All major deaths in ‘House of the Dragon’ season one

Daemon Targaryen
Photo via HBO

Without a doubt, the Game of Thrones spinoff has maintained a major similarity with the once-popular show and that is, the unexpected, brutal, and heartbreaking deaths of some of the major characters on screen. House of the Dragon has successfully delivered a substantial amount of stomach-churning violence and deaths that adhered to the demands of the complex storylines and twists.

Speaking on this subject to Popsugar, the showrunners Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik said,

“It’s ‘Game of Thrones.’ There is sex and violence as part of the story. The particular way that we’ve approached it in this time is making sure that whenever you’re going to have any kind of . . . sex or violence on screen, that there’s a compelling story reason for it, and that it’s a story that needs to be told. It’s not being done gratuitously or to titillate or anything like that”.

The show is based on George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood, which depicts the story of the Targaryen dynasty starting from the rule of Viserys Targaryen, son of Jaehaerys Targaryen. As the first season came to an end, the viewers can form a comprehensive picture of the tensions and budding hatred caused by the uncertainty regarding the crown’s future successor.

While the show has always been distinct about the issue after Viserys unhesitatingly appointed his daughter Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) as his heir, the Westerosi patriarchal norms impatiently waited for an opportunity to plant a male on the Iron Throne. This was facilitated by the marriage of king Viserys Targaryen and the daughter of the king’s hand, Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke), resulting in the birth of their oldest son, Aegon II.

The recent episodes portrayed the conspiracies made by the Greens represented by the Hightowers and Queen Alicent herself to crown her son as the king, a plan which was accomplished in the penultimate episode of the show, “The Green Council”, thereby incurring the wrath of the supporters of Rhaenyra’s claim to the throne. This shaped the Targaryens and the Hightowers to wage a full-fledged war against each other, leaving a pile of bodies along the way. Let’s have a look at the significant, heart-wrenching deaths in the show’s first season that continue to scrupulously serve the narrative.

Aemma Targaryen

Aemma Targaryen in the "Heirs of the Dragons"
Photo via HBO

The death of king Viserys’ wife, Aemma Targaryen (Sian Brooke), is deemed one of the most disheartening of all deaths. In the very first episode of the show, “The Heirs of the Dragon”, when queen Aemma went into a complicated childbirth process, her husband – the king commanded the maesters to prioritize the child’s life over his mother. The technique failed miserably resulting in the death of both the mother and the boy who was supposed to be the future heir to the throne.

On the subject of Aemma’s death, the showrunner Sapochnik told Popsugar that “she’s effectively murdered by her husband”. A retrospective reflection on this tragic demise shows how the incident shaped the rest of the storyline that culminated in the civil war. Viserys’ marriage to Alicent and the birth of Aegon II — followed by a conspiracy to weaken Rhaenyra’s claim to the throne — effectively played out following Aemma’s untimely and unexpected death.

Had she been alive and healthily given birth to their son Baelon Targaryen, there would have been very little to absolutely no possibility of Rhaenyra being chosen as the successor, which would have possibly erased all the complications regarding future inheritance. Most significantly, her death also brought to an end the assigned responsibilities of royal Targaryen women, that is, childbirth – as put to words by Aemma herself when she said to Rhaenyra about childbirth being a woman’s battlefield. Hereafter, we get to see the prominent positions played by the women — be it Alicent or Rhaenyra — in deciding the future of the Targaryen dynasty.

Craghas Draehar, aka the Crabfeeder

Photo via HBO

The initial episodes of the series showed an attempt to wage a war against Craghas Draehar (or the Crabfeeder), the commander of the army of the Triarchy who took control of the Stepstones – a trade route between Westeros and Essos.

It was only in the third episode that concerted efforts were made by Daemon and Corlys Velaryon to collaborate and launch an attack against him. The skirmish continued for about three years with no definite closure or victory after which Viserys decided to send help to end the battle. He sent word to Daemon about his plans of sending a fleet for assistance enraging the latter – who became more determined to win the war on his own turns and add it to his list of achievements.

As a result, he went to the location where the Crabfeeder hid in a cave and started to wave a white flag as a sign of surrender. This led the Crabfeeder to release his armies, which Daemon began to brutally slay one by one – disclosing his plan of putting himself out as bait. With assistance from Laenor Velaryon and his dragon Seasmoke a complete bloodbath was unleashed with Daemon managing to get a dead Crabfeeder out of the cave. The battle — albeit occupying a relatively shorter screen time — was effective in this short period and Draehar certainly forged his position as a formidable challenge.

Joffrey Lonmouth

Joffrey Lonmouth and Criton Cole
Image via HBO

Ser Joffrey Lonmouth was the lover of Laenor Velryon, the son of Corlys Velayon and Rhaenys Targaryen who was betrothed to Rhaenyra. Prior to their marriage, Laenor and Rhaenyra had entered into an agreement to pursue their respective love interests privately as their union was to be a marriage of duty and not of love.

On account of their wedding festivities in the fifth episode of the series, “We light the way”, we see Joffrey approaching an angry Criston Cole and start teasing him about his affair with Rhaenyra. This resulted in an outbreak of a bloody brawl between the duo.

In the midst of the celebrations, it was difficult to comprehend as to how the fight began and who was fighting whom only to later realize that Joffrey was being beaten by Criston Cole. The dual ended with the latter bludgeoning the former to death, completely distorting his face and leaving Laenor completely heartbroken on his wedding day. The episode ended on a gloomy note abiding by the norms of Game of Thrones’ bloody wedding rituals.

Lady Rhea

Lady Rhea in 'House of the Dragon'
Photo via HBO

The start of episode five finally introduces the viewers to Daemon’s wife, Rhea. She is shown riding a horse and eventually encountering her husband on the way who was banished by Viserys to Runestone following the discovery of his possible affair with Rhaenyra. Throughout the series until then, we got to hear Daemon making derogatory remarks about the woman he was forced to marry out of duty. He repeatedly called her the “bronze b***h” and their unconsummated marital status was implied.

Upon meeting him, she started to immediately mock him for his failed attempts at being the successor, to which Daemon responded by throwing her off the horse – breaking her neck. At that moment, she starts to mock Daemon for not being able to finish which propelled him to crush her head with a rock off-screen. Even though her gruesome death was not shown on screen; it was later referred to in the episode amid Rhaenyra’s wedding celebrations.

Laena Velaryon

Laena Velaryon
Photo via HBO

In the sixth episode — “The Princess and the Queen” — another heart-breaking death is depicted to the viewers. This is none other than Laena Velaryon, who was happily married to Daemon with children. Besides the unexpected occurrence, her death is a painful reminder of Aemma Targaryen’s death in the very first episode. This is not only because of their respective complications in pregnancy but also due to the similar options presented before their husbands.

Unlike his older brother, Daemon allows Laena to make her own choice. Unable to bear the intense pain along with an attempt to escape death in childbirth, she ordered her dragon — Vhagar — to set her ablaze. Laena’s death in the show gave her a lot more agency than in the book where after a day or two of intense labor, she gave birth to a deformed child, causing her to fall sick and die after three days.

Harwin Strong

Harwin Strong
Photo via HBO

Harwin Strong was an important figure in the sixth episode of the series, “The Princess and the Queen”.  Son of the Hand of the King — Lord Lyonel Strong — his intimate association with Rhaenyra led to the major scandal of him being regarded as the biological father of Rhaenyra’s children. This posed grave challenges on her and her children’s path to further succession. The episode’s ending showed both Harwin and his father getting killed in a fire at Harrenhal where they were residing for the night.

Unlike the book — which doesn’t reach a conclusion as to how the fire started — the show provides a definite culprit which is Ser Larys Strong, the younger brother of Harwin. He appointed a bunch of cutthroats to get his own kin murdered in order to win queen Alicent’s favor and reinstate her father as the Hand.

Vaemond Velaryon

Vaemond Velaryon
Photo via HBO

Vaemon Velaryon (Wil Johnson) left the screen as quickly as he graced it with his presence. This happened after Corlys Velaryon fell terribly sick, leaving his position open for possession. While Lucerys Velaryon was already chosen as Driftwood’s successor, his claim was subjected to severe criticisms by Corlys’ younger brother Vaemond, an aspiring successor who believed Lucerys to be a bastard lacking in pure Velaryon blood needed to acquire the position.

Combined with his faith in the crown led by the queen who he believed would support his demands, he arrived at the King’s Landing to discuss the matter of Driftwood’s succession along with other members of the royal family, including Rhaenyra and Daemon who came to support their son. King Viserys — who was present at the moment — called off the discussion, making Lucerys’ ascension to the throne official.

An enraged, humiliated, and livid Vaemond crossed his limits at the court by openly questioning Lucerys’ parentage as well as hurling accusations to the extent of calling Rhaenyra a whore. Before Viserys could take any action, he was immediately decapitated by Daemon leaving his tongue as it is.  Vaemond’s death established Lucerys’ status as the unchallenged heir to the seat of Driftwood.

Viserys Targaryen

Viserys Targaryen Paddy Considine
Photo via HBO

Viserys’ failing health a few episodes before his actual death caused by an unidentified mysterious illness foreshadowed his demise. His death was also the most significant to the flow of the narrative as the gestalt of the series revolved around the politics of succession after Viserys’ death. With time, Viserys is shown to succumb to his illness and in the eighth episode, he was depicted to be completely bed-ridden.

The viewers are introduced to one last act of his fatherly devotion in the episode when he refused to take the pain reliever, milk of the poppy, and went to the throne room to publicly exhibit his support for Rhaenyra and her children’s established positions as heir.

Later, he hosted a dinner for his family as a final attempt to bring the opposing factions within his family together. The very last scene of the episode showed him lying on his bed reiterating his prophecy of the ice and fire which Alicent misinterprets as his desire to crown Aegon II as the future king. Thus, Viserys’ death paved the way for the manifestation of the lingering hatred and animosities of his families that surrounded the war of succession.

Lucerys Velaryon

Lucerys Velaryon
Photo via HBO

The tenth and final episode of House of the Dragon saw the tragic death of Rhaenyra’s son Lucerys Velaryon, who was defeated by his nemesis and uncle Aemond. Lucerys and Aemond’s enmity goes way back to when the former grievously injured the latter to the point of partially blinding him.

While the act was committed as a way of defending himself from Aemond’s constant harassment and bullying, the incident deepened the rivalry between their respective mothers. In the final episode, Lucerys is sent by his mother to strategize with Borros Baratheon to win his support for her cause only to discover Aemond standing there for the same purpose.

While Lucerys’ attempts at persuading Borros failed, uncle Aemond was in the mood for settling old disputes. Conflicts between them exacerbated after Aemond asked Lucerys to give his eyes in exchange for taking his which nearly led to a duel between the duo. Interrupted by Borros, Lucerys left for home on his dragon in thunderous and stormy weather only to realize that he was being chased by Aemond and his dragon Vhagar.

From then on, the audience is introduced to a fight between the dragons. Of course, Aemond had a greater advantage in this respect since Vhagar belonged to one of the sisters of Aegon the Conqueror, proving his unmatched strength and weight compared to Lucerys’s Arrax. After being provoked by the latter who blew fire at Vhagar, he followed and bit Arrax in half killing Lucerys along with it. The news of her son’s death reached Rhaenyra — who would possibly not settle for a truce anymore — clearing the way for the famous Dance of the Dragons.