‘House of the Dragon’: a Guide to all the Key Characters in Season 2

‘House of the Dragon’: a Guide to all the Key Characters in Season 2

It has been nearly two years since the shadow of dragons’ wings last darkened our screens. When “House of the Dragon,” HBO’s hit “Game of Thrones” prequel based on the book “Fire and Blood” by George R.R. Martin, returns this weekend, its sprawling cast of characters will be prepping for war, the sides distinguished by the color of the banners they fly.

The Blacks are led by Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D’Arcy). Named heir by her father, King Viserys, years earlier, she has seen her claim to the Iron Throne of Westeros usurped by her younger half brother Aegon (Tom Glynn-Carney); he and his backers, including his mother, Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke), are known as the Greens. Now these two women will determine the fate of what remains very much a patriarchal world.

Whether you want to pick a team or simply brush up ahead of the Season 2 premiere, airing Sunday on HBO, here is a primer on the major players from both sides of the great dragon divide.

Long the only child of the late King Viserys Targaryen, Rhaenyra was proclaimed heir by the king in defiance of centuries of tradition that held that only males could rule. She was fine with this, having little use for tradition herself. But Viserys’s marriage to Rhaenyra’s childhood friend Alicent Hightower and the subsequent birth of Aegon created a rift within the royal family. After learning of her father’s death and Aegon’s crowning in the capital city, King’s Landing, Rhaenyra launched her rival reign from House Targaryen’s ancestral island home, Dragonstone.

The mercurial Daemon is Rhaenyra’s uncle, second husband and king-consort. He is also the reason she was named heir in the first place: Viserys feared what he might do with the power of the crown if he inherited it. Bonded with the sinuous red dragon Caraxes, he is the most experienced and dangerous dragon-riding warrior in the realm. His devotion to Rhaenyra’s cause, however, can give way to insubordination and abusive behavior.

The head of a proud house that, like the royal family, traces its lineage back to the lost empire of Valyria, the man they call the Sea Snake is the greatest sailor, explorer and admiral in the history of the Seven Kingdoms. He has allied with Rhaenyra and Daemon despite a common perception that they are to blame, directly or indirectly, for the deaths of his own children: their former spouses, Laenor (believed murdered) and Laena (who died in childbirth). Corlys’s powerful fleet rivals the dragons in its importance to the coming war.

Rhaenys is known as the Queen Who Never Was, having been passed over as heir to the Iron Throne for her younger male cousin, Viserys. Since then she has emerged as an equal partner to her husband, Lord Corlys. Though unwilling to ignite the war herself by burning Rhaenyra’s rivals during her dragon-borne escape — from King’s Landing, she has since taken the would-be queen’s side.

The official story is that Jacaerys, Lucerys and Joffrey are Rhaenyra’s sons by her dead husband, Ser Laenor Velaryon. In truth, Laenor — who is secretly alive and well with his boyfriend somewhere — is not the biological father of any of them, a rather obvious fact that is the cause of much of the animus toward Rhaenyra among the sprawling royal family. (Unlike their father, Laenor, whose hair is Valyrian white-blonde, the brothers have the dark hair of their true biological father, Ser Harwin Strong, who was killed later in an act of arson orchestrated by his own brother, Larys.) Nevertheless, Jace is now an heir to the Iron Throne via his mother, and he has flown loyally to the North to win over House Stark.

Baela and her younger sister, Rhaena, are the daughters of Daemon and his first wife, Laena Velaryon, who later died during one of the first season’s horrible birth scenes. Baela, who has a dragon, and Rhaena, who does not, were betrothed to Jacaerys and his younger brother, Lucerys, in order to unite further the two great Valyrian houses. Luke’s death in the skies above the castle of Storm’s End, in the Season 1 finale, thwarted half of that plan.

Rhaenyra has two other living children, each by Daemon: Aegon and Viserys. (A third, Visenya, a daughter, died at birth.)

A former slave and prostitute turned spymaster known as the White Worm, the foreign-born Mysaria was once Daemon’s lover. His reckless disregard for her safety, however, drove her into a transactional alliance with the king’s hand, Otto Hightower. This partnership was forcibly severed when agents working on behalf of Queen Alicent burned down her house, hoping to weaken Otto’s grip on power. Mysaria’s current status is unknown, though Mizuno has been confirmed for the cast of Season 2.

Although miscommunication and wishful thinking ultimately drove Alicent to help maneuver her son Aegon onto the Iron Throne, her success was the culmination of years of planning that began when Alicent was a child. Her father, Otto, had positioned her as a replacement for the grieving king’s dead wife, despite Alicent’s friendship with Viserys’s daughter and heir, Rhaenyra.

Traditionally, there would have been no question that Viserys’s eldest son, Aegon, should succeed his father as king. But Viserys’s special arrangement for Rhaenyra changed the equation — or let Aegon off the hook, as he might have put until recently. A shirker, a wastrel, a rapist and a frequenter of fighting pits where children battle, Aegon was reluctant to take the crown. But he appeared pretty comfortable once his mother and grandfather gave it to him. Aegon now sits the Iron Throne and bears the crown, sword and name of his conquering ancestor, Aegon I — three symbols of legitimacy his half sister can’t match.

Three kings in a row have relied on the service of Otto Hightower as Hand, having made him one of the most influential figures in Westeros for many years. It was his scheming that united Alicent with Viserys and put Aegon on the throne. Otto’s older brother is the Lord of Oldtown, the spiritual and intellectual capital of the Seven Kingdoms and perhaps the richest city in the realm.

Years ago, Aegon’s younger brother, Aemond, got into a scuffle with Lucerys Velaryon over control of Vhagar, the oldest and largest living dragon. Aemond lost an eye but gained the dragon — a fair trade, he ultimately concluded, because the beast made him the most dangerous warlord in Westeros. Aemond’s disastrous attempt to play chicken with Luke and his much smaller dragon goaded Vhagar into killing the boy and his dragon, striking the first real blow in the Dance of the Dragons.

Alicent and Viserys’s only daughter is cut from a different cloth than her headstrong brothers. A quiet young woman drawn more to arthropods than to people, including her brother-husband, Aegon, she appears to have the gift of prophecy. But not even she seems to understand her own cryptic utterances as such.

Aegon and Helaena have twin children, a boy and heir named Jaehaerys and a girl named Jaehaera. Daeron, the last of Alicent and Viserys’s children, is the twins’ youngest uncle, heretofore unseen on the show.

Called the Clubfoot with the characteristic insensitivity of Westerosi culture, Larys serves as Queen Alicent’s unofficial intelligence chief, a service for which she pays by gratifying his sexual fetishism. In furtherance of Alicent’s cause, Larys had his own father and brother assassinated — the latter of whom, Ser Harwin Strong, was the biological father of Rhaenyra’s first three children. In so doing, Larys inherited the enormous but cursed stronghold of Harrenhal.

Cole was Rhaenyra’s lover in Season 1 until she entered a political marriage with Laenor Velaryon. Since both Rhaenyra and Laenor had outside relationships already, Rhaenyra suggested to Cole that he remain her boyfriend on the side. He wasn’t into it, to put it mildly, and has since become her most fanatical foe. Newly minted by Alicent as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, he drew first blood in the Targaryen civil war by killing Rhaenyra’s sole loyalist on the small council and then placing the crown on Aegon II’s head, earning himself the nickname Kingmaker.

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