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 have already 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 2: After watching the first episode of House of the Dragonwhich character do you feel is the most likely to betray King Viserys Targaryen?
Claire McNear: Otto Hightower. Although the show has done an excellent job teasing treachery from within the royal bloodline itself, I’m going to go with the wily hand of the king. The series premiere was heavy on hints that Otto’s daughter, Alicent, has an, ahem, special relationship with the king. We don’t know exactly where things stand as far as the possible incubation of a Y chromosome goes, but it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to think that Otto had a very specific goal in mind when he told Alicent to go to Viserys in a dress of her mother’s that the king had liked.
The problem, of course, is that Viserys has now backed Rhaenyra as his heir. Should Alicent wind up in the birthing chair with a claimant of her own—a male one, specifically—I don’t see Otto deferring to his royal in-law and allowing his own grandson to be passed over. An opening for regent, you say?
Khal Davenport: Game of Thrones deals with the politics of running kingdoms and the struggles to gain that power, and my gut is telling me that Daemon Targaryen will be the one to betray his older brother. After being on the cusp of sitting the Iron Throne and then having that away—in fairness, due to a crude remark he made about the king’s dead son—Daemon’s angry, and we’ve seen he has a penchant for lashing out whenever he see fit.
I’m not opposed to members of King Viserys’s court having reasons to take Daemon out of his position; they themselves laid out a convincing argument for why Daemon would betray his brother. I also say this knowing I’m suggesting the easiest possible option here, based on how much Daemon and his rage featured in the first episode. But when you stack him up against the other potential candidates for betrayal in this conversation, Daemon surely seems the most capable.
Jonathan Barlett: With only one episode under our belts, it would be easy to put Otto Hightower at the top of this list—but if that’s what the show wants us to think, I will gladly look elsewhere. That elsewhere has to be Princess Rhaenyra herself. Gasp! But why?
Betrayal can come in all shapes and sizes, and just because Rhaenyra is heir to the king, that doesn’t mean that (1) she will remain so or (2) she won’t become a power-thirsty daddy killer (a Tyrion –and–Cersei Lannister mashup, if you will). One thing to keep in mind is Rhaenyra’s previous role as cupbearer. As Arya Stark did with Lord Tywin before—er, after—Rhaenyra, the princess has been soaking up the politics within the king’s council, including from her father himself. As she grows in her role as heir apparent, don’t be surprised if she realizes her priorities are much different from Viserys’s. It just might lead to her putting a knife in the back of the king. For the good of the realm, of course.
Megan Schuster: There are a few obvious answers to this one: Daemon, the sidelined younger brother who thinks he knows better and is stronger than the reigning king; Otto, the sneaky hand who sits to the right of his target, ready to do whatever it takes (including pimping out his 14-year-old daughter) to land the Iron Throne. But here, I’m going with someone who was in the first episode of House of the Dragon just enough to capture our attention but not enough to fully stand out: Rhaenys Targaryen.
Rhaenys has all the motivation necessary to want to take down her cousin. Had the Great Council not been full of withered old men (I assume), maybe they would have given her the seat that Viserys now occupies. And to walk around King’s Landing being called “the Queen Who Never Was” would be enough to drive anyone to vengeance. But there’s also one extra sly piece to all of this that can’t be overlooked: Rhaenys’s husband, Lord Corlys Velaryon, sits on the Small Council and is privy to all of Visarys’s plans. That gives her just enough of a connection to the king, but plenty of plausible deniability if things go south.
Am I pitching this idea just because I want to see more of Eve Best in future episodes? Possibly. But they don’t say “hell hath no fury like a scorned woman” for no reason now, do they?
Eric Jenkins: Much like some of my colleagues suggested, I believe Otto Hightower is too easy of a target. If House of the Dragon is anything like its predecessor, the telegraphed first choice won’t be the main one to be disloyal. Daemon, on the other hand, does seem likely to come back with a vengeance, but I predict it’ll be something more like an all-out war rather than a sneaky betrayal. (If you get banished from the realm and are forced to live in exile, is your eventual retaliation really considered backstabbing?) No, we need something even more mind-blowing. Something that just doesn’t make sense—until it does. That person is … Otto’s daughter, Alicent.
What do we know about Alicent so far? We know that her father apparently wants his daughter to seduce the king, and, in much more lighthearted and age-appropriate behavior, that she is Rhaenyra’s best friend. I see clear motivation for Alicent to dispose of the king: Not only will she save herself from a uncomfortable relationship with a deeply older man (whose previous wife was involuntarily given a fatal, king-ordered C-section), but she’ll speed up the process in which Rhaenyra is crowned. Alicent will then probably get herself named hand of the queen in the process—that’s what best friends are for, right? Three positive outcomes for the price of one. I’m just saying.