House of the Dragon begins when the Targaryens are at the height of their power. Viserys I Targaryen is now the King of the Seven Kingdoms after being named King Jaeherys I’s successor. Viserys went before the Great Council along with Princess Rhaenys, Jaeherys’ eldest descendant and the only other viable candidate to be his successor. Jaeherys had to name a successor in order to prevent a war because he knew that “the only thing that could tear down the house of the dragon was itself.”
Nine years into King Viserys I’s reign, 172 years before the death of King Aerys and the birth of Daenerys Targaryen, Viserys has a daughter named Rhaenyra, a confident princess and dragonrider. Rhaenyra’s mom, Queen Aemma, is expecting another child.
Rhaenyra is a trusted young princess and is present during her father’s small council meetings. She hears about everything that’s going on in the Realm. Viserys brings up Aemma and talks highly of his future heir. Despite Rhaenyra being his first-born child, she will be completely passed over if Aemma gives birth to a son.
After the meeting, Rhaenyra goes to the Great Hall and finds her uncle Daemon — who was noticeably absent at the small council meeting — sitting on the Iron Throne. They are close and speak Valyrian together. He brings her a necklace that’s made of Valyrian steel and puts it around her neck. Later, Rhaenyra’s close friend, Alicent, knows that Rhaenyra is upset over her father’s raving about having a son.
Rhaenrya lounges with Alicent, Otto Hightower’s daughter. Alicent knows that Rhaenyra is upset that he’s about to overshadow her with a son. Rhaenyra tells Alicent that she would love to fly with her on dragonback and travel the world.
Daemon’s Chaos Causes Problems For The King
Meanwhile, Viserys has an infection on his back. Otto Hightower, his Hand, tells the Grand Maester that this ailment needs to be kept quiet. Viserys goes to find his beloved wife. He believes more than anything else that this child she’s having is a boy. Aemma confesses that this will be her last pregnancy. She’s mourned all the dead children she can.
Daemon, the king’s commander of the City Watch, orders his soldiers to enact law and order in the most extreme ways. There are beatings, mutilations, amputations, and decapitations under his watch. The small council immediately hears about this. Otto stresses to Viserys that Daemon can’t be allowed to act with this “unchecked impunity.”
Daemon defends himself and claims he was doing his brother a service by rounding up all the criminals in King’s Landing. “Our city should be safe for all its people,” Daemon says. Viserys tells Daemon that he hopes he doesn’t have to maim everyone to do it. “Time will tell,” Daemon says a bit too confidently.
Lord Corlys Velaryon defends Daemon’s decision. Otto decides to try a different tactic to break Daemon down: by bringing up his wife, who is currently alone in the Vale. Daemon calls his own wife a “bronze b*tch.” This is clearly a marriage of obligation. He doesn’t care about the vows he made. Daemon and Otto definitely don’t see eye-to-eye on anything, but Viserys’ soft spot for his brother always gives Daemon a “get out of jail free” card.
While Daemon has a wife, he gets his pleasure with Mysaria (at least most of the time). After his tense small council meeting, he can’t finish. Mysaria is his confidant and she comforts him over his frustrations.
Viserys Makes A Devastating Choice
Viserys’ tournament for Daemon gets underway as Queen Aemma goes into labor. There’s plenty of drama right away. One knight calls Rhaenys the “Queen Who Never Was” in front of Viserys. Rhaenyra and Alicent exchange gossip, and Rhaenyra gets the inside scoop about the handsome Ser Criston Cole from Harrold Westerling, the Lord Commander.
In an attempt to get back at Otto for trying to undermine him, Daemon picks Ser Gawain Hightower, Otto’s son, to battle first. Daemon looks right at Otto before the jousting begins. While Gawain gets the first blow, Daemon succeeds in the second round. He then twists the knife in further by asking for Alicent’s favor. Her father gives her a look, but she does it anyway.
Viserys rushes to Aemma’s side after learning of labor complications. The baby is breech. Aemma’s condition worsens, and the Grand Maester warns Viserys that he may have to make a heartbreaking decision or risk losing his wife and child.
Viserys chooses his heir over his wife. “I love you,” he tells Aemma before the Grand Maester begins to cut her open. She begs Viserys not to do this, but he doesn’t listen to her pleas. He has the gall to hold her hand as she cries and blood gushes from her womb.
Meanwhile, Ser Criston goes head-to-head with Daemon. Daemon falls off his horse during the joust, and things segue into a contest of arms. While it looks like Daemon is going to prevail, Criston strikes back at the last moment. Criston ends up winning this round, and Daemon is not happy about it. Criston goes to ask for Rhaenyra’s favor after his victory. “I wish you luck, Ser Criston,” she replies flirtatiously.
Viserys’ Decision Ends In A Double Tragedy
Viserys gets his son but only for a moment. His son, his heir, soon dies. He lost them both after all. At the funeral, Daemon has to tell Rhaenyra in Valyrian, “They’re waiting for you.” Rhaenyra is clearly angry with her father. “I wonder if, during those few hours my brother lived, my father finally found happiness,” she replies. Daemon tells Rhaenyra that her father is going to need her now more than ever. “I will never be a son,” she says.
Rhaenyra calls to Syrax, her dragon. She looks over at her father, who just stares straight ahead. “Dracarys,” she says, ordering Syrax to burn her mother and brother.
Soon after the funeral, Otto calls a meeting about Viserys’ succession. Corlys believes the matter is simple: Daemon is the heir. There is talk of Daemon being the uncontested heir causing “destabilization in the Realm.” Otto is adamantly against Daemon being made Viserys’ successor.
“Daemon should be far away from this court,” Otto says. It’s brought up that Daemon could even murder Viserys and take his crown. “Daemon has ambition, yes. But not for the crown,” Viserys tells his small council as Daemon listens to everything everyone is saying.
One of the council members says Viserys could just name his heir. Otto brings up Rhaenyra’s name. The idea is met with criticism because she’s a woman. Otto believes that Rhaenyra is the better option over Daemon. Viserys doesn’t want to choose between his brother and his daughter. Corlys adds that there are other options. His wife, Rhaenys, is an option. She has a living male heir, too.
Viserys snaps and walks out of the meeting. Alicent goes to see her father. He wants her to go offer Viserys’ comfort in the wake of his losses. She is aware of what he’s plotting, what this means for her. But yet, Alicent does what she’s told.
Viserys & Daemon’s Relationship Falls Apart
Meanwhile, Daemon is at a brothel. Mysaria calls him “the king’s sole heir once again.” Later, Otto tells Viserys that Daemon bought out a pleasure house and toasted to Prince Baelon. Daemon called him “the heir for a day.” This sends Viserys over the edge. Viserys calls upon Daemon to stand before him while he’s on the Iron Throne. He demands to know if Daemon really did utter those words. “We must all mourn in our own way,” Daemon says.
Viserys is furious. He’s only ever defended his brother. “You’ve only ever tried to send me away,” Daemon snaps. Daemon is angry that Viserys has never asked him to be his Hand. He believes Otto has ulterior motives. “He doesn’t protect you. I would,” Daemon tells his brother. From who, Viserys wonders. “Yourself,” Daemon says. He’s brutally honest with his brother. Daemon believes Viserys is weak and the small council knows it.
“I have decided to name a new heir,” Viserys reveals. Daemon says, “I’m your heir.” Not anymore. He’s sending Daemon away. After Daemon called him weak, Viserys cuts his hand on the Iron Throne again.
A Great Ruling Queen
Rhaenyra is ordered to see her father in the cellars of the Red Keep. He asks her what she sees when she sees dragons. “I suppose I see us,” Rhaenyra replies. Rhaenyra brings up that people believe the Targaryens are close to the gods because they have dragons. “Without them, we’re just like everyone else,” she says.
Viserys doesn’t think men should have ever messed with dragons. If they’re not careful, they could end up ruined just like Valyria. He apologizes for wasting all these years waiting for a son. “You are the very best of your mother, and I believe as I know she did that you could be a great ruling queen,” Viserys tells his daughter. When she brings up Daemon, Viserys stresses that Daemon was “not made to wear the crown… but I believe that you were.”
Everyone pledges their fealty to Viserys and his chosen heir. Viserys does warn his daughter that “the Iron Throne is the most dangerous seat in the Realm.” He also lets her in on a little secret. He tells her The Song of Ice and Fire, a secret that’s been passed from king to heir since King Aegon’s time. As Viserys officially names Rhaenyra his heir, Daemon leaves King’s Landing on dragonback.