Every Main Character In House Of The Dragon, Ranked Worst To Best

"Some old wounds never truly heal, and bleed again at the slightest word," George R.R. Martin wrote in "A Game of Thrones." It's a quote that succinctly describes how many fans still feel about "Game of Thrones" three years after its disastrous final season. The anger remains close at hand, which is why the idea of returning to Westeros for HBO's spin-off, "House of the Dragon," didn't initially sound very appealing. But "House of the Dragon" has done the impossible — it's made us want to revisit this world once more, mainly so we can watch horrible things happen to people we like. (Why do we like this series, again?) 

"House of the Dragon" is everything you loved about "Game of Thrones," but with loads more dragons in all of their leathery, fire-breathing glory. Don't get too attached, though. The show will explore in excruciating detail why the dragons are all gone by the time that "Game of Thrones" rolls around. That advice extends to your favorite human characters, too, most of whom we've ranked here. What do we say to the god of death? If not today, probably tomorrow. This is Westeros, after all. This is the way.

13. Aegon Targaryen

A stereotypical teenager, Aegon Targaryen (Tom Glynn-Carney) is more interested in pranking his young brothers and bullying his cousins than in being a proper king-to-be. His attitude is, frankly, a welcome bit of fresh air — finally, someone who doesn't really care about the Iron Throne at all. Ruling would only get in the way of his true passion: spreading his seed from the Red Keep's high towers. In "Game of Thrones," Tyrion Lannister wished to visit the North so he could "stand on top of the wall, and piss off the edge of the world." Similar sentiment here, maybe, but more than a little disturbing. Queen Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke) walks in on Aegon's little "exhibition" but takes it in stride. Where was the mortification, Queen Mother?

Aegon is an utter doofus. He seems more like a stoner than a serious heir to the throne, even if his hands are used to gripping a scepter. It's not hard to imagine Aegon starring in a different "Game of Thrones" spin-off alongside Seann William Scott, maybe one called "Dude, Where's my Dragon?" Aegon is the sort of character you laugh at, and not because he said anything funny. Let's move on.

12. Criston Cole

For one hot second, Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) was the kind of knight you read about in fairy tales: chivalrous, brave, and noble. On top of that, he's a self-made man. Unlike most of the lords, who merely cosplay as warriors for tourneys, Criston has seen real combat. He's even ridiculously handsome, with a chin that's the envy of granite slabs everywhere. Real "knight in shining armor" vibes. 

The dream holds right up until Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) rebuffs his silly, if earnest, plea to run away together, reminding us that this isn't Camelot. Her response was basically, "lol, I'm not giving up the crazy money and power I'm about to come into, but you can still be my side dish, cool?" Criston's idea was romantic, but it was also a Hail Mary. There was little chance that Rhaenyra was going to say yes. Nonetheless, he put all his eggs into that one basket, and, much like George McFly, he couldn't handle the rejection. Dude straight up snapped.

The Knight of Kisses was a preening fool, but he didn't deserve to have his face turned into lumpy mashed potatoes. It turns out that, under his calm and noble exterior, Criston has just as much untethered rage as Gregor Clegane. Apparently, all it takes to turn some men evil is getting rejected by the right girl.

11. Aemond Targaryen

The first time we meet the newly adolescent Aemond Targaryen (Ewan Mitchell), he's getting punked by his brother and cousins, who give him a pig to ride instead of a dragon. Aemond doesn't find it all that funny. If anything, the moment plays like a villain's origin story. Aemond already has a vaguely sociopathic vibe, and it's not hard to imagine that all he needs to turn fully to the dark side is a simple push. Then again, some seeds just turn out bad. 

When the dragon-obsessed Aemond takes the rash and almost assuredly suicidal decision to approach the oldest and largest living dragon in Westeros, we silently hope that Vhagar will eat him and be done with it. Unfortunately, claiming Vhagar for himself does nothing for Aemond's ego or his sense of propriety, as he beats on all four of his younger cousins — including two girls — and appears willing to brain at least one of them with a rock. There's no pity from us when he gets his eye sliced. However, as Aemond himself notes, the eye was a worthwhile trade for Vhagar. All of which is to say, unlike his dim-witted elder brother Aegon, Aemond is not to be trifled with.

10. Leanor Velaryon

How is it possible to be both an absolute unit as a warrior and an emo sad sack when it comes to practically everything else? Such is the riddle at the heart of Leanor Velaryon (John Macmillan), heir to Driftmark and poster boy for Hot Topic. A talented warrior from a powerful family, Leanor should be a formidable partner for queen-to-be Rhaenyra. Why, then, is she the only one carrying the load? Leanor is just disinterested in anything that doesn't directly involve swordplay — in any form. He'd make as poor a Lord of Driftmark as he would a king regent.

Which is a pity, as Leanor is a kind and decent man. Even though Rhaenyra's children are not related to him by blood, Leanor considers them his sons, and laments not spending enough time with them. He puts his duty to the realm before his own personal happiness, and summons the fortitude to see his wedding through to the end even while the blood of his friend and lover is splattered all over the floor. But Leanor's heart is never truly in it, and his detachment only makes things worse. Perhaps he will finally find true happiness across the narrow sea.

9. Larys Strong

Westeros has seen a lot of stone-cold killers, but it's a special sort of someone who doesn't bat an eye at murdering his own family. From everything we've ever seen of him, Lyonel Strong (Gavin Spokes) was a decent man. One would assume that he was at least a decent father, which is more than many people in Westeros could ask for. But Larys Strong (Matthew Needham) thinks nothing of offering up both his dad and his brother on the altar of his ambition. Some men just want to watch the world burn, and others prefer to watch their kin burn.

Like Tyrion, Larys is a person with disabilities, and he's mentally sharp. The comparisons end there. Larys has none of Tyrion's wit, and even less of his warmth. The new Lord of Harrenhal seems content to operate mostly from the shadows. His motives aren't exactly clear, though he has hinted at hoping that his service to Queen Alicent will be rewarded. While the queen was disturbed at how easily Larys dispensed with the Strongs on her behalf, she is keeping him on retainer for next time.

8. Otto Hightower

For all of one episode, Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) seems like a decent fellow. And then he pimps out his teenage daughter to the grieving king. Alicent wasn't so much a daughter to Otto as a commodity to be bartered with, and Otto sold her into Viserys Targaryen's (Paddy Considine) heart and then into his bed. For shame.

To be fair, Otto couldn't know how things would turn out. That the king must remarry was not in question. Convention and common sense suggested that Viserys would marry with an eye toward politics, but Otto understands how Viserys thinks. Given how broken the deaths of his wife and son left Viserys, Otto knew the king was vulnerable. Sending Alicent to the king wasn't a sure thing, of course. Otto was playing the odds, and he hit the jackpot. 

Apparently, every "Game of Thrones" series needs a Littlefinger. Between Otto and Larys Strong, "House of the Dragon" has two such characters, both playing for the same team. That seems like a good enough reason as any to root for the other side.

7. Viserys I Targaryen

Compared to the kings we saw on "Game of Thrones"— Robert Baratheon and his "sons," Joffrey and Tommen — Viserys Targaryen is a phenomenal ruler. For one, he's not a sadist or a drunkard. He is competent and even-tempered. He's rather shrewd. And darn it, he's just so likable. But, viewed objectively, he's not a great king. 

It's Viserys' best qualities — his compassion, his interest in finding common ground, his tendency to forgive — that undermine his power. Viserys rules by consensus. He abdicates too much of his influence to keep the peace. Nice guys just don't finish first in Westeros (see: Ned Stark). Viserys is the Jimmy Carter of Westerosi kings: a good man, but a rather forgettable leader. He stumbled rather easily into Otto Hightower's clutches, and he can't even sit on the Iron Throne without losing bits of himself. It doesn't exactly inspire confidence. Honestly, he seems more interested in playing with his miniatures than in the business of governing. 

But the biggest stains on Viserys' record are the brewing Targaryen civil war that he alone seems blind to and his outright refusal to see Rhaenyra's children for what they are. He gets full marks for advocating for Rhaenyra as his heir and trying to inject some feminism into the practice of kingship, but he sowed the seeds of his own house's destruction when he sired additional children by way of Alicent Hightower. The only thing capable of killing a dragon is other dragons. Bravo, Viserys.

6. Lyonel Strong

Much like his king, Lyonel Strong was simply too nice of a guy for Westerosi politics. The former Master of Laws rose to the second-most powerful position in the land — the Hand of the King — entirely by giving it to the king straight. Lord Strong provided well-thought out and entirely reasonable advice every time he was asked, even if it wasn't personally profitable to do so. Lyonel was an honorable man who served a just king. It should've been a match made in the seven heavens, if not for Lyonel's son, Ser Harwin "Breakbones" (Ryan Corr). 

Harwin failed to keep it in his pants long enough to sire three boys with Rhaenyra, and left little doubt about who the father was. Lyonel tried to do the honorable thing and resign from his position, but his decency wouldn't let him say why when Viserys demanded an explanation. Instead, the king decided instead to remove Harwin from the equation altogether, having Lyonel escort him back home to Harrenhal. It was a sensible alternative, reasoned and nuanced, just like everything else Lyonel has done. Alas, the one thing he didn't count on was the treachery of his other son, Larys.

5. Alicent Hightower

The most interesting thing about the 10-year time jump between episode 5 and episode 6 of "House of the Dragon" is how it reframes both of the lead characters. Alicent starts out as a rough facsimile of Sansa: a pretty and polite young woman continually manipulated by the men around her who finally wakes up and starts playing the game for herself. But that character is nowhere to be found after the skip. It was rather refreshing, actually. The Alicent of old could've used more iron in her diet. 

Alicent 2.0 is scarcely recognizable as the girl who was once Rhaenyra's best friend. It's true that she was cajoled down this path, first by her father and later by the slippery Larys Strong, but she is walking it with her eyes wide open. She has flinched at times, but hasn't wavered. If anything, her resolve has only deepened. But once you tacitly approve of the murder of two men in order to improve your own standing at court, you are already deep in the woods. Or, said another way: "Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny. Consume you, it will."

Alicent is already willing to go "eye for an eye," and this thing hasn't even properly kicked off yet! There's no telling the lengths she'll go to in order to win the throne for Aegon. The only thing that's absolutely clear is that Alicent won't back down.

4. Rhaenys Velaryon

Rhaenys Velaryon (Eve Best) channels a bit of Olenna Tyrell's spicy pragmatism, which is nearly enough to put her at the top of this list. Her blunt, clear-eyed assessments and noble bearing are refreshing amid a sea of lickspittles and hanger-ons. And she has no problem speaking the truth, as she breaks it down for young princess Rhaenyra: "Here is the hard truth, which no one else has the heart to tell you. Men would sooner put the realm to the torch than see a woman ascend the Iron Throne." From the way the winds are blowing, it seems clear that her words will prove prophetic.

The Queen Who Never Was has done what nobody else in Westeros appears capable of: She took her "L" with grace and moved on with her life. Her husband, Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint), is still stuck living in the past, wishing for what should've been, and conspiring to make it so. It doesn't sound like Rhaenys is fully on board with this plan. "I gave up the idea of wearing a crown a generation ago," she says. "It is you, lord husband, who refuses to abandon this pursuit, even now, at the cost of our children."

Rhaenys is the only person actually willing to speak the truth about Rhaenyra's children. She has the grace to only do so behind closed doors, of course, but even there, Coryls is reluctant to say it. Rhaenyra recognizes the folly of this dance they've found themselves in, and wishes only to see her family thrive, throne or no throne.

3. Daemon Targaryen

Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) is an enigma. He wants a position in the king's court, but seems bored by the work of governing. He undertakes a nearly mutinous invasion of the Stepstones and declares himself king of the region, but then lays his driftwood crown at his brother's feet. He seems to both hate and love Viserys. We get the sense that he wouldn't cry over his brother's death, but he also refuses to raise a hand against him. When the king commands him, Daemon actually listens. 

It's hard to sort out exactly what is going on behind Daemon's smiling eyes. He zigs when common sense demands he zag. He has a bit of Jamie Lannister's swagger, but is more often sullen and moody. The only thing that seems to bring him pleasure is chaos. Perhaps he's just bored of life and only finds enjoyment in unpredictability. Firmly outside the line of succession but still a Targaryen, he's a powerful lord, but one without a seat of his own. His is a life of endless leisure.

Daemon has no qualms getting his hands dirty, and there's more than a small chance that he's a straight-up psychopath. He showed zero emotion when he killed his first wife, for example. But, for all that, there is something magnetic about him. (Clearly, Rhaenyra agrees.) If nothing else, Daemon is certainly the most interesting character on "House of the Dragon."

2. Rhaenyra Targaryen

To be completely honest, Rhaenyra Targaryen was originally number one on this list, but she slid out of the top spot after the last few episodes. Young Rhaenyra was more than a little reminiscent of Daenerys Targaryen at the beginning of her arc. Both were energetic, future-looking women driven to upset the male-centric status quo. We admired them for their tenacity despite their circumstances. But, like Dany, Rhaenyra eventually displayed a self-destructive side that's hard to look past. 

Choosing to take lovers outside a loveless marriage is one thing. Trying to masquerade the children of such parentage as legitimate heirs — when everyone's eyes attest to the truth — is something else. Rhaenyra's blind devotion to the farce is guided entirely by her desire to win the Iron Throne for her family. That's part and parcel for Westerosi nobility, but it's a stark contrast from the person Rhaenyra used to be.

Rhaenyra has always been intelligent, and has only become a more adept player of the great game as she's gotten older. Her decision to remove Leanor from the field and take her uncle Daemon as her new husband is the kind of coldly calculated move that may win her the throne — or it's another bad decision driven by her loins. Time will tell.

1. Corlys Velaryon

First off, the Sea Snake is quite possibly the greatest nickname of all time. Given some of the names that author George R.R. Martin has already gifted us — Barristan the Bold, the Red Viper, the Sword of the Morning, and, of course, Hot Pie — that's really saying something. But a cool nickname is only clever branding if the person doesn't have the gravitas to back it up. Incredibly, Corlys Velaryon's sweet nickname is may be only the second or third greatest thing about him. 

Between his broad, linebacker-sized shoulders and white dreads, Corlys is physically imposing. Given his physique, you wouldn't be surprised to learn that he literally wrestled the sea and won. The Lord of Tides is also ridiculously wealthy. The Lannisters have their cute little saying about always paying their debts, but Corlys doesn't need to owe anyone in the first place. He didn't stumble into his wealth through a convenient gold mine, either. He built his fortune the hard way: with his bare hands. 

Coryls also knows how to play the game of thrones. Proposing that King Viserys marry Corlys' 9-year-old daughter is icky, but also shrewd by Westerosi standards. Even though he spurned the offer, Viserys was careful not to give offense. Given that he controls the greatest fleet in Westeros, is stupidly rich, and has dragons, Coryls may be the only person whose power approaches the king's own. In a better world, he would be king regent, and all would be well.