his second, the sister of Laenor had her dragon Vhagar bathe her in flame during childbirth.)

Everyone, including Laenor’s powerful parents, assumed Rhaenyra and Daemon had Laenor killed. Rhaenyra and Daemon would have two children, Aegon (yes, another one) and Viserys. Both had blonde Targaryen hair.

The Two Families of Viserys Don’t See Eye to Eye

Ollie Upton/HBO

The kind but naive Viserys was desperate for all his grandchildren to grow up together and form strong familial bond that would strengthen House Targaryen. Instead Alicent’s boys mocked their “strong” cousins for clearly being illegitimate. Their feud would erupt one fateful night after Aemond claimed the biggest dragon in the world, Vhagar. When he returned from his first flight a fight between the boys led to Rhaenyra’s son Luke slicing out Aemond’s eye. The entire royal court then saw just how much animosity existed between Alicent and Rhaenyra.

Alicent believed she’d always been dutiful while Rhaenyra did whatever she wanted. Rhaenyra believed Alicent, who wanted Luke to lose an eye as payment, was a fraud long hiding behind a veil of morality.

Larys Strong Kills His Family and Otto Hightower Returns


Larys Clubfoot, Master of Whispers, had his father and brother killed in a fire at Harrenhal, making him Lord of the giant ruined castle. He then worked for Queen Alicent, who kept Larys happy by indulging his foot fetish.

The less said about all of that the better.

Deathbed Confusion Leads to a New King


A dying Viserys spent his final night on Earth happy. He’d organized a dinner for all his family where everyone had a nice time. But when Viserys left Aemond couldn’t help but insult his cousins, splintering the two sides again. Alicent then went to see her husband. He believed he was talking to Rhaenyra about Aegon’s dream. Alicent thought Viserys was talking about their son and that he wanted their child to become king and not Rhaenyra.

When Alicent went to the small council she learned they were already planning to install Aegon as king over Rhaenyra, who was back at Dragonstone unaware her father had even died. Criston Cole murdered the only member of the council who spoke up against the coup. Days later, and after making lords and ladies in King’s Landing choose a side at threat of death, Cole crowned a previously reluctant Aegon in the Dragonpit with the Conqueror’s crown and sword in front of all King’s Landing.


Princess Rhaenys, who Alicent had tried to imprison in the Red Keep, ruined the festivities when she broke through the floor with her dragon Meleys. Rhaenys opted not to kill the Hightower faction, even though her two granddaughters and only unquestioned living heirs will now be in danger. Rhaenys instead flew to Dragonstone to alert Rhaenyra about Aegon taking the Iron Throne.

The Dance of the Dragons Begins With a Mother’s Grief


Rhaenyra did not respond with fire and blood to her brother’s treachery. She showed restraint and debated whether she should give up her claim to keep the peace. (In large part because of Aegon the Conqueror’s dream.)

But she still made moves to shore up her support after being named Queen with her father’s crown. (The Kingsguard Arryk Cargyll had stolen it and brought it to her, while his identical twin brother Erryk stayed to serve in Aegon’s Kingsguard.) Rhaenyra then sent her two oldest sons, Jace and Luke, off to see if the Lords of Westeros remembered their oaths to her.

Some did, but others hadn’t even made them. Their fathers had. That included Borros Baratheon, who agreed to support Aegon in exchange for Aemond marrying one of his daughters.


Prince Lucerys knew none of this when he arrived at Storm’s End to seek the support of House Baratheon. There Luke found an angry Borros and his cousin, who wanted one of Luke’s eyes for long overdue retribution.

Luke then left on his small dragon and Aemond followed on Vhagar. As Aemond chased Luke down to merely toy with him, the dragons acted out and Vhagar killed both Luke’s dragon and the young prince. Season one ended with Daemon telling Rhaenyra about her child’s death.


And so the Dance of the Dragons began.

Now you’re all caught up on season one. So get ready for the show’s second season with Everything We Know About House of the Dragon Season 2.

Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist who talks about Westeros like it’s a real place. You can follow him on  Twitter and  Bluesky at @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.