Let’s break down the House of the Dragon trailer shot by shot

HBO has dropped the first teaser trailer for House of the Dragon, its Game of Thrones prequel series set some 200 years before the original show. Watch and be amazed:

So what do we have going on here? Let’s break it down.

Matt Smith is front and center in the first trailer for House of the Dragon

Our first shot is of Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) walking through a crypt of some kind with a torch, accompanied by the fiery HBO logo.

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Image: House of the Dragon/HBO

Daemon is one of our big players here. He’s the younger brother of King Viserys I Targaryen, a known hothead, and the only guy who gets lines in the teaser. Smith is also the biggest star the show has, so it makes sense that HBO would front him here.

Next we have Daemon and his niece Rhaenyra Targaryen, the king’s daughter, meeting on a beach:

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Image: House of the Dragon/HBO

We’ve seen a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff of these actors on a beach. HBO even released a glossy shot of the pair early on, although we didn’t know then they were shooting day-for-night:

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Emma D’Arcy as “Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen” and Matt Smith as “Prince Daemon Targaryen” in House of the Dragon. Photograph by Ollie Upton/HBO

Our best guess is that this meeting takes place on Driftmark during the funeral for Daemon’s second wife, Lady Laena Velaryon, who died in childbirth. Eventually, Rhaenyra will become his third wife, because the Targaryen family is twisted and can’t get enough incest. In any case, Rhaenyra is another huge player in this story and will show up in the trailer again.

(The skull of) Balerion the Black Dread makes his onscreen debut in House of the Dragon

But next we get a shot at one of the real stars of the show. House of the Dragon takes place at a time in Westerosi history when dragons were still actually around; there are well over a dozen in the story, including this monster, whose enormous head we glimpse only hazily:

House of the Dragon

Image: House of the Dragon/HBO

House of the Dragon is based on George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood, which featured upwards of 17 dragons. We think this one is Vhagar, the only dragon still alive from the time of Aegon’s Conquest of Westeros. That accounts for why she’s so freaking huge here. Drogon could never.

UPDATE: Fans have since pointed out to me, rightly, that this is not Vhagar but rather the skull of Balerion the Black Dread, the biggest and most feared dragon in Westerosi history, and the one rode by Aegon the Conqueror at the founding of the Targaryen dynasty. It looks like the Targaryens keep it in a place of reverence.

Next up, we have who I think is Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) showing off his Hand of the King pin.

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Image: House of the Dragon/HBO

Otto is Hand of the King to both King Jaehaerys I Targaryen, who was king before the period covered by this show, and to King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine), Daemon’s older brother.

And speaking of Viserys, here he is holding onto the Valyrian steel sword Blackfyre:

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Image: House of the Dragon/HBO

King Viserys is a nice guy but maybe a bit too non-confrontational to be a good king. The trouble in this story really starts when he dies and there are some objections to his daughter Rhaenyra taking over as he wanted.

Rhaenyra is played by two actors on this show. The older version is played by Emma D’Arcy, and the younger by Milly Alcock. Here’s Alcock below:

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Image: House of the Dragon/HBO

Like Game of ThronesHouse of the Dragon has a huge cast, with no one being able to claim that they are the undisputed “main character.” That said, if this story were to have a main character, it’d probably be Rhaenyra.

And here’s the reverse of that shot of Daemon and Rhaenrya on the beach from before. The photography is quite dark — glad to see they’re keeping up that Game of Thrones tradition, I guess — but I think this is the older Rhaenyra played by D’Arcy:

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Image: House of the Dragon/HBO

And there’s nothing dark about this shot, with two knights fighting at a tourney:

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Image: House of the Dragon/HBO

Gorgeous!

Also, that’s likely Daemon with the Targaryen shield. That’s Dark Sister he’s holding, another Valyrian steel sword passed down through the Targaryen family since the days of the Conquest.

Steve Toussaint as Corlys Velaryon

Next we get shots of Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint)…

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Image: House of the Dragon/HBO

…and his family: his wife Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best) their son Leanor Velaryon (Theo Nate) and their daughter Laena:

The Velaryons are another batch of very important players in this story. Corlys is a legend in his own time, a great mariner whose voyages made House Velaryon the richest house in Westeros, even beyond the Lannisters! His wife Rhaenys is a dragonrider who at one point was in line to become queen herself, and the fact that she was passed over still rankles. Their son Laenor marries Rhaenyra in a political bid to bind the two houses closer together.

Next we have a quick succession of shots, including a party in the Red Keep throne room, possibly a wedding feast for Rhaenyra and Laenor.

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Image: House of the Dragon/HBO

Next we have Sonoya Mizuno as Mysaria, a sex worker who rises very high in the world thanks to her talent as an information broker. In the first season we’ll probably only see her in her capacity as one of Daemon’s favorites, but by the end of the story she becomes a Varys-like figure who’s counsel influences rulers.

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Image: House of the Dragon/HBO

Next we have another key character: Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke), the second wife of King Viserys, Rhaenyra’s stepmother, and the daughter of Hand of the King Otto Hightower.

If the fans are correct, she’s holding the Catspaw dagger from Game of Thrones, the one that Arya used to kill Littlefinger! This is probably a scene from a very intense moment where one of Alicent’s sons by the king loses an eye in a fight with Rhaernya’s sons. Engaged and despairing, Alicent goes to the king and demands that the eye of one of Rhaernya’s sons be taken in turn.

King Viserys doesn’t grant her wish, but this incident only deepens a rivalry that was already brewing between the king’s wife and his daughter. You see, Rhaenrya wants to succeed her father as Queen, but Alicent wants it be her eldest son Aegon. So there’s already a feud between these women even before you add in ocular catastrophe. With various members of the court picking sides, things get really ugly later on.

The Iron Throne is different on House of the Dragon

We get a couple more flashes of that tournament from before, including a glimpse at a Stark shield! They’re around back then, although the family won’t play as prominent a role as they did on Game of Thrones.

This tourney is probably a very important one that pushes the Rhaenyra-Alicent rivalry another step closer to all-out war. Here they are watching the joust, not knowing that their feud will one day set Westeros on fire:

Just to get in some more violence, we have a quick shot of an older Laenor Velaryon (now played by John Macmillan) sword-fighting someone at High Tide, the seat of House of Velaryon:

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Image: House of the Dragon/HBO

And then something very interesting: a couple of shots of Rhaenyra in the throne room, where we can see that the Iron Throne looks a little different than on the original show:

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Image: House of the Dragon/HBO

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Image: House of the Dragon/HBO

Basically, it’s the same pointy chair from the original show, but there are now tons of other swords around it, bringing it a bit closer to the version of the Iron Throne drawn by Marc Simonetti, the one George R.R. Martin has said he prefers:

That said, it’s still the same chair, just with some more stuff around it. I’m torn on it. I like that it looks more dangerous — that will fit with the theme of the show — but I think I’d prefer they just redesign the thing from the ground up, rather than take this half-measure.

But that’s just me. What about you? What stood out to you from this teaser? Does you get you excited to watch the series?

As the teaser tells us, House of the Dragon will premiere on HBO and HBO Max in 2022.

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