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House Of The Dragon Season 2: Why Do The Targaryens Hate Each Other Again?

"House of the Dragon" Season 2 is here, but it's been a while since HBO viewers last visited Westeros. The show's first season was full of betrayals, secret plots, family strife, and murder, all leading to a civil war within the Targaryen family. That war — referred to later in the "Game of Thrones" timeline as the Dance of the Dragons — is the main focus of Season 2, but the time between installments may have led fans to forget some of the details. Fear not: We're going to run down the events of Season 1 to remind you why the Targaryens all hate each other.

At the center of the drama in "House of the Dragon" is the issue of succession. Because King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine) didn't sire a male heir for most of his life, his daughter Rhaenyra (Emma D'Arcy) seemed the natural choice as the next monarch of Westeros. Naming a woman to the throne would break longstanding tradition, but that doesn't stop Viserys from appointing Rhaenyra as his official successor.

All is well(ish) until Viserys finds a new, young wife in Rhaneyra's childhood bestie Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke), who graces the royal family with a male heir, Aegon II (Tom Glynn-Carney). In his waning years, Viserys stays loyal to his eldest child, but his declining health and Rhaenyra's absence allow for Alicent, her father Otto (Rhys Ifans), and her children to take political control. When Viserys dies, the "Greens," as Alicent's faction is called, enact a swift coup, take out their political adversaries in King's Landing, and crown Aegon II.

How the Targaryen prophecy splits the family apart

One of the key plot points in "House of the Dragon" Season 1 is the so-called "Song of Ice and Fire," the franchise title of George R. R. Martin's fantasy novels, which also refers to a vision given to the first Aegon Targaryen. As Viserys tells Rhaenyra early in Season 1, Aegon had a dream of a terrible evil descending from the far North, which only the Targaryens and a united realm would be able to oppose. This was one of Aegon's main motivations in conquering Westeros, and it's a responsibility that, like her father, Rhaenyra takes very seriously.

Just before his death, while delirious, Viserys mentions some piece of the prophecy to Alicent, who misinterprets his reference to Aegon as an endorsement of their son for the throne. This is the final motivation she needs to fully reject her latent friendship with Rhaenyra — which has already faded — and fully support her father's plan to grab power.

When Rhaenyra learns of Aegon's coronation, she weighs the legitimacy of her own rule against the supposed safety of the realm. Otto's proposal of a peaceful resolution holds some sway because Rhaenyra believes the realm must remain united and strong to face the coming darkness. But once blood is spilled, all bets are off.

A childhood rivalry kicks off the Dance of the Dragons

While Rhaenyra, Alicent, Otto, and Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) play their political game, a burgeoning rivalry amongst the younger generation simmers in the background. A (true) rumor circulates that Rhaneyra's children aren't actually the offspring of her husband, Laenor Velaryon (John Macmillan), who's secretly gay. This eventually creates a rift between her children and Alicent's, which is only exacerbated when Aegon II's younger brother Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) "steals" the mammoth dragon Vhagar as his own. The ensuing confrontation loses Aemond an eye and drives a final stake between Alicent and Rhaenyra.

This feud is also what ultimately kicks off the war. At the end of "House of the Dragon" Season 1, Rhaenyra's son Lucerys (Elliot Grihault) flies on his dragon Arrax to Storm's End to enlist the support of House Baratheon. Unfortunately, Aemond arrives first and secures the alliance for the Greens. As Luke flies home through a fierce storm, Aemond pursues him on Vhagar. He only intends to torment his cousin, but the massive dragon resists his control, and Vhagar kills both Arrax and Luke. With royal blood drawn and her own son the donor, Rhaenyra has no choice but to prepare for all-out war and seek her righteous vengeance.

The other Targaryan family allegiances explained

Outside of Rhaenyra, Alicent, and their children, there are some other important threads in the Targayren family feud that will play into the "House of the Dragon" Season 2 plot. Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best), the so-called "Queen Who Never Was," stays impartial for much of Season 1 but ultimately sides with Rhaenyra. This decision is due partly to her having also been passed over once for the throne because of her gender, and partly because she disagrees with the Hightower coup. On her way out of King's Landing, Rhaenys has an opportunity to wipe the Greens out atop her dragon Meleys, but she lets them live, retaining a certain amount of neutrality — at least for now.

Rhaenys is part of House Velaryon as the wife of Lord Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint), making Rhaenyra's children her grandchildren (though her son didn't actually father them). As the other great Valyrian family in Westeros, the Velaryons wield immense power of their own. They side with Rhaneyra's "Blacks" because of their family ties, despite Daemon having previously beheaded Corlys' younger brother Vaemond (Wil Johnson) when he challenged the parentage of Rhaenyra's children.

With "House of the Dragon" Season 2 kicking off, the stage is set for a war that's sure to devastate Westeros and leave the Targaryen family a specter of its former greatness. But hey, it'll make for great TV, right?