How House Of The Dragon Evokes An Original Game Of Thrones Mystery

Thanks to the latest episode of "House of the Dragon," we've been given a perfect opportunity to look back and remember what "Game of Thrones" was like before it became synonymous with spectacle-filled battle sequences, brutal deaths, near-constant misery, and quite a bit of incest. Okay, admittedly, most of those qualities were baked-in right from the start, but viewers couldn't be blamed for only remembering the more buzz-worthy moments that would go on to define the series. Back in season 1, before "Game of Thrones" really took off in earnest and any dragons ever arrived on the scene, much of the plot eschewed high fantasy tropes altogether to depict a grounded and refreshingly straightforward drama about political squabbling ... with a little dash of mystery, as well.

Much like the informal mini-investigation that Eddard Stark (Sean Bean) launched into whether Cersei Lannister's (Lena Headey) notably golden-haired children were actually the offspring of her and King Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) or of a more uncomfortable arrangement involving her twin brother Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), episode six of "House of the Dragon" staged its own courtly telenovela-like affair surrounding the parentage of the royal children next in line to the throne. Last week, we witnessed Princess Rhaenyra and her consort Laenor Velaryon, played by Emma D'Arcy and John Macmillan respectively now that both roles have been both roles aged up and recast (for better or worse), reach a mutual understanding over their political marriage. But that has now turned into a highly visible scandal.

As with the major realization hiding in plain sight that drove the latter episodes of "Game of Thrones" season 1, the allegations surrounding Rhaenyra and her paramour Harwin Strong (Ryan Corr) may have dire consequences in the episodes ahead on "House of the Dragon."

Secrets of succession

History seems to indicate that we're living through a series of repeating cycles over the centuries and "House of the Dragon" proves the wisdom of those words. Following in the steps of its predecessor, the prequel series has introduced a juicy new subplot as a result of its major time jump since we last saw these characters. Having recognized and accepted Laenor's sexuality, Princess Rhaenyra instead suggested that they both pursue their own romantic interests as long as they do right by the realm through their marriage, officially joining two of the most powerful houses in all of Westeros. But just as Cersei and Jaime Lannister eventually had to contend with ugly rumors alleging incestuous relations with each other — actions that are tantamount to treason when involving the queen — Rhaenyra and Harwin are now dealing with much the same set of circumstances with their strikingly brown-haired kids.

Where "Game of Thrones" mostly only saw Ned Stark seriously pursuing the possibility that Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) and his younger siblings were a product of incest and not King Robert's trueborn son, "House of the Dragon" depicts a very different status quo where these rumors have only grown more and more intense over the years — even Queen Alicent (Olivia Cooke) snidely remarks about this to Laenor's face, hilariously enough. This culminates in jealous rival Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) goading Harwin into protecting his sons in violent (and very, very public) fashion, casting even more scrutiny upon his close relationship with the princess and heir apparent to the throne.

Given the show's singular focus on those with the greatest claim to the Iron Throne, having the next heir Jacaerys (Leo Hart) born out of wedlock would surely unite half the realm against Rhaenyra.

Seeds of civil war

In "Fire & Blood," the book that "House of the Dragon" is based on, author George R.R. Martin describes this chaotic period of time adapted in the series as the point where "...the bloody seeds of the Dance of the Dragons had already been planted," which we see in the training yard where Rhaenrya's sons are pitted against Alicent and King Viserys' (Paddy Considine) silver-haired and obviously Targaryen children. Difficult and surly Aegon (Ty Tennant) would be next in line to the throne without Rhaenyra in the picture and the disputed parentage of Jacaerys and his brothers only adds insult to injury. Despite the king's claims that training together at such a young age would further unite them as one big family, this natural rivalry between the two groups of children only gives them more reason to hate each other.

Whether or not more time jumps are to come, this episode makes one thing abundantly clear: a line has been drawn between both sides of the Targaryen family and these very different kids will play significant roles in the events to come.

With so much resentment on both sides and so much at stake, one may only need to look at "Game of Thrones" to figure out what may come next in "House of the Dragon." As Cersei put it so memorably to Ned Stark upon being confronted with the truth of her and Jaime Lannister, "When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die." It remains to be seen what lengths Rhaenyra and Alicent — former friends now turned into bitter rivals of one another — will go to secure the Iron Throne for themselves.

"House of the Dragon" airs new episodes on HBO every Sunday.