House Of The Dragon Image Raises A Big Question About The Game Of Thrones Prequel Timeline

The first Game of Thrones spinoff is finally just a couple of months away from premiering on HBO, after House of the Dragon was announced all the way back in 2019. After the release of a new image, there’s a big question about the timeline worth considering as the weeks before the premiere wind down.

Just like the situation with Game of Thrones, readers of George R.R. Martin’s books have a broad idea of what might happen in the prequel series, but readers and non-readers alike will have to wait for the episodes to find out exactly what HBO is doing with the Targaryen dynasty centuries before the War of the Five Kings. 

Take a look at the image of Milly Alcock as Young Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen that has me – as a Game of Thrones fan and book reader – considering what the first season has in store, and keep on reading for what we should be wondering at this point (with no book spoilers unless otherwise marked): 

Milly Alcock as Rhaenyra Targarey in House of the Dragon

(Image credit: HBO)

Who Is Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen And Why Does The Image Matter?

Emma D’Arcy (previously known for Truth Seekers, Hanna, and Wanderlust) landed the role of Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, and HBO has actually released a fair amount about the House of the Dragon adaptation of her character from George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood

Rhaenyra is the first-born child of King Viserys Targaryen (played by Paddy Considine), which is a valuable position in Westeros when the series picks up, two centuries before the events of Game of Thrones. Unfortunately for her, having pure Valyrian blood and the ability to ride a dragon doesn’t necessarily make up for her status in the line of succession as a woman. 

According to the early character descriptions, it is Prince Daemon Targaryen (played by Matt Smith) who is considered heir to the throne as the younger brother of King Viserys. It’s her status as Viserys’ eldest child but with Daemon as the heir to the throne that makes the image particularly interesting. She is positioned in front of swords melted together just like the Iron Throne, with a dragon at her back, and looking awfully queen-like. 

This suggests that she may be destined for the throne after all, but raises the important question about the timeline: how long is Viserys Targaryen going to live before the chaos inevitably erupts? 

Paddy Considine as King Viserys Targaryen I in House of the Dragon

(Image credit: HBO)

How Long Will King Viserys Live And Hold The Iron Throne?

Paddy Considine is top-billed as star of House of the Dragon, but every Game of Thrones fan knows that top-billing doesn’t mean long life in the world of Westeros. King Viserys is a good and decent man, but those are not necessarily qualities that make for great kings. And the new image of Rhaenyra shows her looking an awful lot like a queen!

With character descriptions naming Daemon as heir to the throne, Rhaenyra as the king’s first-born child, Aegon Targaryen (played by Tom Glynn-Carney) as Viserys’ first-born son, and Aemond Targaryen (Ewan Mitchell) as Viserys’ second-born son and Rhaenyra’s half brother, it seems like a battle for the throne is inevitable as the show's major conflict. If that’s the case, then it seems like Viserys’ time on House of the Dragon may not last for too long. 

All things considered, the answer to the question of how long Viserys will live could be the turning point of the series (just like Ned Stark’s death in Game of Thrones Season 1), and prove how far the first season will go in setting up future conflict. 

Emma D'Arcy as Rhaenyra Targaryen house of the dragon

(Image credit: HBO)

What Fire & Blood Tells Us

While Game of Thrones is based on the A Song of Ice and Fire saga of novels (which remains incomplete with The Winds of Winter still unpublished), House of the Dragon’s source material comes from a fictional historical account of the Targaryen dynasty, penned by George R.R. Martin (who has good things to say about the upcoming show). It doesn’t give quite the insight into characters’ minds as the novels do, but delivers plenty of facts. Spoilers ahead for the Fire & Blood source material for House of the Dragon.

It’s probably safe to say that the mentions of Viserys' heir and various children (complete with birth order) are for the sake of setting up the biggest event in Targaryen history: the Dance of the Dragons civil war, which began with the conflict over the throne following Viserys’ death. 

In the book, the major claimants are Princess Rhaenyra (as the late king’s first-born child with his deceased first wife) and Princess Aegon (as his first-born surviving son with the king’s second wife, Alicent Hightower). Daemon is in the mix as Viserys’ younger brother, and as you might expect with a series all about the Targaryens, there’s some incest involved, and a whole lot of death. Basically, the biggest source of action and intrigue in this era of the Targaryen dynasty is the Dance of the Dragons civil war, and it seems likely that House of the Dragon won’t run for multiple seasons without kicking it off. 

In fact, if the prequel follows the approximate format of Game of Thrones – which was obviously very successful – then fans might want to expect Paddy Considine to go the way of Sean Bean, with his character killed off before the end of the first season, and the early episodes sowing the seeds of civil war and then the chaos beginning following the death. 

matt smith emma d'arcy house of the dragon hbo

(Image credit: HBO)

What The Character Descriptions Tell Us

The main list of stars playing Targaryens includes Paddy Considine as King Viserys, Matt Smith as Daemon, Olivia Cooke as Alicent Hightower, and Emma D’Arcy as Rhaenyra. Listed by HBO as “additional cast” are Milly Alcock as Young Princess Rhaenyra, Emily Carey as Young Alicent, Harry Collett as Rhaenyra’s eldest son Jacaerys, Tom Glynn-Carney as Aegon, Ewan Mitchell as Aemond, and Phia Saban as Helaena Targaryen.

With “young” versions of Rhaeyra and Alicent appearing, as well as their children, it seems quite safe to say that House of the Dragon is set closer to the end of Viserys’ life than the middle or beginning. Of course, there are also Velaryons, Lannisters, more Hightowers, and others on the way, so there will be plenty of players in what sounds like the Targaryens’ game of thrones. 

End spoilers for Fire & Blood.

All things considered, the new image of Emma D’Arcy combined with information released by HBO lead to the question of how long King Viserys will survive in the House of the Dragon timeline, even without information from Fire & Blood. Only time and the actual first season will tell. The very good news is that the wait for House of the Dragon is nearly over. The first episode premieres on HBO on Sunday, August 21 at 9 p.m. ET, in what was previously the time slot for Game of Thrones

For some viewing options during the final weeks of wait for the new show, you can revisit Game of Thrones streaming with an HBO Max subscription, and check out our 2022 TV schedule for more shows. 

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).