The HBO fantasy drama House of the Dragon treats time much differently than its predecessor, Game of Thrones. While Thrones had a traditional linear timeline (to the point that characters seemed to teleport from one end of Westeros to another in later seasons), HotD covers large swaths of time in the Targaryen dynasty by skipping uneventful periods between installments. Whether the next episode takes place three months or three years after the last, the series only shows the events that hold the most significance leading up to the epic conflict, the Dance of the Dragons.
That being said, it is extremely easy to get confused along the way, especially when the show does a jump that involves recasting two of the main cast. Read on for our breakdown of the big plot developments between each of Season 1's major time jumps leading up to the jam-packed finale (which gets its own in-depth explainer here).
The Show Begins (Episodes 1-2)
Daemon loses his place as heir.
When House of the Dragon starts, King Viserys' younger brother Daemon is his appointed heir, though many members of the Small Council (especially the current Hand of the King Otto Hightower) disagree with his style of leadership. That simmering conflict comes to a head after the death of Viserys' wife Aemma during childbirth, with their son Baelon only living for a short while. Hightower reports to Viserys that Daemon publicly called the deceased infant "prince for a day," and Viserys sends his brother away from court. He also decides to name his sole living child, his daughter Rhaenyra, as heir in an official ceremony.
After he loses his place as successor, Daemon has a short rebellious demonstration, stealing a dragon egg and taking the Targaryen ancestral home of Dragonstone in episode 2. Rhaenyra quickly takes the egg and the castle back (it technically belongs to her as the Targaryen heir), after which Daemon decides to join Lord Corlys Valeryon in his fight to take the Stepstones back from the Triarchy, which is led by factually-named Drahar the Crabfeeder. Upon their victory, Daemon returns to court and seems to be welcomed with open arms...before he makes a pass at Rhaenyra as his second wife. He's thrown out again, returning to the Vale long enough to kill his first wife, Lady Rhea Royce, but he returns for Rhaenyra's wedding, where he meets and shows interest in Laena Velaryon.
Alicent marries King Viserys.
Alicent Hightower starts out the show as a young lady and best friend to Princess Rhaenyra. She's also the daughter of Otto Hightower, who has his own ambitions besides being Hand of the King. He wants to solidify his power over the throne, so following the death of Queen Aemma, he sends Alicent to comfort King Viserys. Though the king would make the strongest alliance by marrying Laena Velaryon (who is literally 12 at the time), Viserys decides to marry Alicent instead, making her queen and throwing a becoming-my-stepmother-sized wrench in Rhaenyra and Alicent's friendship.
Three Years Later (Episode 3-5)
Rhaenyra and Alicent's feud begins.
Episode 3 takes place at least three years after Viserys decides to marry Alicent; the young girl is now a queen with one son, and pregnant with another. Alicent's father Otto is pressing for toddler Aegon to replace Rhaenyra as heir, but Alicent isn't as convinced as her father about the switch. (The kid is younger than two; the conversation can happen at a later date.)
Everything changes for Alicent following Rhaenyra and Daemon's near-hookup in episode 4. Rhaenyra swears on her mother's life that nothing happened between her and her uncle (which is technically only half a lie?) and that she's still a maiden (a full lie, cause she hooked up with Ser Criston Cole the same night). Ser Cole admits as much to Alicent in episode 5, meaning that the princess lied to her, a lie which caused her father to lose his place as Hand of the King. After all this, Alicent forms a deep resentment towards Rhaenyra, as well as a couple of allies in Master-of-Whispers-wannabe Larys Strong (who told her about Rhaenyra's secret Plan-B potion) and Ser Cole.
Rhaenyra marries Laenor Valeryan.
Though Rhaenyra was named heir in the premiere, her journey over the first five episodes is less about learning how to rule and more about solidifying her lineage through marriage. Viserys first allows her to chose her own husband, but after Rhaenyra and Daemon's near-hookup in Episode 4, a furious Viserys makes her marry for the strongest alliance. She'll make the match he snubbed in favor of Alicent years ago, marrying the son of House Velaryon, Lord Laenor. It's not a love match, as Laenor is gay and has a boyfriend, but Rhaenyra offers that they can have their own romantic relationships outside of the marriage.
Rhaenyra and Laenor's Episode 5 wedding is supposed to be a multi-day event of feasts and festivals, but it gets cut short when a freshly-rejected and jealous Criston Cole straight-up murders Laenor's boyfriend Joffrey. After the fight, with the blood still on the floor of the Great Hall, Rhaenyra and Laenor are married as the man is still sobbing over his murdered lover, ending this leg of HotD.
Ten Years Later (Episodes 6-7)
Rhaenyra gives birth to her third son.
Episode 6 takes place at least ten years later, with Rhaenyra and Alicent now played by older actors (Emma D'Arcy and Olivia Cooke). It begins with Rhaenyra giving birth to her third son...and immediately being summoned to bring the baby to the queen. The cruel order shows how strained the relationship between the two former friends has become, but there's another purpose, which we'll get to in a bit.
For now, an update on the Targaryen/Velaryon/Hightower family trees. Since marrying Laenor a decade earlier, Rhaenyra has given birth to three sons: eldest Jacaerys, middle Lucerys, and fresh-out-the-womb Joffrey (who Laenor names afrter his late love). All three sons have surprising dark, curly hair, considering that both Rhaenyra and Laenor are nautrally platinum blonde.
Meanwhile, Viserys and Alicent are parents to teenage Aegon, middle child Helaena, and younger son Aemond. Aegon is a bit of a dick and enjoys...pleasuring himself...out of one of the windows of the Red Keep, which is troubling considering he's Rhaenyra's strongest challenger as heir.
As for Daemon, he married Laena Velaryon after they first flirted at Rhaenyra and Laenor's wedding. They have twin daughters, Baela and Rhaena Velaryon (who do sport the parents' platinum hair, and look awfully different than their cousins Jacaerys and Lucerys).
Alicent is still pissed at Rhaenyra.
A decade of beef between Alicent and Rhaenyra has simmered, though it seems more one-sided based on Alicent's obsession with Rhaenyra's children. It turns out that the queen summoned her stepdaughter immediately postt-childbirth so she could see that the baby's little newborn hair is also brunette. Since Jace, Luke, and little Joff look nothing like Laenor, it's pretty obvious that their father is actually Ser Harwin Strong, who allegedly is Rhaenyra's secret lover.
While Alicent is now powerful enough to directly antagonize Rhaenyra, even speaking with Viserys about her paternity suspicions, the king is either oblivious or is just letting his daughter live her life. Everything that Rhaenyra gets away with enrages Alicent, and when the court starts whispering more loudly about Rhae and Harwin's affair, the queen gets more and more angry. At this point, she's also squarely on Team Aegon for heir, in a large part because that's her best chance to keep her power (and her life), which would likely be forfeit if Rhaenyra ever takes the throne.
Ser Harwin Strong dies.
In Episode 6, everything comes to a head with the question of Rhaenyra's sons' parentage. Ser Criston, who's solidly on Team Alicent and Aegon, goads Ser Harwin into a public fight over Jace and Luke, which adds another mark to the "Harwin's actually their dad" tally. Following the fight, Harwin loses his position as Commander of the City Watch, and his father, current Hand of the King Lyonel Strong, orders him to go back to the family's ancestral home, Harrenhaal, to let the scandal die out.
Unfortunately, Harwin and Lyonel die in a fire soon after arriving at Harrenhaal. The castle has always been considered cursed, so the tragedy could be assumed as fate, but it was actually a plot with an indirect connection to Alicent. Since she and Harwin's younger brother Larys Strong first allied in episode 5, he's become her confidant, and the schemer took her woes about Harwin and Rhaenyra as some sort of coded instruction. He set up the fire to kill his own brother and father, so Harwin can no longer be an embarrassment to the crown, and Alicent's father Otto could possibly return to his place as Hand of the King. The deaths open up a path for Alicent and Larys to increase their power, and we'll likely see how that goes in Episode 7.
Laena Velaryon dies.
Another fan-favorite who met a tragic fate this episode is Laena Velaryon, Daemon's wife and dragon-rider to the massive Vhagar. The couple and their two daughters have been living in the East as guests of Pentos' Prince Reggio Haratis for many years. Though Daemon seems settled and calm, Laena thinks he's moody and depressed, and she wants to return to her own ancestral seat Driftmark in Westeros, where they can raise their daughters to be strong and she can have the life and death of a dragon-rider.
Their fates change very soon, as Laena beings labor for their third child. Eventually the maester tells Daemon that the baby won't come out, and that the only way forward to save the child is an emergency C-section. Daemon (and the audience) remembers how that turned out for Queen Aemma, and he refuses to have Laena be tortured that way. However, without that C-section, Laena will likely still die a painful death due to septic infection.
In the end, Laena takes matters into her own hands, leaving her birthing chamber and walking out to where her beloved dragon rests on the beach. She chooses to die by dracarys, ordering Vhagar to set her on fire, and after some horrified hesitation, the dragon puts his rider out of her misery. We wish we could have spent more time with Laena, but she lives through Daemon and her daughters, who we'll see grow up in later episodes. (Also, both Daemon and Rhaenyra are emotionally single now, so we'll see how that goes.)
Aemond claims Vhagar.
Episode 7 sees the entire family converging in King's Landing for Laena's funeral, with Daemon and Rhaenyra reuniting after years. (Otto Hightower is also back as Hand of the King.) The Velaryons also bring Vhagar to the Red Keep, as the dragon's now riderless and mourning. After the ceremony, Alicent's thirdborn Aemond approaches the largest living dragon to bond with it, and succeeds after a dangerous first ride.
The claiming was chosen by both Aemond and Vhagar, but it's also an insult to Laena's daughters, as they don't get the chance to bond before Aemond sneaks over to Vhagar in the middle of the night. When Jacerys, Lucerys, Baela, and Rhaena come out to confront the prince, he instigates a fight that ends with Luke cutting out Aemond's eye.
After the scuffle, Alicent is furious and demands a literal eye for an eye. The long-simmering rage between her and Rhaenyra finally comes to the surface, and Viserys is directly confronted with the rumors about Jace, Luke, and Joffrey's parentage, but he doesn't want to punish his grandchildren, telling everyone to let bygones be bygones. Alicent flies into a rage and attacks Rhaenyra with the king's dagger, though she's stopped before she can draw blood.
Rhaenyra marries Daemon.
Alicent's attack draws a line between the two women's allegiances, which will become known as the Greens (Team Alicent) and the Blacks (Team Rhaenyra). In the aftermath, Rhaenyra is sure that the upcoming succession after Viserys' death will devolve into a war between her own claim and Aegon's. She and Daemon had already reunited and consummated their will-they-or-won't-they relationship before the kids' fight, but it's not until after that Rhaenyra asks Daemon to marry her and solidify their branch of the family tree. (Targaryens often inter-marry to keep the family bloodline strong; for example, Aegon is betrothed to his own sister Helaena).
The one snag with their alliance/love marriage is the pesky issue of Rhaenyra's first husband. Luckily, they come up with a plan that only includes minimal bloodshed! Laenor and his lover Qarl fake a brawl that ends in his parents Corlys and Rhaenys finding his "corpse." Then the couple escape King's Landing by boat, headed far, far away from the upcoming war. (A Thrones universe happy ending!)
Six Years Later (Episodes 8-9)
Lucerys is pronounced heir of Driftmark.
Episode 8 takes place six years after Laena's funeral, and another Velaryon life is in danger. Corlys has been injured at sea, and will need an heir to assume his duties as Lord of Driftmark. The names in contention are his grandson Lucerys and his brother Vaemond, who doesn't want his family's legacy to go to a bastard. Rhaenys, Rhaenyra, Daemon, and the rest of the family all converge on King's Landing again, where Alicent and Otto already plan to give the seat to Vaemond.
Meanwhile, Viserys is on death's door and Alicent and Otto are basically ruling in his stead. (Aegon takes no interest in politics, instead running around being the worst.) Rhaenyra and Daemon arrive at King's Landing to no welcome, but they are able to visit Viserys' room and introduce him to their two sons, Aegon and Viserys (yes, keeping track of the names is going to get harder). The father and daughter also discusses Aegon the Conquerer's Song of Ice and Fire, a prophecy passed down from king to king that the Seven Kingdoms must be united to battle against the coming long winter (basically the first king of Westeros prophesied the events of Game of Thrones).
The actual naming of the Driftmark heir is upset when Viserys, who is literally rotting alive, gathers the strength to proceed over the audience where each side argues their case. After making it onto the Iron Throne with an assist from Daemon, he names Lucerys the rightful heir, and Vaemond goes off, finally saying aloud that Jace and Luke are bastards. His head is promptly removed from his body by Daemon, which is allowed since insulting the heir Rhaenyra like that is basically treason anyway.
Viserys dies (and a massive misunderstanding begins).
The family later gathers for a feast, with Viserys wanting everyone to just get along again. Alicent and Rhaenyra, the dutiful wife and daughter, are actually pretty cordial and hint that there may be some remains of friendship buried deep down. There's even a bit of joy when it's announced that Jace and Luke will marry Baela and Rhaena, respectively. (Both the couples seem happy about it, at least). Of course, Aegon and Aemond won't let the evening go by without insulting Jace and Luke with the Strong rumors, though the evening ends without bloodshed.
That evening, Viserys is back in his bed and obviously hallucinating when he starts talking about the Song of Ice and Fire to Alicent, mistaking her for Rhaenyra. In his mutterings, he mentions the Prince That Was Promised (yes, the one that ends up being Jon Snow) saying that it will be Aegon. Alicent, not knowing the prophecy (or even that Rhaenyra has another kid named Aegon, I think), jumps on the chance that Viserys is saying that his son Aegon could be king. He also tells her, "It’s you, you must do this," thinking that he is speaking to Rhaenyra. So, with a misunderstanding from the ramblings of a dying man, Viserys passes and the Dance of the Dragons begins.
Alicent's son Aegon is crowned king.
In Episode 9, immediately after Viserys' death, Alicent and Otto call the Small Council together, and it turns out they already had a plan to install Aegon as king (minus Lord Beesbury, who argues for Rhaenyra and is immediately killed by Ser Criston Cole). The only problem is that Aegon is missing, and most of the episode is spent on a hunt to find the king that doesn't even want to be king in the streets of King's Landing. Otto and Alicent both send out teams without telling the other, and Otto wins with the help of the White Worm (a.k.a. Mysaria, who seems to be thriving!).
Alicent and Otto both want Aegon on the throne, but they reach a point of contention when it comes to killing Rhaenyra. Alicent doesn't want to command her death, citing an aversion for murder that could be residual loyalty to either Viserys or Rhaenyra herself. Either way, she implores Aegon not to command his sister's death, while also convincing him that his father really wished for the boy to assume the throne with his dying words. (Again, he definitely didn't.)
The episode ends with Aegon's coronation, at the Dragonpit in front of a crowd of common folk. He's crowned by the new Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, Ser Cole, and is supported by his mother and grandfather, his literal sister-wife Helaena, and his brother Aemond, who thinks he himself would be a much better king. Aegon seems to be into the crowd's praise, but the pageantry quickly ends with a reminder that war is coming.
Rhaenys aligns with the Blacks.
While the scramble to crown Aegon is on, Rhaenys is imprisoned in her room in the Red Keep. It's a castle-wide policy, as the Greens can't let any word of Viserys' death reach Rhaenyra. Alicent offers Rhaenys her freedom and Dragonstone if she aligns with their side, but Rhaenys refuses, partly out of honor and partly she was once in Rhaenyra's shoes as "the Queen Who Never Was."
On the eve of Aegon's coronation, Rhaenys is freed from her chambers by one of the Cargyll twins, who recognizes that the prince isn't Viserys' named heir. They get separated while trying to escape King's Landing, and Rhaenys gets swept into the crowds as they're corralled towards the coronation. Now that she's in the Dragonpit, she heads under the chamber to free Meleys, and the pair interrupt the coronation by erupting through the floor. Meleys bellows at the new king, but instead of yelling dracarys, Rhaenys stays silent as she flies away, heading to tell Rhaenyra that the war is on.
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