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SPOILER ALERT: House Of The Dragon episode 1 recap

All the wildest scenes and moments
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Spoiler Alert: This recap will cover the entire episode, guts and all.

Trigger Warning: this story discusses themes of violence.

Welcome back to Westeros, 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones. Or, as the title made painfully obvious, 172 years before the birth of Daenerys Targaryen.

WATCH BELOW: House of the Dragon Official Teaser Trailer

HBO clearly expects that its audience has seen Game of Thrones because it launches directly into the lore without hesitation. 

We open in the year 101, at the end of King Jaehaerys Targaryen’s 60 year reign. With no sons Jaehaerys has to hold a council to decide who will be his successor. The strongest claims come from his granddaughter, Rhaenys, and his nephew, Viserys. 

Because this is Westeros, Viserys is chosen. Confirming that only men can be kings. This is called foreshadowing.

The Targaryen royal family
The Targaryen royal family (Credit: HBO/BINGE)

Meet the Targaryens

After the title card (the opening theme is nowhere near as strong as GoT’s) we’re shown King’s Landing nine years later.

Last time we saw King’s Landing, Daenerys was burning it to the ground and there is definitely an allusion made as we admire the city from the back of a dragon. This time, however, the citizens are unafraid. It’s just a normal Tuesday for them.

When the dragon lands, we meet Viserys’ daughter Rhaenyra (played by Australia’s own Milly Alcock) and her friend/maid Alicent Hightower. They travel into the city proper where we find Rhaenyra’s mother Aemma, who is heavily pregnant. 

A lot of the early scenes feel like it is just establishing characters because after that we’re whisked to a small council meeting with Viserys, his hand Ser Otto Hightower, some other councillors that don’t get names and Lord Corlys Valeryon, Rhaenys husband.

Lord Corlys Velaryon
Lord Corlys Velaryon (Credit: HBO/BINGE)

The Targaryen names are going to get confusing so here is the family tree if you’re getting lost. 

The council are discussing an upcoming tournament in honour of Viserys’ unborn child. Viserys is convinced the child will be a son, therefore assuring his line of succession. 

We hear about a power struggle in Essos and about some pirates in the Stepstones but Otto dismisses most of this talk to discuss Viserys’ wayward brother Daemon. 

Daemon is the last character we have to meet before the episode properly begins. Rhaenyra finds him sitting on her father’s throne and the two banter in Valyrian about how Daemon is about to lose his place as heir. There is an awkwardly flirtatious moment when Daemon gives his niece a necklace and we’re grossly reminded that the Targaryen’s tend to inbreed.

House of the dragon
Rhaenyra meets Daemon in the throne room (Credit: HBO/BINGE)

Guts and glory

Finally things kick off in proper Game of Thrones style by brutally maiming half the population of King’s Landing. 

Daemon, head of the City Watch (also known as the gold cloaks), delivers a speech to his men about how crime and debauchery have flourished in the city and it’s their job to flush it out. The guards then take to the street where they appear to indiscriminately beat the sense out of everyone they find. 

Many many hands are severed and at one point a citizen is relieved of his genitals. If we haven’t gathered already, Daemon is a bad dude.

It’s really only the start of the gore this episode, it’s going to get worse. 

After Daemon receives a quick dressing down from Viserys and Otto we cut to the big tournament. It starts innocuously enough. A mysterious knight unseats both the Baratheon contenders in the joust before Prince Daemon swans into the scene to choose an opponent. 

Still smarting from his dressing down, Daemon chooses Otto’s son so he can enact some horrific revenge on the family. Daemon wins and the Hightower boy comes off much worse for wear.

Later Daemon will face the mysterious knight who manages to win against the furious prince. We learn then that the knight is pretty boy Ser Criston Cole from Dorne, following his victory he seeks Rhaenyra’s favour (which comes in the form of a wreath). 

The Dornish knight beats Prince Daemon
The Dornish knight beats Prince Daemon (Credit: HBO/BINGE)

Meanwhile, poor Aemma has gone into labour and it’s not going well. Viserys is called back to the palace and a maester tells him the baby is in breach. He’s given an “impossible choice”; save the baby but lose Aemma or leave both their lives in the hands of the gods. 

Despite previous scenes suggesting Viserys and Aemma have a healthy loving relationship, Viserys chooses to save the baby. What follows is horrific and heartbreaking as Aemma is held down while they cut her open. 

All the while the shots of Aemma screaming are intercut with scenes from the tourney where men are senselessly beating each other to death. That’s probably a metaphor. 

The baby is born and it’s a boy! Viserys, still holding his dead wife’s hand, names the child Baelon. A brief look at the maester’s face tells us Baelon is not long for this world.

King Viserys and Queen Aemma
Viserys chooses his son over his wife (Credit: HBO/BINGE)

A Song of Ice and Fire

We’re in the home stretch now as the cast moves to what looks a lot like Storms End where they hold a funeral pyre for Aemma and baby Baelon. Rhaenyra shouts ‘dracarys!’ and lights the pyre with her dragon Syrax (the gold wyrm from the opening of the episode).

Immediately following the funeral, Otto decides now is the best time to choose who Viserys’ heir will be. At first, Viserys reminds the council that Daemon is heir, but then Otto tells Viserys Daemon referred to Baelon as “heir for a day”. This upsets Viserys, the man who just killed his wife. 

In response, Viserys banishes Daemon from King’s Landing and strips him of his status as heir. Viserys names Rhaenyra his new heir in a big ceremony attended by all the noble houses and tells her about the prophecy called A Song of Ice and Fire, which is basically the set up for Game of Thrones.

We end with Daemon flying off on his dragon Caraxes and Rhaenyra standing at the foot of the Iron Throne looking concerned. 

Rhaernyra is crowned heir to the throne.
Rhaernyra is crowned heir to the throne (Credit: HBO/BINGE)

Like the first episode of Game of Thrones, this was very much an introduction episode. Now that we know everyone, it feels like things are really going to kick off. 

More blood, more power grabs and, of course, more dragons.

House of the Dragon premiered Monday August 22 and is available to stream on BINGE and watch on Foxtel now.

You can catch up on the original Game of Thrones series on BINGE. Stream them now, live and on demand with a 14-day free trial. START FREE TRIAL.

WATCH BELOW: Sydney transformed for the House of the Dragon premiere

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