House of the Dragon season 1 could span at least two decades

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The latest trailer for House of the Dragon hit last week, and it’s set the internet aflame with speculation about what to expect from the upcoming Game of Thrones prequel series. How many dragons will we see? Will the characters be able to capture our imagination the way Daenerys and Jon Snow did? And what’s in that box?

We did an exhaustive scene-by-scene breakdown of the trailer, but there’s one element I find really intriguing that hasn’t been talked about a whole lot: the timeline. House of the Dragon is set around 200 years before Game of Thrones, during a period of intense civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons. However, it’s unlikely that we’ll see the Dance actually kick into high gear in season 1; after all, this is a new series, and if it’s going to take off HBO has to leave plenty of runway for future seasons.

But when you look closely at the events shown in the trailer and compare them to the timeline in George R.R. Martin’s book Fire & Blood, it gives a pretty good idea of just how much time we’ll see elapse in season 1. And it may be a whole two decades!

It’s doubtful we’ll see everything from those 20 years; it’s looking more and more likely we’ll see flashbacks and time jumps and such. It’s also possible HBO will alter timelines and ages as they did with Game of Thrones…but maybe not too much, since we do see younger and older versions characters like Rhaenyra Targaryen, who’s played as a young woman by Milly Alcock and as an adult by Emma D’Arcy. If they wanted to condense things, the team could have just changed Rhaenyra’s age so one actor could convincingly play her over a shorter span of years, but it looks like they’re sticking pretty close to the timeline we get in Fire & Blood, even if that makes things tricky for them.

Let’s take a closer look at the trailer and see if we can figure out the when of House of the Dragon.

House of the Dragon
Image: House of the Dragon/HBO /

Rhaenyra Targaryen named heir

Okay, to dig into this we’re going to define some terms. In Westeros, years are counted up as “AC,” which stands for “After the Conquest,” referring to when Aegon Targaryen and his sisters took over the continent and created the Iron Throne some 300 years before Game of Thrones. In House of the Dragon, that was a mere 100 years ago.

One of our biggest timeline touchstones in the trailer is when Rhaenyra Targaryen is named heir to the Iron Throne, which occurs in 105 AC. Rhaenyra is 8 years old at this time, but is already a dragonrider and much beloved by the people of Westeros. King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine) names Rhaenyra his heir because he has no living sons and lots of familial drama. Hoping to settle things, he calls all the powerful lords of Westeros to come swear fealty to her.

We glimpse a few other scenes in the trailer that happen during this particular year, including what appears to be the king’s younger brother Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) taking over the Gold Cloaks, as well as him handing over a dragon egg to the Hand of the King Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans). Daemon had planned to give this egg to his unborn child with his paramour Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno), which infuriates his brother the king. 105 AC is fraught with drama.

House of the Dragon
Image: House of the Dragon/HBO /

The Great Council of 101 AC

We also get a scene where Rhaenyra’s older cousin Rhaenys (Eve Best) is telling her about how the lords of Westeros will never accept a woman on the Iron Throne, something Rhaenys knows all too well from personal experience. This scene almost certainly happens around the time that Rhaenyra is named heir; however, the scene quickly transitions to a dark, crumbling castle crowded with people.

This is most likely the Great Council of 101 AC, where both Rhaenys and her son Laenor were passed over for the Iron Throne in favor of Viserys, and she gained the nickname, “The Queen That Never Was.” It’s entirely possible that this will be a flashback. However it happens, it’s cool that we’ll get to see this momentous event in Westerosi history onscreen.

The Great Council was a pretty a big deal when it happened; the king back then, Jaehaerys Targaryen, was very old, both his sons had died, and he didn’t feel like naming an heir so he invited all the lords of Westeros to Harrenhal so they could vote on it. Westeros was teetering near outright war over the matter of Targaryen succession. The Great Council forestalled it…but didn’t prevent it in the long run. Many of the characters at the Great Council also play a role in the Dance of the Dragons.

It’s an important event for the show’s backstory. Plus it’s at Harrenhal, and we all remember how striking that place can be from Game of Thrones.

Based on the trailer, the Great Council of 101 AC is as far back as we’ll go in history. It’s unlikely the show will go farther back than that, unless it wants to show how the council came about, or Rhaenyra’s birth in 97 AC. Since we don’t know for certain whether we’ll see those, we’re sticking to 101 AC as a baseline.

Now, let’s talk about the later scenes from the trailer.