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House of the Dragon: A Character Primer

A who's who of the characters in the 'Game of Thrones' spin-off series.

Aug 15, 2022 By Stephen Danay Web Exclusive
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Game of Thrones showed us the final days of the Targaryen dynasty and its last scion, Daenerys Stormborn. House of the Dragon uses series creator George R.R. Martin’s in-universe history book, Fire & Blood, Volume I as its source material to look back nearly 200 years to depict an era when the Targaryens still commanded dragons and were at the height of their power, leading to the Targaryen civil war remembered as the Dance of the Dragons. What follows are brief biographies of the nine principal characters and how the show may, or may not, change Martin’s source material.

A note on chronology: Promotional material for the show indicates that the first season of House of the Dragon will likely take place over several decades and/or feature extensive flashbacks. As such, it is difficult to know how much of the information below will be backstory, or if it will be depicted outright in the show. House of the Dragon looks like it will begin with the Great Council of 101, whereas the Dance of the Dragons begins in the year 129. For context, Game of Thrones begins in the year 298.

King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine)

The fifth king to sit the Iron Throne since its forging by Aegon the Conqueror, Viserys Targaryen has ruled the Seven Kingdoms during a time of peace and prosperity. The eldest grandson of King Jaehaerys I Targaryen, Viserys’s ascension followed the Great Council of 101 in which all the great lords of the realm gathered at Harrenhal to settle the confused succession that arose among the numerous children and grandchildren of the Old King. An amiable and charming young man and the final rider of Balerion the Black Dread (the dragon of Aegon the Conqueror), Viserys was expected to continue the peaceful reign of his grandfather. Although he has mostly succeeded in that task, decades on the Iron Throne have taken their toll on Viserys; now a tired man in his 50s, he finds himself facing a succession crisis of his own amid the various claims of his brother, children and grandchildren. Although never a noted warrior, Viserys wields the Valyrian steel sword Blackfyre, the blade of Aegon the Conqueror and all the kings who followed him on the Iron Throne. Viserys has no dragon mount; the Black Dread died before he took the throne and while dragons can bond with multiple riders during their long life, no Targaryen has ever ridden more than one dragon.

Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith)

The second son of Baelon the Spring Prince, Daemon is the younger brother of King Viserys. A ruthless warrior with a quick temper and a lust for battle, Daemon’s relationship with his royal brother has waxed and waned over the years, being at times his most fearsome supporter and at other his greatest cause for concern. Endlessly ambitious, Prince Daemon spent a decade in the Stepstones warring against pirates and the armadas of the Free Cities, carving out his own makeshift kingdom with fire and blood. Fire & Blood describes him as “the wonder and terror of his age, remembered by some as the greatest of heroes and by others as the blackest of villains”. Despite his volatile nature, Daemon’s regular presence in the gambling halls, taverns and brothels of King’s Landing have made him well-beloved by the common folk, who call him “the Prince of Flea Bottom” and “the Rogue Prince”. Befitting his status as a lethal swordsman, Daemon wields Dark Sister, the second of the two Valyrian swords of House Targaryen. His mount is Caraxes the Blood Wyrm, a monstrous red dragon hardened by Daemon’s years of battle in the Stepstones.

Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D’Arcy and Milly Alcock)

Emma D'Arcy
Emma D’Arcy

The first and only child of King Viserys by his first wife Aemma Arryn (herself half-Targaryen on her mother’s side), Rhaenyra spent her youth at her father’s side while he ruled and was named Princess of Dragonstone, openly proclaiming her his heir. Called “the Realm’s Delight”, her beauty and her position have made her the most desirable woman in the Seven Kingdoms, despite the fact that several female claimants were passed over during the Great Council of 101, and whispers at court that question whether a woman could inherit the Iron Throne. She is betrothed to Laenor Velaryon, son of the Sea Snake and Rhaenyra’s second cousin. Charming and quick-witted, but prone to flashes of jealousy and rage, Rhaenyra finds her position as heir to the Iron Throne threatened when her father takes a second wife who bears him sons. Her mount is the dragon Syrax, named for a goddess of Old Valyria.

Queen Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke and Emily Carey)

Olivia Cooke
Olivia Cooke

A member of one the oldest and most powerful houses in the Reach, Alicent came to court as a young girl when her father Otto Hightower was appointed Hand of the King during the last years of the Old King’s reign. She caught the eye of King Viserys after the death of his first wife, and soon became his Queen. A wealthy and ambitious house, the Hightowers are fixtures at court and Alicent does little to hide her desire that her future sons with Viserys will sit the Iron Throne. In Fire & Blood, Alicent is over a decade older than Rhaenyra, but House of the Dragon seems to have reimagined them as childhood friends much closer in age. This should give an added dimension to their rivalry, which hardens as they grow older and Alicent’s sons threaten to supplant Rhaenyra as Viserys’ heir. Their rivalry also leads to factionalism in the court, with supporters of Alicent being called “the greens” and supporters of Rhaenyra called “the blacks” for the favored color of each woman’s clothing.

Ser Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans)

The uncle of the Lord of Oldtown, Ser Otto Hightower served as Hand of the King during the final years of the reign of Old King Jaehaerys and continues to serve his successor King Viserys. Considered one of the most learned and intelligent men in the Seven Kingdoms, Ser Otto is nonetheless seen by many at court as a haughty, grasping man, a perception only made worse by the marriage of his daughter to the King. Ser Otto is perhaps the most bitter rival of Prince Daemon, as any male grandchildren born to him by Alicent would push Daemon further down in the line of succession.

Lord Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint)

A family of storied Valyrian heritage, the Velaryons were chief among the houses that followed the Targaryens to Dragonstone shortly before the Doom of Old Valyria. Although they are not dragon riders in their own right, they are a wealthy and powerful house, ruling the island of Driftmark and controlling the most powerful navy in the Narrow Sea. An aged but still powerful man, Corlys Velaryon is far-famed as “the Sea Snake” for the nine great voyages he took to the far corners of the known world during his youth. Married to Rhaenys Targaryen, cousin to King Viserys, he served on the Small Council as the Master of Ships and spent many years helping Prince Daemon wage his wars in the Stepstones. Although the source material depicts the Velaryons as pale skinned and silver haired (like their Valyrian cousins, the Targaryens) House of the Dragon will be depicting them as Black.

Princess Rhaenys Velaryon née Targaryen (Eve Best)

The eldest grandchild of Old King Jaehaerys by his eldest son Prince Aemon Targareyn and Lady Jocelyn Baratheon, Rhaenys was a prominent claimant to the Iron Throne at the Great Council of 101. She was passed over in favor of her cousin Viserys, the eldest male grandchild of the Old King and is thus remembered by history as “The Queen Who Never Was”. A proud, capable and fearless woman, she married the equally fearless Corlys Velaryon and bore him two children, the twins Laenor and Laena, the former of whom is betrothed to Princess Rhaenyra. She is a close advisor to her young cousin, sharing the bitterness of having been denied power on account of her sex. Her birthright as a Targaryen allows her to be a dragon rider; her mount is Meleys, the Red Queen.

Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel)

The son of a steward from the Dornish Marches, Ser Criston’s lethal skills as a jouster and swordsman made him a tourney champion at a young age. When the legendary Ryam Redwyne died, King Viserys appointed Criston to fill his slot in the Kingsguard and made him the personal sworn shield of Princess Rhaenyra. His pride and pugnaciousness have made him a natural enemy of the King’s brother, Prince Daemon. The Kingsguard are sworn to serve the Iron Throne and not involve themselves in politics, but, for better or for worse, history remembers Ser Criston as “the Kingmaker.”

Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno)

A dancing girl from the eastern continent of Essos, Mysaria caught the attention of Prince Daemon during his many visits to the brothels of Flea Bottom. She eventually became Daemon’s favorite paramour and his eyes and ears in the slums of the capital. Called the White Worm for her uncommonly pale skin and Lady Misery by her enemies, she is Daemon’s Mistress of Whispers in all but name. Although she is depicted as being from the Free City of Lys in Fire & Blood, the casting of Anglo-Japanese actress Sonoya Mizuno may indicate that she hails from further east in House of the Dragon.



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