Chaos is a ladder, but not all who climb it can survive the fall. In Episode 2 of HBO’s House of the Dragon, we meet Lyonel Strong of Harrenhal (Gavin Spokes), Master of Laws on the small council of King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine). A crucial character whose family plays a major role in the coming Targaryen power struggles.
Attentive Game of Thrones fans may recall that Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (Aidan Gillen), the biggest creep on a show full of them, also held the Westerosi castle. The Houses that have had dominion over Harrenhal, one of the largest properties in the Seven Kingdoms, have all been a bit cursed. Many noble families have presided over Harrenhal in George R.R. Martin’s work, but few have remained at its helm.
The Strongs — at least in House of the Dragon’s source material — are not immune to the Harrenhall curse. Here’s what you need to know about Lyonel Strong and his family tree, and how one member becomes the Varys of this Game of Thrones prequel.
Warning! Spoilers ahead for House of the Dragon Episode 2 and beyond (at least based on what happens in the books).
House of the Dragon and Lyonel Strong
HBO has confirmed the casting for three members of the Strong family. One Strong, Lyonel, has already been shown. His sons, Harwin Strong (Ryan Corr) and Larys Strong (Matthew Needham), have also been spotted in House of the Dragon trailers.
In the Song of Ice and Fire prequel books, Lord Lyonel Strong serves on Viserys’ small council for 15 years. Lyonel brings two daughters and two sons to court with him. The daughters become handmaids to Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock/Emma D’Arcy), his eldest son Harwin is made a captain in the Gold Cloaks, and Larys joins the Confessors (a group responsible for torturing the king’s prisoners).
In Episode 2 of House of the Dragon, Lyonel advises Viserys to marry Corlys Velaryon’s (Steve Toussaint) young daughter, Laena, acknowledging that not doing so would deeply offend Viserys’ cousin, Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best) and her husband Corlys. Viserys, however, decides to ask for Alicent Hightower’s (Emily Carey/Olivia Cooke) hand, infuriating Corlys and driving him to forge an alliance with the king’s brother and rival, Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith). Clearly, Lyonel’s advice only goes so far with the king.
That’s as far as we get in House of the Dragon Episode 2, but based on the books, we know where House Strong is headed. This is your final spoiler warning if you’d like to be surprised by the events of the show!
What happens to House Strong in House of the Dragon?
Four years later, Lyonel replaces Ser Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) as Hand of the King. While in King’s Landing, Ser Harwin Strong grows chummy with Princess Rhaenyra and becomes her sworn shield around the time of her marriage to Prince Laenor Velaryon (son of Corlys and Rhaenys). Because Laenor was known to be gay, it was rumored that Harwin was the father of Rhaenyra’s first three sons — Jacaerys, Lucerys, and Joffrey Velaryon.
By this time, Larys had become famed for his religious fanaticism and his appetite for cruelty as Confessor. Alicent, a pious woman, came to trust Larys as an unofficial spiritual advisor. Larys eventually convinces Alicent to question the parentage of Rhaenyra’s sons, pushing her to antagonize her step-daughter and order Lyonel and Harwin to be sent away.
In the books, it’s eventually suggested that Larys burns his father and brother alive at Harrenhal to seize his father’s lordship.
Who is Larys “Clubfoot” Strong?
Larys Strong, also known as “Clubfoot” for his congenital deformity, then became the Master of Whisperers for both Viserys and Aegon II Targaryen (Tom Glynn-Carney), once the latter forcibly took the Iron Throne. Like Varys the Spider (Conleth Hill) in Game of Thrones, Larys is a masterful manipulator with a legion of informants across Westeros.
During the impending Targaryen vs. Tagaryen conflict, Larys became an instrumental member of Alicent Hightower’s green faction — supporters of Aegon II’s reign. Larys and his informants ensured that key members of Rhaenyra’s faction (the blacks) are slain by Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) and his soldiers.
When King’s Landing falls to Rhaenyra, Larys manages to escape. He leads Aegon II’s two remaining children out of the capital through a secret passage and helps Aegon II escape by disguising him as a commoner.
Larys’ deceitful ways and religious zealotry, however, soured his reputation among both factions. His untrustworthiness would lead to his downfall and the ruin of House Strong. Prince Aemond, believing that Larys had aided Rhaenyra, murdered every living member of House Strong at Harrenhal. Ironically, Larys was secretly working at King’s Landing to undermine Rhaenyra and to secure the release of Alicent and some of her noble supporters.
After the conflict ends Larys declines a chance to join the Night’s Watch and is executed for being a traitor. His demise brings an end to House Strong.
The Inverse Analysis — While it’s unclear when we’ll meet Larys Strong in House of the Dragon, we do know that he’ll have a significant role in the lead-up to the Dance of the Dragons conflict and its complicated aftermath. It shouldn’t be long until we see Larys spin a web of lies as treacherous as Varys’.
Larys’ loyalties, much like Varys’, were malleable. Both characters allied with whoever could ensure their survival and serve their ambitions best. But there is one key difference: Varys is a charming anti-villain, while Larys is just a villain through and through.
House of the Dragon airs Sunday nights on HBO.