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House of the Dragon Character Guide

Westeros is a crowded place; here's who's vying for the Iron Throne

Olivia Cooke, Paddy Considine, Evie Allen, Steve Toussaint, Eve Best, and Shani Smethurst, House of the Dragon
1 of 22 Ollie Upton / HBO

House of the Dragon Character Guide

The dragons will dance in Season 2 of HBO's Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon.

But before Team Black and Team Green can begin to wage war to decide who will sit on the Iron Throne, no one will blame you if you need a refresher on the major players in the coming struggle for power of the Seven Kingdoms. The first season of the series spanned several decades in its lead up to the coming battle for supremacy of Westeros, introducing what felt like most of the continent, half of whom are related to each other or named after their grandparents. It's a lot to keep track of! 

So to prepare you for what's to come, here's a quick character guide to who's who.

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Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D'Arcy)

Season 1: The rightful heir of the Seven Kingdoms (don't tell Alicent we said that!) was put through the wringer in Season 1. First seen as a dragon-taming, power-hungry teenager (played by Milly Alcock), Rhaenyra is the daughter of the now-late King Viserys I Targaryen, who declares her to be the heir to the Iron Throne. Prior to his death, King Viserys shares with Rhaenyra the secret of Aegon the Conqueror's prophecy, known as A Song of Ice and Fire, which states a Targaryen must sit upon the Iron Throne to survive the Long Night (aka the rise of the White Walkers seen in Game of Thrones). But when Viserys mistakenly reveals this prophecy to Alicent, his wife and Rhaenyra's enemy, on his deathbed, Alicent believes the mention of "Aegon" is Viserys' eleventh-hour change of heart to make their son Aegon his heir. With her father gone and her ascension ripped away with him, Rhaenyra must fight for her throne — but it will come with a heavy price. 

In the Season 1 finale, the news of the coup sends Rhaenyra into early labor with her and Daemon's third child, who is lost in delivery. During the funeral, her father's crown is brought to her and Rhaenyra is crowned queen, at least to those who acknowledge it. Finally, as she is gathering support and a plan of attack, her half-brother (and Alicent's son) Aemond Targaryen engages in a bit of dragon battle with her son Luke, who is killed, along with his dragon, in the skies. Told of her son's death, the final shot of Season 1 leaves Rhaenyra sorrow-stricken and hardened for the war ahead, one she will no doubt wage with impunity.

Rhaenyra currently has four children: Jacaerys Velaryon and Joffrey Velaryon (with Harwin Strong) and Aegon Targaryen and Viserys Targaryen (with Daemon Targaryen). 

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Alicent Hightower, Olivia Cooke

Season 1: The second wife of the late King Viserys I Targaryen was first and foremost the childhood best friend of his daughter, Rhaenyra. But at the behest of her conniving father and the King's Hand, Otto Hightower, Alicent was married off to the grieving ruler after the childbirth death of his wife, Aemma. Tension grew between Alicent and Rhaenyra over the course of Season 1, reaching a boiling point when Rhaenyra's son Luke took the eye of Alicent's son Aemond during a scuffle. As a dying Viserys breathes his last breath, he mistakes Alicent for Rhaenyra and spills the beans on Aegon's A Song of Ice and Fire prophecy. Alicent believes this is Viserys' dying wish to make their eldest son, Aegon, his heir — a wildly different directive than his long-held plan to anoint Rhaenyra. Alicent moves quickly to put her son on the throne so as to make it harder for Rhaenyra to steal back power, believing that Aegon's life would be in jeopardy as the Blacks attempt to claim the throne. In the finale, she makes one final attempt to mend fences or at least spark a truce with Rhaenyra by sending Otto with a page she tore from their childhood book "Ten Thousand Ships," a token of their youthful friendship. But when Aemond's dragon eats Luke and his dragon during a bullying session, all hope of a reunion and peace is lost.

Alicent currently has three children: Aegon II Targaryen, Helaena Targaryen, and Aemond Targaryen, all with the late King Viserys Targaryen. It is unknown if a fourth child, Daeron, exists in the world of the TV series.

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King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine)

Season 1: The debut season of House of the Dragon proved to be a slow march toward death for King Viserys I Targaryen. Sitting on the Iron Throne was literally the beginning of the end for the king for, who, among his many ailments, was repeatedly cut by the pointy chair from which he ruled. Having married and had children with his daughter Rhaenyra's best friend, Alicent Hightower, Viserys spent the last years of his life witnessing squabble after squabble from the warring sides of his family. But despite all the grief he took for it, he was committed to Rhaenyra succeeding him as ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. He was just too careless with how willing others would be to usurp those wishes the second he wasn't around anymore. That's exactly what Alicent did with his dying words of Aegon. She just didn't know he was rambling about his ancestor's prophecy, and not their tyrant-in-the-making son. (How about we stop naming every third male newborn Aegon?) Viserys is eulogized as "the peaceful" by Hand of the King Otto Hightower, which is ironic because though he preached a unified Westeros, he left nothing but chaos and death in his wake.

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Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith)

Season 1: The younger brother of the late King Viserys I Targaryen, Daemon is the wild child of the family. He's an arrogant and impulsive man with the heart of a fighter and the battle experience to back it up, but he's also a lover. (Except when he's married to someone he doesn't like and kills them, like he did with his first wife, Rhea Royce.) Hoping to put his virility and hunger for legacy to good use, Viserys arranges for Daemon to marry Laena Velaryon, the daughter of Viserys' cousin Rhaenys Targaryen and her husband Corlys Velaryon. Daemon and Laena have two children, Baela and Rhaena, but complications from the third pregnancy lead Laena to commit suicide by way of a dragonrider's death (i.e. she commanded her dragon Vhagar to burn her alive). Despite a moderately functional marriage, Daemon always had his sights grossly set on his niece, Rhaenyra, whom he marries and sires two more children, Aegon (not Aegon the king, a new Aegon) and Viserys. Daemon is known to fly off the handle and he doesn't always bend the knee as easily as others to the ascendant queen that is his wife. But after he has to deliver the news of Luke's murder to Rhaenyra, the tragedy is likely to put Daemon on a righteous and reckless path in Season 2. Luckily for him, he seems to have courted a new dragon for his journeys in the vicious Vermithor, the formerly unclaimed dragon of the late King Jaehaerys I Targaryen.

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Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans)

Season 1: The unforgiving and opportunistic Hand of the King, Otto Hightower is one of the most consequential figures in the first season. Orchestrating his daughter Alicent's union with his boss, King Viserys I Targaryen, was a masterful plan in ingratiating the Hightower name into the royal family. But marrying a king does not a legacy make, so Otto has continued to maneuver and scheme his way to power through his daughter ever since. By the end of the season, it is Otto who takes Alicent and the newly instated King Aegon's message of peace to Rhaenyra, a precarious situation that almost ends with him being castrated and sent back to his daughter as a resounding denial of their terms. But Rhaenyra stops Daemon from slicing and dicing. Instead, she does call him a "f***ing traitor," before saying he is "no more the Hand than Aegon is King."

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Aegon II Targaryen (Tom Glynn-Carney)

Season 1: The first son of King Viserys I Targaryen and Alicent Hightower, Aegon II Targaryen has taken up the mantle of the worst person in Westeros (a title previously held by his future descendant Joffrey Lannister in the original series). A dead-eyed rapist of a man, Aegon is elevated to king by his mother after the death of his father, despite the protests of just about everyone, include Aegon. To ensure they have a purebred lineage, he is upsettingly married to his sister Helaena Targaryen as well. Being king is not something Aegon wants, even trying to flee before his coronation. He would rather force sex upon the maids of Kings Landing and get drunk rather than rule. But he is his mother's pawn, and during his coronation, the ravenous adulation from the crowd emboldens the young leader to accept his role. He is reduced to a scared boy again when Rhaenys flees on dragonback during his crowning, nearly killing him and his mother before, perhaps mistakenly, sparing their lives.

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Aemond Targaryen (Ewan Mitchell)

Season 1: The second son of King Viserys I Targaryen and Alicent Hightower and younger brother to Aegon II, Aemond Targaryen is chomping at the bit to be the king his brother doesn't want to be. The muscle of his family, Aemond is the kind of deranged man that should scare the people he crosses. (The parallels between Aemond and Daemon are numerous.) Incessantly mocked by his nephews Jace and Luke growing up, Aemond holds a grudge that he nurses like a mission of revenge. It is during the fateful clash between the families that he loses his left eye at the hands of Luke. It only feeds his hatred of his extended family, and he will be the one who, intentionally or not, kills Luke in a dragon battle after they meet at Storm's End in the finale, setting the stage for war. But Aemond's greatest move in the first season was claiming Vhagar, the ancient dragon that is enormous in size, following the death of her former rider, Laena Velaryon.

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Helaena Targaryen (Phia Saban)

Season 1: Helaena is the daughter of Viserys and Alicent, and the younger sister of Aegon and older sister of Aemond (and Daeron). She's a peculiar person, with an interest in insects and an affinity for saying unusual phrases, which could be interpreted as prophecies. She may have predicted Aemond's lost eye when she said he would have to close one eye when riding a dragon, and warned others about the "beast beneath the boards" before Rhaenys interrupted Aegon's coronation with her dragon by bursting through the floor. She would later marry her brother Aegon and have two children with him: twins Jaehaerys and Jaehaera. It is unknown if a third child from the books, Maelor, is in the TV series.

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Jacaerys "Jace" Velaryon (Harry Collett)

Season 1: Rhaenyra's eldest son is, in theory, being raised to succeed her on the Iron Throne some day. That is, if she can get it back from her conniving step-family. Jace has spent his life dodging questions of his paternity — one of the worst kept secrets in Westeros is that his father is actually Harwin Strong, whom Rhaenyra took as a lover, and not prince Laenor Velaryon — and he remains very protective of his younger brother, Luke. On the night when the dragon Vhagar is taken by Aemond Targaryen, Jace gets in a fight with his uncle, but it is Luke who ends up slashing Aemond in the left eye. The incident nearly brings the entire family to violence, and certainly causes deep wounds. At the end of the season, Jace is left by his mother's side when the family is informed of Luke's death in retaliation for that fight.

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Lucerys "Luke" Velaryon (Elliot Grihault)

Season 1: Rhaenrya's second-born son, Luke has spent his life outrunning allegations of his paternity just like his brother, Jace. (The brothers are the bastard sons of Rhaenyra and Harwin Strong.) It is a burden the two boys bear, but not one that weighs them down. Luke, in particular, is a tough kid for his age, something he wrestles with even as his mother speaks of his possible inheritance of Driftmark. But Luke is also not one to back down from a fight, something he's been doing with his uncle Aemond for years. When the dragon Vhagar is stolen from the Velaryon house, the ensuing fight between Aemond and his nephews results in Luke cutting out Aemond's left eye, an injury Aemond's mother, Alicent, wants paid with blood. Viserys stops this from happening, but Aemond — following a childhood of teasing from Jace and Luke (and Aegon) — never forgets. In the Season 1 finale, hoping to build his confidence, Rhaenyra sends Luke on dragonback to Storm's End to broker support for her challenge for the throne from the Baratheons. Aemond follows in pursuit and, in the chaos, Luke and his dragon Arrax are killed. It is the death that will launch a war.

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Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel)

Season 1: Not even his mother's favorite Criston, this former knight made a splash in the series premiere during the Heir's Tournament, where he defeated Daemon in combat and requested the favor of a teenage Rhaenyra. She chooses him as her guard and later seduces him, eventually leading him to ask her to run away to Essos with him. (She said, "Nah.") During Rhaenyra's marriage celebration to Laenor Velaryon, he succumbs to his anger and beats Laenor's lover to death after the lover says he knows about Criston's secret affair with Rhaenyra, and attempts suicide only to be saved by Alicent, who employs him as a member of the Kingsguard. Under the newly crowned King Aegon II, he also becomes Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. It is Criston who trains Aemond to be an unrelenting warrior, and it is Criston who places the crown on Aegon's head at his coronation. If nothing else, he has secured his place in the new regime and has a weird relationship with Alicent (two people this hot can't just be friends). He also has quite the temper.

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Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best)

Season 1: Mockingly known as the Queen Who Never Was, Rhaenys was passed over for the Iron Throne by her grandfather King Jaehaerys I Targaryen in favor of her uncle Baelon following her father Aemon's death. It was a controversial decision, but yet another instance where a woman is denied the traditional line of succession. (Baelon's son, Viserys, would be voted in as king after Baelon died.) Rhaenys, like Rhaenyra, suffers tremendously in Season 1, losing the throne and then her daughter Laena, who commits suicide by dragon's breath after the trauma of a miscarriage. But Rhaenys comes out the other side as the most destructive person so far in House of the Dragon. When Alicent attempts to court Rhaenys' support in her and her son Aemond's coup of the throne, Rhaenys responds by bursting through the literal floor of Aemond's coronation on her red dragon, Meleys, killing thousands of people and threatening Alicent and Aemond with a fiery death just to show she can. If you don't think too hard about the innocent carnage involved in that, it is an all-time Game of Thrones moment.

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Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint)

Season 1: It pays to be the richest man in Westeros. Known as the Sea Snake, Corlys is the head of House Velaryon, Master of Driftmark, and husband to Rhaenys Targaryen, the cousin of Viserys whose right to succession was denied because she is a woman. His place as head of the royal fleet for the king gives him a seat on the Small Council, even if they don't often heed his advice. Corlys spends much of the first season fighting at the Stepstones, where he is gravely injured. But by the end of the season, he joins Rhaenyra's Black Council to take back her throne because their families are bound by the bonds of marriage and blood.

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Larys Strong (Matthew Needham)

Season 1: Larys Strong is, like Game of Thrones' Littlefinger, the man behind the man behind the (wo)man, operating with cunning and deceit to bend the kingdom and its players to his will, with few knowing how much he pulls the strings. Born with a clubfoot, Larys has foregone any physical strengths for mental prowess, working his way up to Lord of Harrenhal and the title of Lord Confessor in King's Landing through crafting a web of planted information and half-truths. Larys is the son of Lyonel strong, who became Hand of the King to Viserys after Otto was dismissed, and as the younger brother to Harwin Strong, Larys is biologically the uncle of Rhaenyra's sons Luke and Jace. But Larys is no family man; he had his father and brother killed after twisting Alicent's words into a request for them to be murdered, and in doing so improved his standing in Alicent's court and his own name, becoming head of House Strong and Lord of Harrenhal. Also, he has a wicked foot fetish.

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Laenor Velaryon (John MacMillan)

Season 1: Poor, Laenor. All he wanted was to live a life with his boyfriend Qarl, fighting in an endless battle at the Stepstones and staying out of the petty business of family drama. Unfortunately, his family had other plans. The son of Corlys Velaryon and Rhaenys Targaryen, the eldest son is promised to a teenage Rhaenyra, in whom he finds a kindred spirit. She knows he is gay and he knows she has feelings for many others, including her uncle Daemon. They marry with an understanding to support the other in their, um, extramarital interests. She takes a lover in Ser Harwin Strong and he finds love with Qarl Correy, a lowly but dreamy knight. But Rhaenyra has been secretly having children with Harwin, sons that Laenor can't easily pass off as his own. Unsatisfied with their marriage, the couple, along with Daemon, stage a struggle that leaves Laenor dead. Well, that's what the world is supposed to believe, as Laenor and Qarl sail off into the sunset... or at least somewhere in Essos.

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Laena Velaryon (Nanna Blondell)

Season 1: The daughter of Corlys and Rhaenys, the sister of Laenor and the wife of Daemon, Laena is among the most tragic figures in the series. Would you want to be married to the hothead that is Daemon Targaryen? If you are Rhaenyra Targaryen, don't answer that! Laena makes the most of a rather treacherous situation, and she and Daemon manage to build a nice family with two daughters, Baela and Rhaena. But during the traumatic birth of her third child, Laena is wounded beyond repair and chooses to give herself a dragonrider's death. One of the most skilled dragonriders in the Seven Kingdoms, it is a fitting but horrific end as she commands her beloved dragon, the ancient Vhagar, to incinerate her.

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Baela and Rhaena Targaryen (Bethany Antonia and Phoebe Campbell)

Season 1: The daughters of Daemon Targaryen and Laena Velaryon didn't have a big part in the first season of House of the Dragon, but expect them to be much bigger figures in Season 2. Baela, the elder of the two, is a skilled dragonrider and bonded with Moondancer. Rhaena does not have a dragon, as the egg that was placed in her crib when she was a baby never hatched. Both are affiliated with the Black Council, as their father is by Rhaenyra's side.

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Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno)

Season 1: These days, nothing of note happens in Kings Landing without Mysaria knowing about it. Formerly a prostitute and slave, as well as the lover of Daemon Targaryen, Mysaria has come into her own after they parted ways by building a flourishing network of spies in Kings Landing. Known as The White Worm, her spies are the ones who see Daemon and Rhaenyra's first romantic dalliance. But Mysaria has bigger interests than gossip. She organizes the kidnapping of Aegon as a means of forcing Otto, the Hand of the King, to put an end to the trafficking and abuse of children in the poor Flea Bottom district. She all but threatens him as well, playing her hand that she knows he is the one pulling the strings of Aegon's ascension to the throne. In retaliation, one of her safehouses is later burned to the ground by a minion of Larys Strong, likely meant as a reminder that she is not invincible. Consider her in deep trouble heading into Season 2.

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Harrold Westerling (Graham McTavish)

Season 1: A protector of Rhaenyra Targaryen since she was a child, Harrold Westerling has a deep devotion to the rightful queen. A long-standing member of the Kingsguard, he is in Kings Landing after King Viserys I Targaryen's death, at which time Otto Hightower instructs him to go to Dragonstone and kill Rhaenyra. Disgusted by this coup, he resigns from the council and will likely support Rhaenyra's plan to take back her rightful throne.

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Aemma Arryn (Sian Brooke)

Season 1: King Viserys' first wife is from House Arryn (though she is half Targaryen, being the daughter of Baelon's sister Daella) and the mother of Rhaenyra Targeryan. She is pregnant at the start of Season 1, but quickly runs into complications from childbirth while attempting to birth Baelon, the would-be heir to Viserys. However, Viserys is forced to choose: Lose both his future son and his wife or attempt to save his son by killing Aemma. Viserys makes the rational decision to sacrifice his wife to save his son, but both die shortly after the procedure. Aemma's death starts the search for a new wife for Viserys in order to produce a male heir. 

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Arryk and Erryk Cargyll (Luke Tittensor and Elliott Tittensor)

Season 1: Amidst a sea of confusion over multiple Baelors and Viseryses and Aegons (the latter of which literally caused this whole war between the Greens and Blacks), it's the Cargyll identical twins that somehow have the most bewildering names. Arryk (ARE-ik) and Erryk (AIR-ik) are noble knights of House Cargyll and serve in the Kingsguard under Viserys. They spend most of their time in Season 1 as interesting window dressing (twins!), but later are sent to find Aegon after Viserys' death, at which point Erryk attempts to convince Arryk to switch sides and support Rhaenyra's claim to the throne. Arryk refuses, and Erryk steals Viserys' crown and whisks Rhaenyra away from King's Landing, eventually becoming a member of her Queensguard. Back in King's Landing, Arryk remains supportive of Aegon.