House Of The Dragon Trailer Breakdown: Gearing Up For The Dance Of The Dragons

When "Game of Thrones" closed up shop three years ago, it did so more with a whimper than with a bang, ending with a final season that left a lot of fans bewildered who had been with the show for nearly a decade. Chief amongst those complaints was the culmination of the character arc for Emilia Clarke's Daenerys Targaryen, a character who many saw as an avenging liberator that was turned to full-fledged psychopath seemingly out of nowhere by the end. In the quest for HBO to return to the world of Westeros (created by humanity's greatest procrastinator, George R.R. Martin), a few different prequels and spinoffs were considered, with one even getting a $30 million pilot starring Naomi Watts that HBO eventually passed on. Ultimately, the one that has taken hold brings us back to Daenerys. Well, her family at least, nearly 200 years before the Mother of Dragons was even born.

"House of the Dragon," which Martin created with "Colony" co-creator Ryan J. Condal, released a brand spanking new trailer today for the upcoming prequel series, which is set to premiere this August. While seeing some familiar locations, a couple dragons, the Targaryen sigil, and those wigs of a very specific shade of blonde might be enough for some people to get amped, I know there are plenty of people out there looking to connect as many dots as they can throughout this 103-second trailer. For those people, let's dig in, shall we? I hope you like lore!

Rhaenyra, Princess of Dragonstone

In the opening shot of the trailer, we see Emma D'Arcy as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, looking out to Blackwater Bay from Dragonstone. If you will remember from "Game of Thrones," Dragonstone was the castle initially used by Stannis Baratheon as his base of operations during the War of the Five Kings and later by Danaerys when she finally makes her way into Westeros in the final seasons. To orient you in the timeline, Rhaenyra is Danaerys' great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother, and she is, at this point, the Princess of Dragonstone and the heir to the Iron Throne. Though she is the firstborn child of King Viserys I (Paddy Considine), a woman is not considered the natural born heir to the throne, and instead, her father break that and names her his heir. Naturally, not everyone agrees with this decision for a variety of reasons, namely her gender. There are also some other lineages at play, but after all, this is Westeros. Vying for power is the name of the game (of thrones).

A tale of two timelines

The trailer does not make this detail all that clear, but in it, we see Princess Rhaenyra at two different ages. Milly Alcock plays the younger version of the character, and the screen time between her and Emma D'Arcy are enormously similar. Either "House of the Dragon" will be using flashbacks and inserted a lot of them in the trailer to throw off the scent of what the show is really going to be, or the show will be operating on multiple timelines, where in one we see how the world operates upon learning that Rhaenyra is the heir and the other detailing what happens after the king's death. In "Game of Thrones," flashbacks were rarely ever used, and while following multiple storylines was always a part of the viewing experience, they always existed concurrently with one another. This would be quite a different storytelling strategy if it is the case. Either way, if you were not able to gauge from the trailer that these two people were the same character, now you know.

What is Uncle Daemon doing with that dragon egg?

Dragons may have been long out of commission by the time the events of "Game of Thrones" started, but in the era of "House of the Dragon," they were still flying around, doing their dragon business. Here, we see Matt Smith as Daemon Targaryen. He is Rhaenyra's uncle, and being that they are Targaryens ... well, there may be a bit more to that relationship. However, being that he technically could have been the heir to the Iron Throne before King Viserys chose his daughter, there's certainly some tension to be found between Daemon and Rhaenyra. Perhaps this is why he seems to be presenting a dragon egg to one Ser Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans, pictured below). I'll get into how the Hightowers fit into all of this in a second. Don't worry. Let's stay with the dragon egg for now.

Giving someone who is not a Targaryen a dragon waiting to be hatched is not something the Targaryens are prone to do. In many ways, their stranglehold on power comes directly from their relationship to dragons, hence their three-headed dragon house sigil you probably have on a faded, Target-bought shirt somewhere in your closet you no longer feel all that great about wearing. Or this could very well be a warning sign, because if you mess with the dragon, you get the flames. After all, Daemon and Otto have been known to be great adversaries while simultaneously serving on the King's Council. We shall see where this goes. (Or maybe it's just deceptively edited, as trailers are prone to being.)

Keeping up with the Hightowers

The other big family in this drama besides the Targaryens are the Hightowers. We have already met Ser Otto Hightower, played by Rhys Ifans. Otto had been Hand of the King prior to Viserys I even taking the throne. We also have Otto's daughter Alicent Hightower, played by Olivia Cooke. After the death of King Viserys' first wife (Rhaenyra's mother), Alicent becomes the king's second wife, giving birth to a much younger half-brother to Rhaenyra in Aegon II. Even though the king had named his daughter as heir, a strong faction forms for Aegon to be the one to inherit the throne, causing Ser Otto to abandon his post as Hand. This conflict is what leads to the civil war called the "Dance of the Dragons," which will be one of the primary stories of the show.

Standing next to Alicent in that frame is not a Hightower. His name is Ser Criston Cole, played by Fabien Frankel. He is the Lord Commander of the King's Guard and personal shield to Alicent, by her own request. This breaks what had been a close relationship with Rhaenyra before their eventual parting of ways.

Also, for you timeline heads out there, this is Emily Carey as a younger version of Alicent Hightower. We see her kiss King Viserys on the cheek, showing the beginnings of their relationship. How much of this show is in parallel timelines?

What's in the box?

While my first hunch is to think this is a chest containing dragon eggs, as we saw in "Game of Thrones," I second guess myself because we see dragon eggs just out and about elsewhere in the trailer, presenting them in this ominous, mysterious way makes me feel like something else is in there. Or maybe my first instinct is correct, and trailers just like to trick us.

Also, where is this? While the throne rooms at King's Landing and Dragonstone are very familiar to us, this location does not ring those same bells. It looks more like a cathedral than anything else, so perhaps this is some religious offering. If this is indeed a place of worship, which god or gods is this meant for?

Regardless, what's in the box?

A funeral for whom?

We see a brief glimpse of a seaside funeral in the trailer. A large stone coffin slides off the dock into the water. It is a scene accompanied by some none-too-pleased glances between Emma D'Arcy's Rhaenyra and Olivia Cooke's Alicent. Presumably, this is the funeral of King Viserys, a death that will exponentially supercharge the battle for the throne. Obviously, those two women have very different ideas about who should be sitting upon that Iron Throne, and this brief moment of mourning may be the last moment before everything goes to hell. If it is not the king's funeral, I wonder who is not making it out of this first season.

This is different than the funerals we saw in "Game of Thrones." If you remember, they often took place in the Great Sept of Baelor, and the deceased would be laid out for all to see and have their eyes covered by stones with eyes painted onto them. Then again, the residents of the Iron Islands would give their dead a burial at sea — although not quite exactly in this same manner. It's also a possibility that this is a custom of a people with whom we are not yet familiar. This being King Viserys' funeral is the odds-on favorite, but there is room for error here.

The blood of the family

Another moment that caught my attention was this brief clasping of hands between Emma D'Arcy's Rhaenyra and Matt Smith's Daemon, as you do not typically have blood flowing between your hands when that happens. My first thought was this is a blood pact of some sort — maybe Rhaenyra and Daemon have come to some agreement, and this is to symbolize an unbreakable bond between the two. This shot is followed by a close-up on both of their faces, each one with small but noticeable smiles. They have made an important deal.

Upon further inspection of that close-up, Matt Smith also has some blood on his forehead. This could still be part of the pact they are making, where she makes some sort of marking on his face. However, this could just as easily be after a battle, and Daemon has blood on him and has a wounded hand. In some sort of power move, Rhaenyra could grab that hand, unbothered by the flowing blood, to show her dominance, which he respects (hence the smile).

A clash of queens

As the trailer editing becomes more and more rapid, the final blow before the coda showing Matt Smith's Daemon happen upon a fire-breathing dragon sees two of our main characters in the midst of a fight. Olivia Cooke's Alicent charges at Emma D'Arcy's Rhaenyra with a knife (not that familiar catspaw dagger) with furious intent. This would seem to be a rather big moment in the course of their two storylines. However, HBO marketing — and "Game of Thrones" marketing in particular — can never be trusted to give away the whole kit and caboodle. A showdown between these two women could conceivably be a major climax of the show, but knowing how they like to operate, I would not be surprised to see this occur in, like, the third episode (that's pure speculation on my part).

The point is, these two women are going to go head to head, and I hope it is a thrilling moment whenever it happens.

Look how spiky that throne is!

It turns out the Iron Throne in "Game of Thrones" was a shell of itself. There used to be WAY more spikes, spears, and swords around it. It certainly would be a tough throne to charge at without getting grievously injured. I wonder why it gets de-spiked. I hope we find out. These are the kinds of mysteries prequels need to solve.

"House of the Dragon" will premiere on HBO and HBO Max on August 21, 2022.