On Sunday night, House of the Dragon made its most daring move yet, transporting the plot ten years into the future. Milly Alcock and Emily Carey, who played Rhaenyra and Alicent, have left the show. Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke, the actors set to play the roles for the rest of the run, for as long their individual characters have a place in this tale, have taken their positions.
While the recasting is the most significant on-screen alteration, it coincides with a number of other significant developments from the decade in Westeros that occurred off-screen. Old power brokers are fading, while new figures rise like dragons. As perplexing as it may be for some, it’s all very much by the book, drawing direct inspirations from George R.R. Martin’s Fire and Blood.
Here are some of the most prominent instances in which “The Princess and the Queen,” episode six, connects with the source material.
The Seed is Firm
One of the more perplexing moments in the newest House of the Dragon episode came early on, when viewers learned about Rhaenyra and Harwin Strong’s hidden relationship (Ryan Corr). It may have surprised show-only watchers, but the book-reading community has been keeping a close eye on Breakbones for quite some time.
If you have a buddy who has read the book (or know of a podcast hosted by someone who has read the book), they almost likely pointed out Harwin’s silly grin when Rhaenyra returned to camp covered in boar gore in episode three. When Rhaenyra and Harwin passed each other on the streets of King’s Landing in episode four, that same friend undoubtedly DiCaprio-pointed at the television, and did the same last week when Harwin rushed in to save Rhaenyra during the wedding battle. Were those sequences memorable enough for viewers to find Rhaenyra and Harwin’s one-episode romance satisfying? Probably not for others, and possibly not even for this specific book reader.
In any event, Ser Harwin’s relationship with Rhaenyra is plainly important to the plot, as he is the biological father of her children. Indeed, for the sake of the performance, some of the speech surrounding this debate was extracted directly from the book, such as when Alicent urges Laenor (John Macmillan): “Do keep trying… You might get one that looks exactly like you, sooner or later.” Though Harwin does not survive the episode (more on that later), his legacy will play an important role in the tale as we progress deeper inside the House of the Dragon.
We saw a couple more dragons in this week’s episode, which is well worth seeing. First, there’s Vermax, the dragon Jace Velaryon (Leo Hart) tames early in the episode. While many on the show are sceptical about Jace’s parentage, the book employs Vermax to dispel some of those myths. As is customary for Targaryens, Jace and his brothers were given dragon eggs while they were still babies in the cradle to strengthen their bonds with their eventual dragons. (We witness Jace and Luke cook an egg for their infant son Joffrey for this very purpose in the episode.) Those who thought Jace was a bastard also thought the eggs would never hatch. Those people were mistaken, as Vermax (together with the yet-to-be-seen dragons Arrax and Tyraxes) hatches, putting an end to some of the rumours, if only for a short time.
We don’t see a couple of dragons in the show, but they are mentioned in one case and are worth mentioning in the other. Sunfyre, a dragon belonging to Prince Aegon, is one such dragon (Ty Tennant). Sunfyre is described by Martin as “the most magnificent dragon ever seen on the earth.” Meanwhile, Princess Helaena (Evie Allen) is paired with Dreamfyre, the dragon responsible for the eggs of many following dragons, including three eggs stolen from Dragonstone and brought east.
Several fan theories hold that these eggs will hatch into Drogon, Rhaegal, and Viserion, the same three dragons as Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys Targaryen. Furthermore, as previously stated, Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) does not have a dragon – at least not yet. However, something one character says in the episode provides a significant hint as to Aemond’s dragon-riding destiny, albeit it is juxtaposed so delicately that you might miss it.
The third dragon worth noting is one we’ve already discussed and heard mentioned extensively throughout House of the Dragon: Vhagar, the oldest living dragon dating back to Aegon’s Conquest. Earlier in the season, when she was still a kid, Laena Velaryon (Nova Foueillis-Mose, subsequently Savannah Steyn, and lastly Nanna Blondell) asked Viserys (Paddy Considine) whether he or anyone else knew where Vhagar was.
Laena meets and bonds with Vhagar on the show sometime between then and now. The novel describes her claiming Vhagar fairly casually, so there isn’t a lot of information the show could have adapted, but it definitely feels like a sequence that would have been stunning to watch onscreen.
Death of Laena
In the case of Laena… Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) set his sights on the Sea Snake’s daughter in last week’s episode, and this episode explains what occurred next: they married, and presumably no one was slain at the ceremony. That we are aware of! Huzzah!
In the book, Daemon kills Laena’s wastrel of a fiancé in a duel, and the two marry. According to reports, the two then fled to Old Valyria for a time to “discover the mysteries of the dragonlords of the old Freehold.” We didn’t get to see it if it happened in the show’s version of events.
Furthermore, according to the novel, Daemon and Laena spent a significant period of time at Pentos, where Laena gave birth to the twins Rhaena and Baela. Laena publicly sought a return to Driftmark to raise her children where she grew up in the programme. In the book, she gets her dream and spends a lot of time with Rhaenyra once the princess settles at the nearby Dragonstone. The friendship is cruelly cut short when Laena gives birth to Daemon’s son, who dies an hour after birth. Laena arrives soon after, attempting one final time to fly Vhagar but dying on her way to the dragon. Rhaenyra ends up supporting Daemon through his sadness, though it’s yet to be seen if that’s how the show will handle events.
One final frightening comment regarding Laena’s demise in terms of what’s to come on the show. “Lady Laena’s death was the first tragedy of 120 AC,” writes Martin, “but it would not be the last.”
Death of Harwin and Lyonel Strong
Here are two additional tragedies to consider: Breakbones and his father, Lyonel (Gavin Spokes), perhaps the best Hand of the King in House of the Dragon thus far, and possibly in all of Game of Thrones? Too dramatic? Probably, but let’s honour the man while he’s still warm.
Okay, considering Lord Lyonel’s burning destiny, “still warm” is a horrible choice of words. Lyonel and his son Harwin are both slain in a raging fire at Harrenhal, much as they are in the show. Unlike the show, however, there are many unanswered questions regarding what happened to them and, more importantly, who drew the trigger.
The narrator of the book claims that sources in Westeros relay various stories regarding the possible culprit. One intriguing version holds that King Viserys was the man responsible, ordering Harwin’s killing in response to suspicions of his secret participation in Rhaenyra’s life; this theory holds that Viserys had no notion Lyonel would be at Harrenhal when the fire was ignited. Another story indicated that the Sea Snake was seeking “vengeance against the father who had cuckolded his son,” while another said that it was nothing more than Harrenhal’s cursed nature.
However, the programme chose a scenario suggested by the book: Larys Clubfoot (Matthew Needham) murdering his own family members to advance his position in King’s Landing. According to the novel, Larys murdered them in order to become Lord of Harrenhal. It remains to be seen how the show will play out his goals in the long run—but if it was actually to become the man at the helm of Westeros’ most haunted house, the cursed fortress practically no one seems to be able to hold onto? Then Clubfoot may not be as astute as he appears.
Sesame Street to Riverrun
Someone as astute as he believes: George R.R. Martin, creator behind so many horrifying turns like the Red Wedding, Ned Stark’s beheading, and many more. Even GRRM isn’t perfect as a writer, with many of his most ardent followers criticising the way he describes lavish feasts, for example.
Then there’s the matter of names. The names, the names. Martin doesn’t always get the names right, whether it’s too many characters named Joffrey to count, or a name with an utterly unnecessary letter (“My name is Lady Madisynn with a Y but not where you think!” would not be surprising in this show), or even literally naming a dragon Drogon. He occasionally catches himself and totally nails it with something completely original—or delightfully stolen.
We’re looking at the latter category in “The Princess and the Queen.” The viewer learns about Grover Tully, Lord of Riverrun, during a brief council scene. This character is directly from the novel, as are his grandkids and great-grandchildren, who have yet to be identified on the show but are completely canon according to Fire and Blood. Kermit, Elmo, and Oscar are their names.
Yes. Oscar Tully, Grover, Kermit, and Elmo. I’ll give you a chance to process that.
What’s the best part? Depending on how far House of the Dragon progresses, at least one of these Tullys will play an essential role in the forthcoming plot. Ryan Condal, the showrunner, is supposedly such a Martin supporter that he refused to modify Rhaenys’ (Eve Best) name to make it less confused with Rhaenyra. Let’s hope he has the same degree of dedication when it comes time to summon the Sesame Street lords.
The Pirate King
Racallio Ryndoon is the final Easter egg for the journey! Two terms that mean nothing to you and aren’t even mentioned in the show, but trust me when I say this isn’t the Rolo Tomassi of Westeros. (However, LAnnisport Confidential has a nice ring to it.)
Instead, it’s the name of the pirate Laenor mentions to Rhaenyra when she mentions trouble brewing again in the Stepstones. Laenor speaks of a colossal Tyroshi general with a purple beard. I’ll save you the Google search: this is a figure from Martin’s canon, and his name is Racallio Ryndoon, who the author describes as “perhaps one of the most strange and flamboyant rogues in the annals of history.”
Racallio Ryndoon is unlikely to appear on House of the Dragon anytime soon, if ever. But the very mention of him… “gods be good,” as they say in Westeros.