Everything Shared About the Targaryens' Past in Game of Thrones

In anticipation of House of the Dragon's season one finale on Oct. 23, we've got your one-stop primer for everything you might have forgotten about the Targaryen family. Get up to speed here.

By Alyssa Ray, Daniel Trainor Oct 23, 2022 1:00 PMTags
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We may know something about the Targaryens.

The highly-anticipated Game of Thrones prequel series House of the Dragon closes out its first season on HBO Oct. 23, leaving everyone eager to find out how the brewing Targaryen civil war (a.k.a. The Dance of Dragons) will play out.

Based on the Fire & Blood novel by George R. R. MartinHouse of the Dragon takes place 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones when House Targaryen rules over Westeros—but things are tenuous. The Targaryen family is divided after King Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine) names Rhaenyra (Emma D'Arcy), the King's first-born child and daughter, ​the heir. But her position is later challenged by Aegon (Tom Glynn-Carney), the King's son who is conceived after Rhaenyra, is declared the heir.

The in-fighting results in a decades-long civil war, pitting Rhaenyra's supporters against those of Aegon. And, thanks to a dedicated Game of Thrones re-watch, we've learned a bit about the outcome.

As Game of Thrones fans will likely recall, the Targaryens were represented on the series by Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and, in season one anyway, her brother Viserys (Harry Lloyd). 

So, what clues did Game of Thrones drop about the Targaryens of centuries past? Keep reading to find out.

House of the Dragon Season One Finale Pics

Which members of the Targaryens were featured in Game of Thrones?

In addition to Daenerys and Viserys, Aemon Targaryen (Peter Vaughan) appeared throughout the series. Known as the last known Targaryen in Westeros, he was the great-uncle of Daenerys and Viserys.

In the season seven finale, it is finally revealed that Jon Snow's (Kit Harington) father is Rhaegar Targaryen (Wilf Scolding) and that his birth name is Aegon VII Targaryen, making him the heir to the Iron Throne and Daenerys' cousin. 

Why is the House Targaryen family tree so intertwined?

Well, simply put, they really liked to marry each other.

According to Game of Thrones, the family had a reputation for inter-marrying siblings in an effort to keep the bloodline pure. 

This desire for purity caused some problems further down the line, as the inbreeding sometimes produced, err, genetic issues, for lack of better words. "Madness and greatness are two sides of the same coin," Lord Varys (Conleth Hill) said of the Targaryens in season eight. "Every time a new Targaryen is born, the gods toss the coin in the air and the world holds its breath to see how it will land."

Macall B. Polay/HBO

What about the dragons?

Though Daenerys is referred to as the "Mother of Dragons" throughout Game of Thrones, there really aren't that many dragons left alive in late 200 AC. In the series, Daenerys laments the fact that the dragons were held captive in King's Landing after the Dance of the Dragons nearly drove the species to extinction.

"A dragon is not a slave. They were terrifying, extraordinary," Daenerys tells Jon about the dragons in season seven. "They filled people with wonder and awe, and we locked them in here. They wasted away. They grew small. And we grew small, as well."

You can see the dragons in their full glory in House of The Dragon. After all, it's in the name.

Who wins the Dance of the Dragons?

We have King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) to thank for this reveal. During a season three scene, Joffrey tells his fiancée Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer), "Rhaenyra Targaryen was murdered by her brother, or rather his dragon. It ate her while her son watched."

While Game of Thrones hints that Aegon eventually defeats Rhaenyra, fans of the book might defend that her side ultimately wins. Why? Well, because Rhaenyra's son with Daemon, Aegon III, inherited the Iron Throne after his uncle (also named Aegon) died.

Get ready for more fire, more blood and plenty more Targaryens when House of the Dragon—which also stars Matt Smith, Olivia Cooke, Steve Toussaint and Rhys Ifans—airs its finale at 9 p.m. on HBO.

(A version of this story originally published Aug. 19 at 6 a.m. PT.)

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