In the Game of Thrones, you either win, or you die. Such was the case for House of the Dragon’s predecessor series throughout its groundbreaking eight-season run, and the rules haven’t changed for HBO’s prequel.
Episodes 1 through 9 of House of the Dragon has mostly dealt with the prelude to the Dance of the Dragons, the civil war between Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D’Arcy) and Prince Aegon II Targaryen (Tom Glynn-Carney). Only one has a true claim to the Iron Throne, but the other is the former king’s firstborn son. Both sides have a faction of supporters — the Greens and the Blacks — comprised of nobles and smallfolk, council members and knights, and even the sons and daughters of Rhaenyra and Aegon II.
Episode 10’s preview is telling on itself: It already shows us one of the most epic and heart-wrenching battles in George R.R. Martin’s source material. A member of the Blacks (and one of their dragons) is brutally slain in the sky by one of the Greens, ending attempts at diplomacy and beginning open warfare.
We could get into the nitty-gritty of who dies during the Dance of the Dragons, but that would spoil the finale of Season 1 and several pivotal moments of Season 2. Besides, if we tried to document Martin’s body count, we’d be here all day. Instead, we’ll dive into the fate of a few notable characters as they try to survive the next two years of murder and mayhem.
Potential major spoilers for House of the Dragon ahead.
Dowager Queen Alicent Hightower
Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke) survives the Dance of the Dragons, but just barely.
The Blacks don’t forget Alicent’s treachery. Even when Rhaenyra is murdered by Alicent’s son, Aegon II, after which he snatches the Iron Throne from his half-sister for the second time, Alicent remains Public Enemy Number 1 to Rhaenyra’s supporting faction. The Blacks, at this late stage, are most concerned about restoring the Iron Throne for Rhaenyra’s remaining sons, Aegon III and Viserys II, but they also bear ill will toward Alicent.
Alicent was confined by Ser Tyland Lannister, the Hand of the King after Aegon II (more on that in a moment), in Maegor’s Holdfast. While she wasn’t mistreated, she was isolated and lonely. Accompanied only by her septa, serving girls, and guards, she spent the last year of her life crying and descending into madness. Something that she began to fear? The color green.
Prince Aegon III Targaryen
Though his mother, Rhaenyra Targaryen, loses her life in her attempts to seize control over the Seven Kingdoms and restore herself to the Iron Throne, Aegon III Targaryen restores his mother’s direct lineage in the Red Keep soon after the death of his captor and uncle, Aegon II Targaryen.
Aegon III’s ascension takes place when he’s ten-years-old in the books, but HBO has aged him and his brother Viserys II down to babies. We therefore have no idea if this will take place in Season 2 of House of the Dragon, or if HBO will stretch the events of the civil war so that it lasts more than its two-ish canonical years, giving us more time to see its major players grow (and, in the case of both Aegon III and Viserys II, grow up).
Lord Corlys ‘Sea Snake’ Velaryon
We’re happy to report that if HBO’s House of the Dragon continues to align with the canon it’s based on, then fan-favorite Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) will survive the Dance of the Dragons.
Corlys’ allegiances shift like the tides during the civil war, but always for honorable reasons that have to do with his love for Daemon’s daughters with the late Laena Velaryon, and Rhaenyra’s “Velaryon” sons. At one point, this meant turning his back on Queen Rhaenyra, who had become cruel and paranoid on the Iron Throne. He and the entirety of House Velaryon went from being Blacks to Greens, but they were soon going back to Black by the time Aegon II Targaryen became king again. Corlys also became an unlikely comrade of Lord Larys Strong, and together they finally put an end to the Dance of the Dragons.
Corlys then served as one of King Aegon III Targaryen’s regents until his peaceful death.
Lord Larys ‘Clubfoot’ Strong
Larys (Matthew Needham) survives the Dance of the Dragons by doing what he does best: Manipulating those around him, never being a genuine ally of either the Greens or the Blacks, and looking out for his own skin.
Toward the end of the Dance of the Dragons, Larys decides he’s leaning toward Rhaenyra’s faction. He convinces Aegon II to not execute Corlys Velaryon, but only because he wants Corlys to help him murder Aegon II. Larys also ushers Princess Baela Targaryen away so she couldn’t be used as a hostage against Corlys.
Soon after that, Aegon II was found dead in his carriage with poison on his lips. Grand Maester Orwyle (Kurt Egyiawan) gave Larys the poison, and Corlys accompanied Larys to ensure the scheme succeeded. Larys and Corlys were then successful in either killing, imprisoning, or persuading the surviving Greens to surrender and recognize Aegon III Targaryen as king. But while Larys survives the war, he doesn’t survive the peace. Cregan Stark executes Larys for his assassination of the King.
Prince Viserys II Targaryen
Viserys II and Aegon III are the only survivors of Rhaenyra’s direct bloodline. They lose their three half-brothers, Jacaerys, Lucerys, and Joffrey, and their youngest sister Visenya, who’s born dead and deformed due to a stressful early labor.
Viserys II’s fate in the books was mostly a mystery to outsiders who recorded the events of the war. During a failed escape mission from King’s Landing to Essos, Viserys II hid his dragon egg and disguised himself as a common ship’s boy. He was soon found out by a member of the Triarchy, an alliance of the Free Cities of Myr, Lys, and Tyrosh, who were allies of the Greens. Viserys wound up in Lys and was passed into the custody of a wealthy family. He was wed to the family’s youngest daughter, even though he was seven years younger than her.
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Viserys II was finally recovered and taken back to his brother, the now-king Aegon III, along with his wife Larra Rogare and several of her family members. Eventually, Viserys III served as Hand for Aegon III, and later both of his brother’s sons.
How much of this we’ll see is unclear. Unless House of the Dragon is hoping to stretch the Dance of the Dragons past its canon timeline so that it lasts well beyond two years, neither Aegon III nor Viserys II are tweens at the start of the conflict. They’re just toddlers, making all of those adventures implausible.
Even so, HBO could surprise us with future seasons of House of the Dragon that extend beyond the current era.
House of the Dragon’s Season 1 finale airs October 23 on HBO.