Say what you will about the confusing time jumps or the lack of time with certain characters (shout out to Baela and Rhaena), House of the Dragon succeeded at its goal. HBO's Game of Thrones prequel sucked all of us back into Westeros, when many (myself included) swore not to go back after the original series' disappointing finale (two words: King Bran). Some fans may even be considering a Thrones rewatch, thanks to resurgent memories of how the early seasons built out the world.
A warning before you dive back into HBO Max: There are spoilers for the still-unfolding HotD within Thrones. Since centuries have passed between the series, Thrones treats the Dance of the Dragons—the Targaryen civil war that will make up the rest of HotD's several seasons—as historical fact, mentioned during conversations between characters. The biggest spoiler to watch out for, which gives away the most important death in HotD's future run, comes courtesy of everyone's least favorite Westeros king, Joffrey Baratheon. Spoilers ahead for Thrones season 3 and House of the Dragon.
Season 3, Episode 4 of Thrones, "And Now His Watch Is Ended," is best known for including a pivotal Daeneyrs scene (opens in new tab), the first time we see the young Targaryen command the Unsullied and come into her own as a leader (and also baby Drogon goes dracarys on a slaver). The HotD spoiler came earlier in the episode, during a scene (opens in new tab) where Joffrey regaled his new fiancée Margaery Tyrell with a tour of the Sept. The highlight of his oddly gleeful retelling of Westerosi history is the crypt of a Targaryen queen who was eaten alive at the hands of her own brother's dragon while her son watched. The queen and brother? HotD's own warring monarchs, Rhaenyra and Aegon II.
The mention obviously meant very little back in 2013, when no one knew that Thrones would span a record-breaking prequel that would assumedly end with the same event that Joffrey reduced to an anecdote during an odd attempt at courtship. But it's actually not even the only mention of Rhaenyra and Aegon II. They also came up in a conversation between Shireen Baratheon and Ser Davos Seaworth in Season 5, Episode 9, as the sweet child describes the history book she's reading. (Two things about this episode: It's literally titled "Dance of the Dragons," and it's the same one where Shireen's burned on a sacrificial stake by her father.)
"It's the story of the fight between Rhaenyra Targaryen and her half-brother Aegon for control of the Seven Kingdoms," Shireen explained. Both of them thought they belonged on the Iron Throne," Shireen continued. "When people started declaring for one of them or the other, their fight divided the kingdom in two. Brothers fought brothers. Dragons fought dragons. By the time it was over, thousands were dead. And it was a disaster for the Targaryens as well. They never truly recovered."
So, Thrones fans with photographic memories already know how it all ends (and now so do you if you've made it to the end of this post). It'll be very hard to avoid spoilers throughout HotD's run, since, unlike Thrones, the entire story was already completed before the show began. As fans of the show's source material Fire & Blood have pointed out, the point of the series is not how the Dance of the Dragons ends, but how it plays out.
For anyone who hasn't dived into any of George R.R. Martin's books (a.k.a. show fans rather than book fans), while the Thrones series are traditional narrative novels, Fire & Blood reads like a very entertaining history book. It's narrated by a scholar whose source material is rumors and lies from people who lived during the events and are obviously trying to make themselves look good, and who often weren't directly involved the events themselves. It's like if the history of the royal family was written based on tabloid stories and no other research. Book fans didn't come away from Fire & Blood knowing the details of the finale's epic dragon-on-dragon sequence; they just knew that it happened and how it ended. The fun comes from seeing all of the characters' decisions and misunderstandings that lead up to Rhaenyra or Aegon II sitting on the Iron Throne.
So, if you get accidentally spoiled, don't worry. You'll likely still have fun watching the civil war go down. (Though you can still be mad at Joffrey. Joffrey always sucks.)
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