SPOILER WARNING: We will briefly mention key plot points from House of the Dragon’s first two episodes in this article.
Episode two of the game of Thrones prequel series House of the Dragon featured our first look at the show’s title sequence, which was hotly anticipated, given how iconic the original series’ intro was.
To jog your memory: each episode of thrones began with a bird’s-eye view of a map, showing the continents of Westeros and Essos. The camera would zoom around to a bunch of different locations – Winterfell, Riverrun etc – telling us where the events of the episode would take place. Each location also bore a house sigil to remind viewers who was in control of it.
This was all rather useful, given the sprawling nature of the story.
House of the Dragon’s intro sequence recycles composer Ramin Djawadi’s famous game of Thrones theme – disappointingly so, for those of us who were expecting a fresh banger from him – but it scraps the map in favor of something more cryptic.
Luckily, you have my nerdy ass to explain what is going on.
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The titular house of the dragon is, of course, House Targaryen, whose internal strife is the subject of the show. Instead of cycling through locations, the intro sequence is showing us people; it is a depiction of the royal bloodline.
Each member of the Targaryen line is represented by a cog, and you will note that some of the cogs feature crowns. They represent kings.
Blood flows between the cogs, showing marriages and offspring in the same way lines do on a normal family tree. The cogs that fill with blood as it runs past represent dead characters.
We will see in the coming weeks whether the intro changes, adding cogs for new additions to the tree and filling killed characters’ cogs with blood, or whether it remains static. The version in episode two depicts the family tree as it stands after the premiere.
Now, as I see it, this is the perfect excuse to dish out some background on the Targaryens’ history, which will give you more context for the events of the series. So I’m going to run through the intro and tell you who the most important cogs represent.
The intro opens with the starting point of the royal line, Aegon Targaryen, who conquered Westeros and united its previously disparate kingdoms under his rule. This conquest happened a little over a century before House of the Dragon begins.
The image on Aegon’s cog appears to show a mysterious event called the Doom of Valyria, a natural disaster which wiped out most of the world’s dragonriding families.
The Targaryens alone escaped that fate. One of their number of her, known to history as Daenys the Dreamer, had seen the Doom coming in a prophetic dream, which prompted her family to flee Valyria before its destruction of her.
Aegon’s cog is connected to those of his two sister-wives, Visenya and Rhaenys (Targaryens are big, big fans of incest).
He had a son with each queen, and both boys went on to become king. However, Visenya’s are Maegor produced not heirs. That means he’s a dead end on the family tree, which explains why he doesn’t appear in the intro.
Instead, the bloodline continues through Aenys Targaryen, the son Aegon had with Rhaenys. I believe the correct pronunciation of his name for him is “aynees”, although you are free to go down the ruder route, should you so desire.
Some quick background on Aegon’s two sons. Aenys and Maegor were polar opposites. The former was gentle and indecisive, the latter a ruthless and brutal warrior.
Aenys sat the throne first, though he was ill-suited to it and thoroughly out of touch with his subjects. In a particularly stupid move, he announced that his son and daughter would marry, angering the dominant religion of Westeros and sparking a rebellion.
(The faith had quietly copped Aegon the Conquerer’s two incestuous marriages, as it had little choice in the matter. Aenys lacked his father’s authority.)
Aenys died amid the uprising, essentially of stress. Not a cool way to go.
Technically, the crown should have passed to his son, but instead Maegor seized it. His brief reign of him was brutal and bloody, earning him the nickname Maegor the Cruel – he’s already been mentioned once in HotD as an example not to be echoed.
By the time Maegor died, impaled on the Iron Throne, the legitimate Targaryen heir was Aenys’s thirdborn son, Jaehaerys.
In typical Targaryen fashion, Jaehaerys married his sister Alysanne. This time there was no rebellion, and the pair went on to reign together for decades, overseeing a period of peace and prosperity.
They had a prodigious number of children, as shown by the various streams of blood in the intro, but those children mostly met tragic ends. The first scene of HotD explains the resulting succession crisis, with the great lords of Westeros choosing which of Jaehaerys’s grandchildren should become his heir.
They settled on Prince Viserys, passing over his older cousin, Princess Rhaenys, on the basis of her sex.
Viserys is the first character whose cog does not fill with blood, as he remains alive at this point. The same cannot be said of his wife, Queen Aemma, who perished in such an awful fashion at the series premiere.
Notice an additional stream of blood creeping out of Viserys’s cog. This is presumably a reference to the events of episode two, in which he searches for a second wife.
Finally we have a uniquely designed cog representing Viserys’s only child Rhaenyra, who was formally named his heir at the end of the first episode.
You can tell it’s her because the symbol matches the design of the necklace she received from her uncle, Prince Daemon.
At various points in the second half of the intro, other cogs are visible in the distant background. These could represent Daemon and his wife Rhea, or perhaps Rhaenys, her husband Corlys Velaryon and their children.
I’m not confident enough to offer a guess either way; perhaps it will become clearer in future iterations of the sequence.