The trailer for the new Game of Thrones prequel series House of the Dragon is here, and if anyone is hesitant to dive into a Westeros void of popular fan favorites like Daenerys Targaryen, the trailer makes it clear they don’t need to worry much. As soon as we see the platinum-haired, steely-eyed Rhaenyra Targaryen, it’s clear we have a new —or is it old? — Mother of Dragons.
The new series is set in the midst of a Targaryen civil war taking place 200 years before the start of Game of Thrones, and it’s easy to see Rhaenyra as an obvious parallel to Daenerys, one of Game of Thrones’ standout characters. It may feel like an attempt to cash in on memories of a fan favorite, since the absence of any Game of Thrones regulars makes House of the Dragon is a definite gambit.
But the new trailer invites us to look a little closer. While Daenerys was forced to claw her way to the top in her play for the Iron Throne, the House of the Dragon trailer makes Rhaenyra interesting by situating her in a position of power from the very start. She is not a disgraced exile, but the firstborn child and direct heir to King Viserys I. The trailer is gleefully layered with shots of Rhaenyra gazing coolly down at her subjects from a terrace, soaring through the sky on her dragon, and standing in royal garb before the Iron Throne: Rhaenyra seems to be a natural player of the game of thrones. And given the penchant of fantasy-set stories to start their female characters out innocent before breaking them down, it’s refreshing to see the Targaryen princess overtake this trailer with all the ruthlessness and ambition she was born to.
“Do you think the realm will ever accept me as queen?” Rhaenyra asks in the latter half of the trailer. As we look at her face wreathed in firelight, it’s difficult not to think of her descendant’s infamous destruction of King’s Landing. This conclusion to Daenerys’ arc was memorably dismissed as underdeveloped and unfaithful to the character. For many, it marked a halfhearted conclusion to what was meant to be the biggest show on television.
But Rhaenyra’s presence in the trailer acts not as a repeat of mistakes past, but an intentional subversion. While Daenerys’ voice as a character might have been lost amidst the sea of other cast members, House of the Dragon gives Rhaenyra almost no choice but to be developed: She is one of the two main forces vying for the Westeros throne.
“A woman would not inherit the Iron Throne. Because that is the order of things,” is the dismissive answer to Rhaenyra’s question.
“When I am queen,” the princess responds, staring coldly into the camera during a voiceover, “I will create a new order.”
House of the Dragon’s creators seem to finally realize where Daenerys’ “Mad Queen” storyline went wrong. In these first few glimpses of her, Rhaenyra’s character seems allowed a definition and a thirst for power not always allotted to the female characters of Westeros. In sowing the seeds of Rhaenyra Targaryen’s complications from the beginning, her story gets a lot more interesting — and may finally do justice to one of television’s favorite characters.
HBO will release House of the Dragon on August 21, 2022. Watch the full trailer here.