Fire & Blood

House of the Dragon just made one of Game of Thrones' best storylines even better

Aegon Targaryen changed the rules when he destroyed Harrenhal.

The premiere episode of HBO’s House of the Dragon doesn’t shy away from referencing Game of Thrones. From its climactic scene involving Aegon the Conqueror and an important prophecy, to its inclusion of Balerion the Black Dread’s massive skull, Episode 1 is full of Easter eggs for Thrones fans to analyze and discuss.

The House of the Dragon’s prologue even takes viewers back to an iconic location from an early Game of Thrones season. And in doing so, it adds further weight to one of the most important Targaryen stories told on Thrones.

The Targaryen royals stand assembled at the Great Council in House of the Dragon Episode 1.Ollie Upton/HBO

The Great Council — House of the Dragon begins with a prologue set nine years before the rest of the episode. Narrated by Emma D’Arcy’s older Rhaenyra Targaryen, the prologue shows the Great Council that was called near the end of King Jaehaerys I Targaryen’s reign.

Convened following the death of Jaehaerys’ heir, Prince Baelon Targaryen, the Council saw the lords of Westeros come together to choose the king’s new successor. In the end, Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine) was named Jaehaerys’ new heir.

The importance of the Council’s decision is made clear throughout the rest of the episode. However, what might be less apparent to casual viewers is that House of the Dragon’s prologue is set within the halls of Harrenhal, which served as a major location in Game of Thrones’ second season and plays a key role in Targaryen lore.

“Harrenhal was built to withstand an attack from the land. A million men could have marched on these walls, and a million men would have been repelled.”HBO

Changing the Rules — In Game of Thrones Season 2, Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) and her friends are captured by the Lannister army and taken to Harrenhal. While there, Arya finds herself working as the cupbearer for none other than Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance). The scenes between Tywin and Arya that result from their chance meeting are some of the best the show ever delivered.

One of those scenes sees Tywin discuss the history of Harrenhal with Arya. Tywin reveals that the castle was built to withstand any attack from the land, but had never anticipated a dragon attack from the skies. In an unfortunate twist of fate, Harrenhal famously finished its 40-year construction on the same day Aegon the Conqueror landed in Westeros. Nonetheless, confident in the castle’s strength, its ruler Harren the Black notoriously refused to bow down to Aegon Targaryen.

Harren instead hid inside Harrenhal with his men and family, believing the castle was impregnable. Mere hours after meeting with Harren, Aegon flew over Harrenhal with his mount, Balerion the Black Dread, and bathed the castle in dragonfire, roasting everyone and everything within. The castle’s towers melted, and Harren and his sons were killed.

As Tywin notes, Aegon and his dragons “changed the rules.”

In its opening scene, House of the Dragon takes Game of Thrones viewers back to Harrenhal.HBO

The Inverse Analysis — By setting its opening prologue within the ruined halls of Harrenhal, House of the Dragon immediately places itself within the same world as its HBO predecessor. The Targaryen-centric aspects of the prologue also create a direct link between House of the Dragon and Tywin’s Harrenhal monologue. As Tywin said, Harrenhal changed the rules, and now the events of the prologue will change the fate of Westeros again.

House of the Dragon’s opening scene adds a further dimension to one memorable Game of Thrones moment, and the prologue isn’t the only time the premiere manages that. If House of the Dragon does its job right, the entire series will continue to add new layers to its predecessor’s already sprawling story.

New episodes of House of the Dragon air Sundays on HBO.