House of the Dragon could redeem Game of Thrones’ worst failure
Just one episode in, HBO's prequel is rewriting Westeros history for the better.
Looking back, it wasn’t all bad. Game of Thrones was undeniably a great show with multiple flawless seasons, excellent acting and writing, and some of the best action to ever grace the small screen. That said, the last couple of seasons (and final few episodes in particular), did a lot to erase the HBO show’s dragon hoard of goodwill. And the best example of this fall from grace is without a doubt the prophecy of Azor Ahai.
Azor Ahai (aka, the Prince That Was Promised) fueled countless theories over which Game of Thrones character was secretly the chosen one capable of stopping the Night King and his undead army. In the end, it turned out to be meaningless to the plot of the show. But with House of the Dragon, the fantasy franchise could quietly rewrite Westeros history to fix the Azor Ahai prophecy once and for all.
What is Azor Ahai anyway?
In Game of Thrones (and the books that inspired it), Azor Ahai is a chosen warrior from ancient history who would be reborn when the people of Westeros needed him most. While the specifics of this myth are shrouded in mystery, we learned a fair amount about it from the Red Witch Melisandre, who believed for a time that Stannis Baratheon was the chosen one.
Melisandre used the two terms Azor Ahai and Prince That Was Promised interchangeably (although there may some deviation between the two concepts). She famously said that the legendary hero would be “born amidst salt and smoke” (to which Stannis’ brother Renly replied, “Is he a ham?”) Azor Ahai would also wield a mythical burning sword called Lightbringer. And there’s a complicated story that involves plunging your sword into various beings including the hero’s own wife, but that was largely viewed as a metaphor.
Based on all this, Azor Ahai played a crucial role in Game of Thrones. The world of Westeros needed its legendary hero, and both characters and fans alike speculated over who might meet the qualifications. In the end, however, it was Arya Stark (who we’re pretty sure was not Azor Ahai) who stopped the Night King. This rendered the legend completely meaningless. Or did it?
House of the Dragon and Azor Ahai
Episode 1 of House of the Dragon ends with a canon-altering twist of its own. It turns out the Targaryens have known about the Night King all along (or at least, they knew about some sort of chilling threat from the north). After King Viserys Targaryen names his daughter Rhaenyra to the throne, he takes her aside and reveals the prophecy that’s been passed between rulers for generations.
It’s unclear how important any of this will prove to be for House of the Dragon. Based on the books and recent trailers, we know that Rhaenyra’s uncle is not going to take this news well, leading to an all-out Targaryen conflict over the Iron Throne. But given what we as an audience know about where all of this is headed centuries down the line, we have to assume that eventually this prophecy (and the Azor Ahai legend that comes with it) will be mentioned again.
The Prince That Was Promised has always been shrouded in mystery, but perhaps by looking a couple of hundred years into Game of Thrones’ past, the franchise may finally reveal what the myth actually meant — and how it may have mattered more in the end than we were led to believe.
House of the Dragon airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO and HBO Max.