(CNN)“Game of Thrones” fans, it’s time to put your season 8 trust issues aside and return to Westeros for another emotionally taxing adventure! HBO’s new spinoff “House of the Dragon” promises to have all of the rich lore of the original series, plus an extended CGI dragon budget.
As it is with any good high fantasy tale, your “House of the Dragon” experience will likely benefit from a little nerd homework. Here is everything you need to know before you watch so you can avoid common confusions like “Why are all of these blonde people so sad?” or “Wait, they’re related?!”
(HBO and CNN share parent company Warner Bros. Discovery.)
We’re in the dragon-heavy past
“House of the Dragon” is a prequel series that focuses on the Targaryen dynasty; they of myth, madness, incest and purple shampoo. In the original “Game of Thrones” show and in the “Song of Ice And Fire” book series, the powerful House Targaryen has all but died off thanks to regicide and what seems to be a familial lack of impulse control from generations of inbreeding. Daenerys Targaryen is one of the few that remain in GoT-times, and even she gets prematurely sent off to the Shadow Lands by her nephew-lover, Jon Snow. (The Targaryen family tree is very narrow, yet complicated. The Targaryen Family Shillelagh, if you will.)
Anyway, HoD takes place 200 years before the events of “Game of Thrones,” when the Targaryens are in full power and about to enter a very nasty, fiery war of succession known as the “Dance of Dragons.”
Keep in mind that, during the peak of their power, the Targaryens were a dragon-riding terror, hence their house motto: “Fire and Blood.” Their scaled steeds brought the family from their original home of Valyria and helped them conquer all of Westeros. In the original GoT series, all of those dragons have been dead for a while. In HoD, they are (presumably) alive and well.
It’s a Full House (Targaryen)
Since this is right before the eventual downfall of House Targaryen, there are a lot of Targs at play. Too many Targs, one could argue. Some name tags would be nice.
- King Viserys I is the current king of Westeros. He’s actually a pretty cool guy. To give an idea of the time frame here, Viserys I is Daenerys’ great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather. His kids and loved ones are the ones fighting to inherit power for when he eventually kicks it.
- Princess Rhaenyra is Viserys’ daughter by his first wife. Her father favors her as his successor, but there are several other contenders at play. It appears most of the action will center on her. Think of her as this series’ Daenerys. She wants to rule, she has the qualifications, but a bunch of dudes keep getting in her way. Her dragon’s name is Syrax.
- Prince Aegon II is Viserys’ first-born son and half-brother to Rhaenyra. He is another possible successor and a very big part of the war to come.
- Prince Daemon is Viserys’ brother and Rhaenyra’s uncle. He’s your typical Hamlet-y “always a prince, never a king” kind of figure. He is a bit of a rake and there’s a lot of sexual tension between him and Rhaenyra which is, again, par for the course when it comes to this fam.
- Alicent Hightower is Viserys’ second wife and stepmother to Rhaenyra. She is Aegon II’s mother and has designs to be Westeros’ first queen regnant, so she doesn’t get along with her stepdaughter. An evil stepmother? Groundbreaking. At this point, just assume everyone is corrupt and power-hungry. (Very big Margaery Tyrell vibes from her as well. RIP, queen.)
There are many more Targaryens and Targaryen-adjacent people to keep track of, but let’s pace ourselves.
Another good thing to remember is that many people in Westeros believe the Targaryens have a genetic tendency towards insanity. (Ser Barristan Selmy put it best: “Every time a new Targaryen is born, the gods toss a coin in the air and the world holds its breath.) So even the good ones are, theoretically, one minor inconvenience away from mass murder.
A lot of Westeros will look familiar to you
The Iron Throne is definitely around, having been built by the first Targaryen king, Aegon. You’ll recall many GoT characters spoke wonderingly about Aegon and his two sister-wives, Rhaenys and Visenya, who were the first generation of Targaryens to come to Westeros to (literally) set things off. They became the first ruling house of the Seven Kingdoms in Westeros. So at this point in the game, when HoD takes place, the current political system has only seen Targaryen rulers.
The Red Keep was also Aegon’s doing, so it’s there too, as is the surrounding town of King’s Landing.
You’ll recognize a few houses! The Hightowers have representation, of course. There are a few Baratheons scattered about. The Lannisters at this point in Westeros history are just minor, if very rich, players. We’ll learn more about House Velaryon, another house of Valyrian descent that was occasionally mentioned in “Game of Thrones.” However, don’t expect to see any familiar faces from the original “Game of Thrones” series.
And lastly, you will spend half of your time keeping everyone’s names straight
Are your wheels completely greased for a new era of “Game of Thrones?” Are you absolutely sure? Great! Here’s a sampling of actual Targaryen names from the “Game of Thrones” universe.
No wonder they all went mad. Luckily, only a small portion of these names will appear in “House of the Dragon,” but it does make one long for the good old GoT days when the main character just went by “Jon.”