The Winners and Losers of House of the Dragon’s First Episode

The premiere of the much anticipated Game of Thrones prequel brought with it gore, misogyny, and many many losers.

House of the dragon
Photograph by Ollie Upton / HBO

HBO really put Game of Thrones fans through the ringer in the last few years of the show’s run. One might think we’d learn our lessons and avoid letting Westeros take hold of us once more. But when that voiceover started on Sunday night, it became obvious that all the memories and sins of Thrones failed final season and disappointing last episode would be quickly forgotten and easily forgiven. Even the crashing of HBO’s site, an inevitability during big events at this point (and honestly, something they should probably look into), was met with a few frustrated tweets, but mostly patience as people eagerly waited to be transported back into the mind of George R.R. Martin.

And he wasted no time. Within minutes of House of the Dragon’s premiere fans could immediately find comfort in the familiar—dark cinematography, heads of bleach blonde hair, overarching misogyny. The hour that followed was a slow, but still intriguing introduction to the characters who will be our companions for the next handful of Sunday nights—House Targaryen, the Hightowers, and those around them, whose names will take us half a season to internalize. So, as we prepare for another dragon ride of inevitable highs and lows, let’s take count of whose starting off this new medieval adventure as a winner, and who has nowhere to go but up.


Fabien Frankel as Ser Criston Cole

Photograph by Ollie Upton

Ser Criston Cole

The cute Dornish knight—as I’ve come to refer to him—is common born. A mark of inferiority in the world of Dragon, perhaps, but that also means he can stay out of the sick and twisted lives led by the Lords and Ladies of Westeros, which seems like a win to me. Cole, however, seems unwilling to live an uncomplicated life of commonality and instead is set on wooing Princess Rhaenyra, and it’s his success in doing so that makes him a winner this week. Not only does he get Rhaenyra’s “favor” in the form of a decorated wreath, but he also gets to beat Daemon Targaryen down and quite literally put him in his place, which one has to imagine felt pretty damn good. Will Cole come to regret “punching up” and going after Rhaenyra? Most likely, but for now, he remains on a high.

King Viserys Targaryen for like three minutes

The King finally got the son he’s always wanted. Unfortunately, just hours after Baelon Targaryen entered the world at the expense of his mother, he was laying beside her on the funeral pyre.

Princess Rhaenys Velaryon

Being dubbed “The Queen Who Never Was” may seem like a bit of a stab, but it honestly could be a blessing in disguise. While history has proven that the monarchs of Westeros are wrought with misfortune, Rhaenys seems to have a happy, healthy family, and she is able to spend her days smirking at the decision made by her cousin, the King. Would she really want to subject herself and her kids to the succession-mania tearing apart Viserys’ family at the moment? Plus, everyone can just assume Rhaenys would have been a great ruler, and no one can ever prove otherwise.

Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen

If being named her father’s heir was what she wanted, Rhaenyra should be ending episode one pretty happy. As of now, though, it’s unclear if this will make her a winner or a loser. Likely, the throne isn’t going to come as easy as just her father passing it on to her. We’ve got a whole season to get through—a lot can go wrong, and it seems like Rhaenyra will likely take the brunt of it.


Photograph by Ollie Upton / HBO

The criminals of King’s Landing

Daemon’s adopting of broken windows style policing means the criminals of all ilk in King’s Landing had quite a rough night when his Gold Cloaks stepped into the city square. A classic, bloody Thrones-style massacre saw men brutally dismembered and beat in front of their families, and while some likely deserved it, it’s unclear if the thief received a fair trial before Daemon deemed him guilty and chopped off his arm.

King Viserys Targaryen for the other 57 minutes

Aside from getting a male heir for a few hours, the King ends this episode as a decided loser. He loses both his wife and son with one poor decision. Plus, it’s clear Viserys isn’t a great King. He’s weak and unsure, and clearly haunted by his ancestors and their dreams.

Lady Rhea

I’m sure Daemon’s wife wouldn’t take kindly to hearing her husband call her his “bronze bitch,” nor will she be glad to see him return home with his mistress in tow.

Aemma Arryn

Need we say anything more about this one?

Alicent Hightower

Did her father just try to pimp her out to the King, hours after the Queen’s death? Not surprising in the world of Dragon, but that doesn’t make it less upsetting.

Daemon Targaryen

The premiere was quite the wild ride for Daemon. He had many ups and downs, but ultimately ended on a low, no longer the King’s heir, and sent away on a dragon back.