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House of the Dragon: What to Remember Before Season 2

Alicent and Rhaenyra have some scores to settle

Hunter Ingram
Olivia Cooke and Emma D'Arcy, House of the Dragon

Olivia Cooke and Emma D'Arcy, House of the Dragon


Summon the dragons and rally the allies because war is upon us.

HBO's Game of Thrones prequel series House of the Dragon returns Season 2 on June 16, and there will be no calm before the storm once it returns. Queen Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke) is locking horns with Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D'Arcy) as the two lead their respective sides, the Greens and the Blacks, for their claim to the Iron Throne. As the Targaryen family tree wages war on itself for supremacy, nowhere on land or in the skies will be safe from the wrath of bad blood as Westeros finds itself the battleground for an epic war for the ages. 

But it's been almost two years since Season 1 premiered, and you might have forgotten how we got here. Before Season 2 arrives, here's a quick refresher on what brought the Seven Kingdoms to the brink of war.

More on House of the Dragon:

A Contested Throne

There was only one way the first season of House of the Dragon could end — with the Iron Throne up for grabs. For most of the 20 years covered in Season 1, King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine) had been knocking on death's door in one way or another, whether it was withered fingers nursed with maggot baths or open wounds caused by his pointy seat of power. But his inevitable succession shouldn't have been much of a contest. At the beginning of the series, Viserys made the not-so-popular decision to name his daughter Rhaenyra (Emma D'Arcy) as his heir, something that nearly everyone in his inner circle protested because a woman had never sat the Iron Throne. But he committed to his choice for the remainder of his life, until the fever of his final illness caused him to unintentionally sow chaos in his death.

Viserys proved his commitment to his daughter by sharing with her Aegon I Targaryen's prophecy known as "A Song of Ice and Fire," which states that a Targaryen "Prince Who Was Promised" will sit on the throne when it comes time to defeat the White Walkers (events seen in Games of Thrones). It is a prophecy that gives the Targaryens reason to defend their power like never before. But on his deathbed, Viserys is visited by his wife Alicent (Olivia Cooke), who happens to be Rhaenyra's childhood best friend but current-day nemesis. Viserys thinks it is Rhaenyra by his bed, so he speaks openly about Aegon's prophecy, something Alicent interprets as his eleventh-hour decision to name their son Aegon (Tom Glynn-Carney) — his eldest male child — as his heir. With Rhaenyra living at Dragonstone with her own family, including her uncle-husband Daemon (Matt Smith), she is not present for her father's death or the ensuing coup orchestrated by Alicent and her father, Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), the Hand of the King. In an instant, Rhaenyra loses her father and her throne.

Beast Beneath The Boards

Eve Best, House of the Dragon

Eve Best, House of the Dragon

Ollie Upton/HBO

Alicent, Otto and the Small Council know there is limited time to complete their coup before Rhaenyra finds out and begins staging a counterattack. They need to crown Aegon quickly, a task made much harder by the fact that the reluctant ruler has been stowed away by Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno). As the intelligence maven known as the White Worm, she essentially holds him for ransom to get the government to stop the abuse of children in the poor Flea Bottom district. Through it all, Aegon resists this new job that would interrupt his daily routine of assaulting maids and drinking himself silly. But when he is returned home and ushered into the Dragonpit to be crowned, the exultation from the crowd of thousands proves that he is willing to embrace the intoxicating power of his ascendancy. But it is a short-lived high when Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best), one of Rhaenyra's supporters being held captive in King's Landing, escapes on her dragon, Meleys, by bursting through the floor of the Dragonpit. In her exit, she kills hundreds of spectators and has the chance to burn Alicent and Aegon to a crisp with dragon's breath, but spares them in her escape.

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Losses Abound

The war hasn't even started but Rhaenyra suffers greatly by the end of the finale. Not only did she lose her father, but the trauma of being told of Viserys' death and the subsequent coup causes her to miscarry her pregnancy. As she mourns her unborn child, Rhaenyra is presented with her father's crown by Erryk Cargyll (Elliott Tittensor), a member of the Kingsguard who defects to the Queensguard (and leaves behind his twin brother, Arryk) after becoming disillusioned with infighting led by Alicent and Otto's side of the family. Emboldened by the crown on her head, Rhaenyra begins to rally support from other houses to her cause, getting a big endorsement from recovered warrior Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint), known as the Sea Snake, and his wife Rhaenys.

Uncle vs. Nephew

Ewan Mitchell, House of the Dragon

Ewan Mitchell, House of the Dragon

Ollie Upton/HBO

Rhaenyra sends her second son, Luke (Elliot Grihault), as an envoy to Storm's End to court an alliance with Lord Borros Baratheon, but Luke is beat to the punch as his uncle Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) and his ancient dragon Vhagar have already arrived. Lord Borros informs Luke he has already thrown his support to Aegon's claim to the throne because Aemond agreed to marry one of his daughters. Luke is sent away, but not before Aemond demands he cut out one of his eyes. It all stems from a fateful confrontation between the two sides of the Targaryen family years prior when a violent altercation between Luke, his brother Jace (Harry Collett), and Aemond ended with Aemond losing an eye, and Aemond is demanding retribution again. (Prior, Alicent had attempted to take Luke's eye herself.) Lord Borros breaks up the fight, and Luke leaves on his dragon Arrax to return to his mother while Aemond chases him down on Vhagar to scare his nephew. But Vhagar is more volatile than Aemond realizes, and after Arrax reacts to the bullying with a blast of fire to Vhagar, Vhagar kills Luke and Arrax with a single bite heard round the Seven Kingdoms. It is the the most consequential kill of the season, and one that will usher in a new era of family-on-family bloodshed in Season 2.

It's All Relative

Bethany Antonia, Harry Collett, Elliot Grihault, and Phoebe Campbell, House of the Dragon

Bethany Antonia, Harry Collett, Elliot Grihault, and Phoebe Campbell, House of the Dragon

Ollie Upton/HBO

Here's a quick refresher on who is married to who and why, in most cases, it's a revolting family affair. As a teenager, Rhaenyra was arranged to marry Laenor Velaryon (John Macmillan), with whom she builds a growing family as she awaits her ascendancy to the Iron Throne. Laenor, however, is gay, so while the two share a loving and understanding marriage for show, it is not a physical one. Instead, her children are the product of a long-standing affair with esteemed knight Harwin Strong (Ryan Corr), who is killed by his scheming brother Larys (Matthew Needham) in a fire at Harrenhal. The paternity of Rhaenyra's children is constantly ridiculed and questioned, something that puts immense pressure on her and Laenor. The latter desperately wants free of his arranged marriage to be with his lover, Qarl (Arty Froushan), so to quiet these rumors, they stage a violent encounter that leaves Laenor dead — or at least that's what the rest of the world will believe.

Simultaneously, this allows Daemon to finally marry his niece and long-time paramour Rhaenyra, installing himself as yet another ally at her side. Daemon's own wife and Laenor's sister Laena Velaryon (Nanna Blondell) had previously committed suicide by dragon's breath after complications during pregnancy with their third child. Rhaenyra and Daemon have danced around this relationship for years — having previously hooked up in a brothel when she was a teenager — so consummating it with a marriage was all but inevitable. It also gives Rhaenyra an unyielding champion for the fight ahead, though let's not pretend Daemon isn't volatile in his own right. Over in King's Landing, to shore up a line of succession for her newly crowned son Aegon, Alicent agrees to marry him off to her daughter and his sister, Helaena (Phia Saban). The troubling union has so far produced three children — twins Jaehaerys and Jaehaera, and the youngest, Maelor. Definitely remember those names as they will play prominently into coming events.

House of the Dragon Season 2 premieres Sunday, June 16 at 9/8c on HBO and Max.