House of the Dragon Episode 1 Recap: Every Storyline, Character and Easter Egg

House of the Dragon Episode 1 Recap: Every Storyline, Character and Easter Egg
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After burning most of the planet with the Game of Thrones finale, HBO has returned to the world of Westeros to bring us a damn good prequel series in House of the Dragon. I know this because not only did I like it but it’s already breaking viewership records for its premiere. So, yes, Game of Thrones nights are back people and we’re here to help with a recap of everything that went in on House of the Dragon Episode 1.

This article contains full spoilers for House of the Dragon. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can watch Episode 1 over on Binge now.

House of the Dragon episode 1: Plot recap

Screenshot: House of the Dragon/HBO Max, Fair Use
House of the Dragon Episode 1 (Screenshot: HBO/Binge)

We open with the iconic HBO tune but no catchy theme song. Initially, I felt cheated by this but apparently an intro is coming next week so I’ll save my judgements until then.

Through voice over we’re told about the strength of House Targaryen and its 10 adult dragons. However, the ‘Old King’ Jaehaerys Targaryen is getting, well, old and without an obvious heir, he must appoint a successor.

Jaehaerys calls a council of the lords of Westeros at Harrenhal where they hear 14 succession claims for the throne.

Only two are seriously considered: Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best), the King’s eldest descendant, or her younger cousin Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine), who is Jaehaerys’ eldest male descendant. (Before you get too confused, here’s a guide to the Targaryen family tree.)

Because the patriarchy and whatever, Viserys is chosen to succeed the king.

We’re then left with the ominous statement that the only thing that could tear down the House of the Dragon is itself.

house of the dragon recap
Image: HBO/Binge

Fast forward and we’re nine years into Viserys’ reign which for the record is a long time before Danaerys Targaryen even breathed (172 years to be exact).

House of the Dragon lives up to its name right away as we follow the series’ first dragon flight. It’s Princess Rhaenyra (Millie Alcock), Viserys’ daughter, riding on her dragon Syrax. Dragons are common in this time so people don’t even look up as she passes. But for us, it’s still pretty cool.

Next, we meet Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey). She is the daughter of Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) Hand of the King and Rhaenyra’s best friend, who isn’t quite bold enough for dragon riding. We also meet Rhaenyra’s mother Aemma (Sian Brooke), who is pregnant and ready for birth any day now. Aemma warns her daughter that this will be her duty someday, which Rhaenyra is none too pleased about.

On to the politics, we find King Viserys presiding over his small council. There’s talk of a few things: pirates in the shipping lanes, Prince Daemon Targaryen spending frivolously as Commander of the City Watch, and plans are made for a tournament in honour of the king’s new heir. The king is a bit too keen on his new heir in front of his daughter, which he’s certain is a male.

Rhaenyra visits her uncle, Prince Daemon (Matt Smith), who has entered King’s Landing under his brother’s nose and is even sitting on his favourite chair — the Iron Throne. Without his brother present, Daemon jokes that he’s returned for the heir’s tournament, which is technically his tournament, for now.

Daemon gifts Rhaenyra a Valyrian steel necklace, which is nice but there’s definitely something odd about this relationship.

house of the dragon review
House of the Dragon (Image: HBO/Binge)

Next, we gain some more insight into Rhaenyra and Alicent’s friendship, which Fire & Blood readers will know is integral to this whole series. Rhaenyra is less enamoured with her royal position than Alicent, claiming she’d rather ride dragons and eat cake than take the throne. Honestly, same.

Speaking of the Iron Throne, it’s living up to its name as the most dangerous seat in the Seven Kingdoms and has left King Viserys with a wound on his back that refuses to heal. Now, who thought sitting on a throne of swords was a good idea?

Upon visiting his queen, Aemma tells her husband that after a number of stillbirths this will be her last pregnancy. Viserys is adamant that this is the last one they’ll need because Aemma is definitely birthing a son. He dreamed about it, it must be true.

Daemon meanwhile incites order through violence on the streets as Commander of the City Watch and sets his soldiers loose upon the masses. The result is a growing pile of body parts. Yep, Game of Thrones is still violent.

Daemon receives a less than warm reception to this at the Small Council meeting the next day. He’s questioned over both his brutal tactics and his absence from the Vale where his wife, Rhea Royce, resides.

Because its Game of Thrones, it’s not long until we’re back in a brothel. Here we see that Daemon enjoys the company of a prostitute named Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno) much more than that of his wife.

The heir’s tourney kicks off and knights from around the realm try to knock each other off horses and play politics with the favours of the royals. Rhaenyra has her eye on a mystery contender, who we’ll come to learn is Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel). He manages to best every opponent he faces, including the cocky Baratheon knights.

Daemon then arrives (in a helmet that you cannot take seriously) to choose his first opponent: Otto Hightower’s son. The Prince proceeds to rub it in the Hand of the King’s face by using dirty tactics to unseat his son and sweep by to take Alicent’s favour. Next, he’s up against Criston Cole, who manages to beat the Prince both in the joust and the subsequent sword fight and even sidles up to take Rhaenyra’s favour.

house of the dragon episode 1
Image: HBO/Binge

Meanwhile, Aemma has gone into labour and things are not going well. Viserys is faced with an impossible choice: allow the maester to use a risky procedure to remove the baby, or lose them both. He chooses to save his prospective heir which results in an archaic C-section that we see way too much of.

While Aemma’s death has given Viserys the son he craves, tragically the newborn is not long for this world. Their bodies are burned on a funeral pyre lit by dragon fire, where Rhaenyra contemplates whether those brief hours with a son gave her father the happiness he craved.

In what can only be described as too soon, the Small Council wants to debate Viserys’ succession.

There are arguments for and against Daemon as Viserys’ heir. Viserys doesn’t think Daemon desires the throne, but his advisors know better. Otto suggests the king name his own successor and points to Rhaenyra as an option. We’ve already seen how well-received the prospect of a female heir was and it goes down much the same here.

Image: HBO/Binge

Otto isn’t done meddling, however, and sends his daughter to check up on the grieving king. “You might wear one of her mother’s dresses,” he specifically orders. The writing is on the wall here.

The Hand of the King continues to stir up controversy at the council meeting the next day, reporting that Daemon was seen at a pleasure house mocking the death of his nephew by calling him “the heir for a day”. Yikes.

Viserys doesn’t take to this too kindly and confronts his brother. Daemon is frustrated that Viserys constantly sends him on missions away from the family and argues that the king’s advisors are inferior to that of family. Viserys isn’t swayed and reveals he has decided to name a new heir and sends Daemon back to Rhunestone.

Next Viserys breaks the news to Rhaenyra that she is to be his heir. He calls a council of the lords of Westeros (oh, hi Starks) and watches as they all swear fealty to his daughter.

Not everyone is so happy and Daemon can be seen leaving King’s Landing with his mistress, Mysaria, on the back of his dragon Caraxes. Just like Arnold Schwarzenneger, I’m sure he’ll be back.

However, the title of heir comes with a secret, one that will have Game of Thrones fans everywhere losing their minds.

Viserys reveals to Rhaenyra a dream that Aegon Targaryen, the first king, had that led him to conquer Westeros. Aegon foresaw the end of the world of men which would begin with a terrible winter in the North, followed by absolute darkness (hmm, I wonder what that could be).

To combat this, Westeros would need to unite to stand against it and a Targaryen King or Queen must be seated on the throne at the time in order for them to survive.

The dream was called A Song of Ice and Fire. 

Easter (dragon) eggs

house of the dragon review
House of the Dragon (Image: Ollie Upton/HBO)

A whole lot sure happened in House of the Dragon Episode 1, so let’s go over some of the important things:

  • A Song of Ice and Fire is also the title of George R.R. Martin’s book saga so we’re getting super self-referential here. This is major for a few reasons, one because it retcons certain elements of Game of Thrones history by providing a higher purpose for Aegon’s conquest. Aegon’s dream clearly seems to refer to the threat of the White Walkers which we’ll see nearly 200 years later. The way Season 8 leaves things does seem to fulfil the prophecy as it is ultimately two Targaryens, Daenerys and Jon Snow (aka Aegon Targaryen), who help to end the White Walkers.
  • If you sensed some vibes between Alicent and Viserys, and Daemon and Rhaenyra you’re not alone.
  • That dragon skull we see Viserys and Rhaenyra talk in front of at the end belongs to Balerion the Black Dread, aka Aegon the Conquerer’s iconic dragon. In the book, Viserys was the last rider of Balerion and did not bond with another dragon after its death.
  • Confused about those random spheres each of the King’s Council members have? Apparently, they have a purpose.

I don’t know about anyone else but one of my favourite parts about watching Game of Thrones was the memes, so please enjoy some of my favourites from House of the Dragon Episode 1.

This week I very much enjoyed seeing everyone turn up for event television again and nothing proves it more than this one building in NYC.

It’s good to be back.

House of the Dragon airs weekly on Mondays at 11 am AEST on Binge.

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At Lifehacker, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.


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