House of the Dragon Season 1 recap: What you need to know for Season 2

Ethan Dean

House of the Dragon Season 2 looks set to bring even more fire and blood than the first. If you’re preparing for all it has to offer, this House of the Dragon Season 1 recap should help.

The works of George R. R. Martin are known for their complexity, and their on-screen adaptations are no exception. House of the Dragon Season 2 approaches, and if it’s anything like the first, there’ll be plenty of winding political intrigue to follow.

Early trailers for House of the Dragon Season 2 urge fans to pick a side between the rival factions of Blacks and Greens. Given it’s been almost 18 months since Season 1, you might need a refresher to help you choose.

This House of the Dragon Season 1 recap will break down all the major events from the first chapter. That includes a quick summary of each episode and a tally of important deaths from the Seven Kingdoms, too.

What happened in House of the Dragon Season 1?

Based on George R. R. Martin’s Fire and Blood, the first season of House of the Dragon set the stage for a civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons. This conflict crippled the Targaryen house and is often viewed as the ignition point for the downfall of their dynasty.

Season 1 focuses on the troubled reign of Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine) whose indecisiveness and willful ignorance create a war for succession of the Iron Throne. The driving force behind the conflict is a rivalry between his daughter and expected heir Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock/Emma D’arcy), and his second wife, Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey/Olivia Cooke).

The animosity between the two women, their families, and various other supporters while King Viserys lives is barely restrained. Upon his death, a coup seats Alicent’s son on the throne, sparking all-out war with dragons as the proverbial nukes.

This is a broad strokes synopsis of House of the Dragon Season 1. For a deeper look at the story, here’s an episode-by-episode breakdown of the major events.

Episode 1

The first episode begins more than 150 years before the events of Game of Thrones at the height of Targaryen Rule in Westeros. King Viserys Targaryen and his wife Aemma (Sian Brooke) are expecting a son but previous troubles with pregnancies have them nervous.

We’re introduced to the childhood friendship between a young Rhaenyra and Alicent that sadly, isn’t fated to last. The two attend a tourney dedicated to the birth of the expected Prince and heir and we catch a glimpse of Sir Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) who will be important later.

Alicent’s father Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) is Viserys’ Hand of the King and despite a facade of loyal servitude, there are early hints of darker, more selfish desires. He is in constant conflict with the King’s brother Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) who despite some very rough edges, sees through Otto’s scheming.

Viserys’ Wife Aemma dies in childbirth after the King directs those facilitating the birth to save the child at the cost of her life. The boy, named Prince Baelon, dies after a day.

Daemon is later seen in the slums of King’s Landing toasting the death of the young Prince whom he calls “the heir for a day”. Upon hearing this, King Viserys is furious and exiles his brother from court.

In the aftermath, Rhaenyra is named heir to the throne, causing tension in a male-dominated Westeros. As an attempted antidote to this, the lords of Westeros are called to acknowledge her and swear fealty.

Young Rhaenyra standing in front of the Iron Throne during House of the Dragon Season 1
Rhaenyra accepts sworn oaths from the lords of Westeros.

Episode 2

Episode 2 thrusts us forward six months where it’s revealed Daemon has unlawfully occupied Dragonstone. Viserys has a soft spot for his brother and isn’t doing anything about it.

Rhaenyra is struggling with her position as heir and her father’s council doesn’t seem to take her seriously, usually giving her menial tasks to keep her out of the way. This does result in her naming Criston Cole to the King’s Guard, however.

Later in the episode, Daemon steals a dragon’s egg from King’s Landing which is seen as an affront. Otto Hightower is sent with a retinue of soldiers to retrieve it. Rhaenyra follows on her dragon Syrax and successfully negotiates with Daemon before things get out of hand.

Throughout the episode, various actors scheme to arrange a marriage for King Viserys. The frontrunner is 12-year-old Laena Velaryon (Nova Foueillis-Mosé) but Viserys rejects the proposal. Instead, he chooses to marry Alicent Hightower, whose father had been pressuring her to seduce the King.

Episode 3

Set three years following the events of the previous episode, Viserys and Alicent have married and had their first son Aegon. For his second birthday, the King throws an elaborate party centered around a royal hunt, with many great lords in attendance.

Things are tense between Alicent, Viserys, and Rhaenyra, whose refusal to marry is causing issues. Viserys scolds Rhaenyra publicly and she runs off into the woods before being brought back by Ser Criston Cole. The two are covered in Boar’s Blood after a dangerous encounter and every onlooker is shocked except Ser Harwin Strong (Ryan Corr) who shares an overlong glance with Rhaenyra.

Meanwhile, Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) has allied himself with Daemon after feeling spurned when Viserys refused his offer of a child bride. The two are fighting a losing war against pirates in the Stepstones and haven’t received aid.

When Viserys finally offers some, Daemon is enraged. Daemon draws out their leader, the Crabfeeder, and kills him, ending the war before Viserys can claim credit.

Daemon Targaryen with Corlys and Laenor Velaryon in House of the Dragon Season 1
This Episode shows the beginning of an alliance between Daemon and the Velaryons.

Episode 4

Months after his victory in the Stepstones, Daemon returns to King’s Landing having been named King of the Narrow Sea. He lays his crown at Viserys’ feet healing the bitterness between them. Rhaenyra arrived shortly beforehand after a tour of the country where she rejected every marriage proposal she received.

Daemon entices Rhaenyra into a night of mischief in King’s Landing and the two wind up in a brothel where they kiss before Daemon abandons her. Upset, Rhaenyra sneaks back to the castle and seduces Criston Cole who breaks his sacred vow by sleeping with her.

The situation escalates when Otto Hightower reports to Viserys that his spies saw Rhaenyra and Daemon having sex in the brothel. A furious Viserys banishes Daemon to the Vale to live with his estranged wife. Rhaenyra protests her innocence and Alicent vouches for her virginity after Rhaenyra promises she didn’t sleep with Daemon (which she didn’t, to be fair).

Viserys believes them and decides Ser Otto cannot be an impartial Hand now that his grandson has a claim to the throne and revokes his position. Later, however, he has a Maester bring Rhaenyra Moon Tea showing he’s not entirely convinced. To remove suspicion, Rhaenyra is told she will be married to Laenor Velaryon (Theo Nate).

Episode 5

House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 5 opens with Daemon killing his estranged wife in the Vale before we cut to the remaining Targaryen’s arriving in Driftmark. They’re here to formalize the marriage pact between Rhaenyra and Laenor.

Rhaenyra and Laenor come to an arrangement after she reveals she knows he’s attracted to men. The two will have their separate love lives but marry for the benefit of their houses. Laenor tells his lover, Ser Joffrey Lonmouth (Solly McLeod), and the procession heads to King’s Landing to have the wedding.

On the journey to King’s Landing, Rhaenyra spurns Criston Cole’s suggestion to run away together leaving the crestfallen Cole to seethe in silence. Meanwhile Larys Strong (Matthew Needham) reveals to Alicent that Rhaenyra was given Moon Tea and she too becomes angry with her.

Alicent plans to question Criston Cole about Rhaenyra having sex with Daemon but a confused Cole accidentally outs himself as the one who slept with her. Furious, Alicent dons a green dress to the wedding feast and arrives late to signal her displeasure.

The episode culminates with an enraged Criston Cole beating Joffrey Lonmouth to death in a massive brawl. Rhaenyra is carried from the scuffle by Harwin Strong. Later, she and Laenor are married in a small ceremony rather than the lavish one originally planned.

Alicent Hightower wearing her Green Dress in House of the Dragon Season 1
House Hightower burns a green beacon when they are preparing for war.

Episode 6

This episode begins with a major time-skip, launching the story 10 years into the future where an adult Rhaenyra is giving birth to her third son. Based on their appearance, it’s clear that all of Rhaenyra and Laenor’s children are actually the bastards of Harwin Strong. Only King Viserys seems to ignore this, whether intentional or not.

This really gets on the nerves of Alicent and Criston Cole who see this as Rhaenyra flaunting her adultery. Cole’s bias is shown in the training yard where he favors Alicent’s sons Aegon (Ty Tennant) and Aemond (Leo Ashton) while abusing Rhaenyra’s sons Jacaerys (Leo Hart) and Lucerys (Harvey Sadler).

After Ser Harwin publicly defends his bastard sons and draws attention, he is scolded by his father and new Hand of the King, Lyonel Strong (Gavin Spokes). Lyonel wishes to resign as Hand of the King for the safety of himself and his son. Viserys doesn’t allow him to quit but gives him leave to return Harwin to Harrenhal.

Unfortunately, upon their return, both are killed in a fire started by men working for Lyonel’s other son, Larys. As the new Lord of Harrenhal, Larys becomes a valuable, if unknowable, ally for Alicent.

Meanwhile, Daemon has been living across the Narrow Sea after marrying Laena Velaryon (Nanna Blondell) and fathering two daughters. During the birth of their third child, complications bring Laena close to death. Wanting to die like a true dragon rider, she commands her dragon Vhagar to set her aflame.

Episode 7

At the funeral for Laena, the whole court is in attendance and tensions are high. Alicent’s son Aemond sneaks off in the night to claim Laena’s dragon Vhagar, the largest in Westeros. Caught by Jacaerys, Lucerys, Baela (Shani Smethurst), and Rhaena (Eva Ossei-Gerning), a fight ensues and after Aemond calls the boys bastards, one of them slashes his eye out with a knife.

They are all called before King Viserys to get to the bottom of things and Alicent declares she wants Lucerys’ eye taken out as punishment. Rhaenyra argues that calling her children bastards is treason, and Viserys seems more focused on learning where the rumor began. Maddened by the injustice, Alicent snaps and attacks Rhaenyra with a knife cutting her arm.

In the aftermath, Rhaenyra’s husband Laenor and his lover fake their deaths and flee across the Narrow Sea so they can be together. This frees Rhaenyra to marry Daemon, which she does almost immediately upon their return to Dragonstone.

Episode 8

House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 8 kicks off eight years later, with news that Corlys Velaryon has been injured in conflict in the Stepstones. Rhaenyra’s son, Lucerys, is the named heir of Driftmark but Corlys’ brother Vaemond raises the issue of succession owing to Lucerys’ perceived (read actual) bastardry.

Ordinarily, he wouldn’t be able to raise his concerns but King Viserys has fallen gravely ill and Alicent and her father Otto rule King’s Landing in all but name. Things look grim as Rhaenyra and her family return to the capital to press their claim but they convince Viserys to take the throne and reaffirm Lucerys as heir to Driftmark.

Viserys then demands everyone attend a dinner with him, where he pleads for reconciliation between the two factions. All goes well until Viserys leaves and Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) insults his nephews once more, calling them “Strong boys”. Despite the confrontation, an understanding between Rhaenyra and Alicent seems almost possible.

Unfortunately, later that evening Alicent visits King Viserys while his mind is addled by milk of the poppy and a miscommunication makes her believe he wants her son Aegon (Tom Glynn-Carney) to be his heir. Viserys dies that same night.

King Viserys with his mask on in House of the Dragon Season 1
King Viserys’ illness forces him to wear a mask to hide his decay.

Episode 9

Alicent informs Otto Hightower that Viserys has died and the Small Council is convened immediately. Otto and Tyland Lannister (Jefferson Hall) reveal they have been plotting to put Aegon on the throne in Rhaenyra’s place for some time and refuse to let the other members of the council leave until the matter is resolved.

When Lyman Beesbury (Bill Paterson) objects to the treachery, Criston Cole kills him immediately. Despite appearing upset about her father’s deceit, Alicent does nothing to stop proceedings and it’s agreed Aegon should be king.

Unfortunately, he’s nowhere to be found, so Otto dispatches Ser Arryk and Erryk of the King’s Guard to find him, while Alicent sends Criston Cole and Aemond. Aegon is eventually found after the search reveals what a dastardly fellow he is and he is delivered to his mother despite not wishing to be king at all.

Aegon is crowned at the Dragon Pit to cheers from the small folk and it appears their love and attention has rid him of any misgivings about ruling. The ceremony is interrupted by Princess Rhaenys (Eve Best) who was previously held captive. She crashes through the floor on her dragon Melys and flies off to warn Rhaenyra.

Episode 10

Rhaenys arrives at Dragonstone and informs Rhaenyra and Daemon that Viserys is dead and Aegon has been crowned. The news sends Rhaenyra into early labor and she miscarries the child she was bearing. At her daughter’s funeral, Ser Erryk arrives having stolen her father’s crown to pledge his support and lend Rhaenyra some legitimacy.

Shortly afterward, Otto Hightower lands on Dragonstone offering peace terms. While Rhaenyra wants to consider them, Daemon wants to kill him. Otto leaves unharmed but Rhaenyra and Daemon have a disagreement that leads to him choking her.

Later, Rhaenys convinces her husband Corlys Velaryon to side with Rhaenyra and she plans to gather allies. She sends her eldest son Jaecerys to the Vale and Winterfell to seek aid. Her younger son Lucerys is sent to Storm’s End to negotiate with Borros Baratheon (Roger Evans) because they assume this will be the easier task.

Unfortunately, Aemond is already at Storm’s End and demands Lucerys cut his own eye out as payment for the fight they had in their youth. Borros demands they leave, and as Lucerys flees on his dragon, Arrax, Aemond gives chase on the much larger Vhagar. Initially toying with Lucerys, Aemond loses control of Vhagar and the dragon eats Arrax and his rider.

Back at Dragonstone, Rhaenyra is informed of the death of her son and the war begins in earnest. Rhaenyra delivers a cold glare at the camera and the season ends.

House of the Dragon Season 1 Final Shot
The final shot of House of the Dragon Season 1 sets the scene for Season 2.

How does House of the Dragon Season 1’s ending set up Season 2?

House of the Dragon Season 1’s ending has given all the context we need for the Dance of the Dragons. Aemond’s accidental killing of Lucerys marks the point of no return. With that, any hopes of peaceful negotiations are out the window and all-out war is inevitable.

Rhaenyra wants revenge for the death of her son and Daemon has promised her “a son for a son”. Those familiar with Fire and Blood know what’s coming and have warned non-book readers to look out for a scene more shocking than Game of Thrones’ Red Wedding.

Jaecaerys’ trip to Winterfell will see the introduction of Cregan Stark who becomes an important figure in the war to come. The bond they form will ally the entire North to Rhaenyra’s cause.

Twin brothers of the King’s Guard Ser Erryk and Arryk had quite the staredown when they reunited at Dragonstone. The conflict between the two is sure to escalate when the TV show streams in June.

Who died in House of the Dragon Season 1?

While we discussed some House of the Dragon Season 1 deaths in our episode recap, there were many that didn’t make the cut. Here’s a list of every major character that died in Season 1 and the details surrounding their demise.

Aemma Aryn & Baelon Targaryen

Aemma Arryn House of the Dragon Season 1
Aemma’s death is particularly difficult to watch.

In the first episode of House of the Dragon, Viserys’ wife Aemma Arryn dies in childbirth. She had previously had two miscarriages and it was well-known that bearing and birthing children was particularly taxing for her.

Complications arose during the birth of Veserys’ long-awaited male heir and the king made the decision to sacrifice Aemma’s life. Viserys named the boy Baelon and believed his birth and reign as king was prophesized.

Unfortunately, less than a day after being born, Baelon died of what was likely Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Viserys believed the death was his punishment for sacrificing Aemma.

Prince-Admiral Craghas Drahar (The Crabfeeder)

Craghas is the Admiral of the Triarchy of Myr, Tyrosh, and Lys. He is also Daemon Targaeryan’s primary opponent in the first war for the Stepstones. Craghas is known better as the Crabfeeder for his unusual means of killing prisoners by… you guessed it… feeding them to crabs.

He’s able to fight off the Velaryon fleet for years by hiding in a network of caves on the island. Eventually, though, he is rooted out after being baited by Daemon, who then slays him in single combat.

Jerrel Bracken

During Rhaenyra’s progress around the Seven Kingdoms to find a suitable husband, a fight breaks out between members of two houses with an age-old rivalry. When the young Benjicott Blackwood pleads his case to Rhaenyra, he is consistently insulted by Jerrel Bracken.

When the insults go too far, Benjicott draws his sword and attacks Jerrel. The two fight for a brief moment before the younger and smaller Benjicott stabs him in the stomach. These two houses will side against one another in the coming Dance of the Dragons.

Rhea Royce

Rachel Redford as Rhea Royce in House of the Dragon
Rhea hadn’t seen Daemon in years before he returned to the Vale to murder her.

Married to Daemon Targaryen in his youth, the rogue prince spurned his wife Rhea Royce who he called his “bronze bitch”. She was content to live out her days at Runestone in the Vale away from her disinterested husband.

When Daemon was exiled from King’s Landing after being accused of sleeping with Rhaenyra, he secretly returned to the Vale. While out hunting, Rhea meets a hooded Daemon and revealed she knew of his insults to her and her kingdom.

Daemon knocked Rhea from her horse leaving her paralyzed, before finishing her off with a rock to the head. As her husband, he would lay a claim to Runestone but Rhea’s family suspect his involvement in her death.

Ser Harwin and Lord Lyonel Strong

Lord Lyonel served Viserys as Hand of the King following the dismissal of Otto Hightower and seemed to be genuine in his desire to support the king. He was allied with Corlys Velaryon and that may have been a motivator in some of his council however.

His son Harwin was Rhaenyra’s lover and the unacknowledged but suspected father of her children Jaecaerys, Lucerys, and Joffrey. This was so obvious that Lyonel feared for his son’s life and his own should Viserys ever learn the truth.

For that reason, Lyonel requested that he be allowed to take his son back to Harrenhal so he could be prepared to rule over their castle and lands. While staying the night before returning, Lyonel and Harwin burned alive in a fire started by agents of Larys Strong, Lyonel’s other son, and Harwin’s brother.

Laena Velaryon

Following the Death of Rhea Royce, Daemon married the firstborn daughter of Corlys Velaryon and Rhaenys Targaryen. While living in Essos, Laena was preparing to give birth to her third child with Daemon and the two seemed relatively happy together.

Unfortunately, issues arose during childbirth and, unlike his brother, Daemon requested that his wife be saved rather than the child. Before they could take the next steps, they noticed Laena was gone from the room.

She had repeatedly mentioned wanting to die a dragon rider’s death. Laena dragged herself outside and commanded her dragon Vhagar to burn her and her child to death.

Vaemond Velaryon

Vaemond Velaryon in House of the Dragon
Vaemond Velaryon is the only person to openly name Rhaenyra’s children bastards to King Viserys.

The younger brother of Corlys Velaryon shows up throughout House of the Dragon Season 1 periodically. His major conflict involved the succession of Driftmark when Corlys was injured in the second war for the Stepstones.

Fearing the seat would pass to Lucerys Velaryon, who many rightfully believe to be a bastard, Vaemond challenged Lucerys’ right to inherit. When he took his challenge to King’s Landing, it looked as if he would be affirmed.

That is, until a sickly Viserys took the throne for the first time in years to preside over the matter. Vaemond called Rhaenyra’s children bastards to the king’s face and Daemon Targaryen took the top part of his head off almost immediately.

Viserys Targaryen

From the first episode, it is shown that Viserys has some kind of degenerative disease. It slowly eats away at his flesh and despite the Maester’s best attempts to cure him, they can only stall the illness.

Later, Viserys is treated with milk of the poppy to reduce the pain, but it also addles his mind. When having a conversation with Alicent, he mistakes her for Rhaenyra and mentions a prophecy regarding Aegon the Conqueror.

Alicent believes the King to be talking about the succession and advocating for their son Aegon. Viserys dies shortly after before he can clarify. With his last breath, he utters the name of his first wife Aemma.

Lyman Beesbury

Lyman Beesbury Death House of the Dragon Season 1
Lyman Beesbury may have been annoying but at least he was honorable.

Viserys’ Master of Coin was often seen as a nuisance by his fellow Small Council members. He’s played as the butt of some jokes with his tiresome ramblings often being shut down to discuss other matters.

When the Small Council convenes following Viserys’ death, Otto Hightower and his allies reveal their plan to seat Aegon on the throne against the wishes of the king. Lyman vehemently protests the move, leading Criston Cole to smash his head into his stone of office, killing him instantly. Beesbury is the first victim of the Dance of the Dragons.

Lucerys and Arrax

The final deaths in House of the Dragon Season 1 occur simultaneously. Tensions simmered between Lucerys Velaryon and Aemond Targaryen following a confrontation when they were boys. Lucerys’ cutting out of Aemond’s eye is an understandable sore point.

When Lucerys meets with Borros Baratheon, he’s greeted by Aemond, who insults him and demands he lose an eye, too. Borros dismisses Lucerys and attempts to stagger Aemond’s leaving to give the younger boy time to escape.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t pan out and Aemond chases down Lucerys and his young dragon, Arrax. Riding the far larger and stronger Vhagar, Aemond toys with Lucerys but doesn’t actually seem intent on killing him.

The dragons have different ideas and when the two riders lose control, their mounts begin fighting. Vaghar eventually eats both Arrax and Lucerys to Aemond’s apparent dismay.

Vaghar in Clouds
Lucerys’ death was heart-breaking but at least we got this shot out of it.

With all that, you should be well and truly prepared for House of the Dragon Season 2. If you’re done with the House of the Dragon Season 1 recap and looking for more content in the lead-up to Season 2, find out why one cast member thinks you should “expect the worst” or whether Henry Cavil will actually appear in the show. You should also learn about Blood and Cheese, and the next show, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.