Finally, House Of The Dragon Highlights The Importance Of The Dragons

Slowly but surely, "House of the Dragon" has been unraveling my sanity on a week-by-week basis. For the most part, I mean that in the best way possible: my brain has been completely taken over by thoughts of medieval politics and jokes about Matt Smith cosplaying as Legolas. The "Game of Thrones" prequel is firing on all cylinders, delivering the epic fantasy, gorgeous sets, despicable characters, and fascinating dynamics that we've been missing ever since its predecessor flew off the rails. But despite being a massive success and ramping up the intrigue with each new episode, "House of the Dragon" has also been struggling in one very unexpected area: the titular dragons. And it's driving me crazy.

Naturally, this Targaryen-centered saga has included many dragons taking to the skies of Westeros. There have been multiple utterances of the famous command "Dracarys," and even some dragon-based warfare to rival the war crimes of Daenerys herself. But in the grand scheme of things, we haven't gotten nearly the amount of face time with the dragons that this story requires. We didn't sign up for a show called "House of the Dragon" just to enjoy a couple of brief fly-by appearances — dragons are a crucial part of the Targaryen dynasty! The very first episode of the series sees young Princess Rhaenyra staring at the black bones of one of the massive mythical beasts while telling her father, "Without them, we're just like everyone else." When the smallfolk see the dragons, they think of this dragon-riding royal family, so why is it that we've spent so little time unraveling what that means?

Well, after five episodes of keeping us at arms-length from the dragonlore, "House of the Dragon" is finally delivering on the promise of its title. "The Princess and the Queen" not only introduces the next generation of Targaryens, but unpacks the importance of their role as Dragonriders.

This house has a dragon problem

Before I get to the good stuff, I'm not quite done complaining. First off, this show has egregiously dropped the ball when it comes to dragon introductions, A lot of fanfare was made about the fact that "House of the Dragon" has 17 distinct dragons to tout, so forgive me for assuming we'd spend some time getting to know them. Instead, a casual viewer would have very little idea of when a dragon (let alone its rider) is being introduced into the story: the fifth episode sees two Velaryon dragons flying into a wedding, but never zooms in to reveal the riders — Rhaenys and her son, Laenor Velaryon? Why wouldn't we want to see Eve Best riding a dragon?! And why haven't we gotten the chance to really meet her stunning red she-dragon, Meleys?!

17 dragons means 17 personalities, and it's about time we get into the nitty-gritty of who these dragons are. If you're obsessively paying attention to the behind-the-scened details or spent some time reading "Fire & Blood," the tome that the series is based on, then you get to enjoy some wonderful tidbits that never really get explicit screentime — like the incredible detail that Daemons' dragon Caraxes has a deviated septum, making his roar sparse and giving him a chip on his shoulder much like the self-pitying rogue prince who rides him. That's the kind of dragon content that deserves the primetime spot! Does Rhaenyra's dragon Syrax think that Caraxes is lame? Do all the other dragons in the pit bully him when they're together? Is Rhaenys' dragon as above everyone else as she is? And with a name like Seasmoke, Laenor's dragon is obviously a badass, so where's his big moment?

The apex of Targaryen power

We're still a ways off from actually spending time with the dragons, but the sixth episode at least lets us understand the basics of dragonriding through the Targaryen eyes. This is certainly a step it the right direction, because it's a crucial reminder that riding dragons is a key facet of the Targaryen identity.

Unlike in the days of Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen, Dragons are an integrated part of society in "House of the Dragon." The family is at peak power (or, at least it was before the king started decaying) and takes care to make sure that each child with Targaryen blood understands the importance of their connection to dragons. It is royal custom to place dragon eggs in their cradle at birth, in the hopes that they will hatch and instantly form a bond with the infant. Together, they grow and the bond strengthens as they learn to ride and command the dragon. But not all dragon eggs hatch and when they don't, Targaryens must find another way to claim a dragon of their own. One such rider is Laena Velaryon, the rider of Vhagar.

Vhagar is a she-dragon of legend, one of the three dragons used to conquer Westeros by Ageon and his sisters, Visenya and Rhaenys. Vhagar is the last of the three dragons and was mentioned earlier in the season by a young Laena, who was obsessed with the whereabouts of the warrior Queen's dragon. Since then, Laena set out to claim Vhagar as her own (the kind of offscreen moment that we should've been able to witness for ourselves). While we don't get to see any of that go down, we at least get to see an older Laena once she's fiercely attached to the dragon she's claimed.

How to train your dragon (Targaryen style)

The series still presents dragons as a thing of wonder. During their time in Pentos, Laena and Daemon astound the locals with their performative dragon-riding, reminding us that dragons are a rarity. The Targaryens are the last dragonriders left and they treasure that fact so much that it's the primary motivator for their incestuous history: they fear that marrying outside of their House and diluting their bloodline will eventually lead to losing their connection with dragons. Based on the fact that there are multiple instances of Targaryens having kids outside the family tree and still producing dragonriders, there's not a lot to back this theory up — but it's worth mentioning that they're so protective of that connection.

The sixth episode sees the young Targaryen and Velaryon children down in the dragonpits, following what I assume to be their everyday schooling routine. The most important class of the day is How To Train Your Dragon, in which they bond with their growing dragons and command them in High Valyrian. We learn from the dragon wranglers (a job that probably has a bleak turnover rate) that once the bond is strong rough, the dragons will only respond to commands from their rider. Isn't it cute when Jaecerys finally gets to say "dracarys" and Vermax burns a goat? One day, that sweet child might command his dragon to burn down cities. Adorable stuff!

A critical crisis of identity

Along with budding dragoriders like Jacaerys, Lucerys, Aegon and Baela, we also get a glimpse of the tortured Targaryen kids who have dragoriding in their blood, but no dragon of their own. Evidently, Daemon Targaryen (worst father of the year) favors his daughter Baela because her egg hatched. Meanwhile, young Rhaena is left to hold her childhood egg by the fire, feeling like an unwanted outsider because she lacks a dragon. The same is true of Alicent's second son Aemond, who makes the mistake of venturing into the dragon pits alone, hoping an unclaimed dragon will be his to bond with. 

As conflict continues to boil over in "House of the Dragon," the questions of who can ride a dragon, which side has more dragons, and how many riders they have at the ready will be crucial. We've been getting hints at this since the very beginning: like Otto Hightower's fear over Daemon stealing a dragon egg or even Viserys' excitement when Rhaenyra offers Aemond one of Syrax's eggs. Dragon eggs are a hot commodity, or as Otto put it, "dangerous weapons." Aegon the Conqueror took over all of Westeros (minus Dorne) with only three dragons. Together, Vhagar, Meraxes, and Balerion killed four thousand men on the field of battle, burning them alive with ease. Soon, there will be 17 distinct dragons on the board for the taking. So should one section of this family rise up against the other, the dragons may be a deciding factor — but only if they have a rider to tame them.