House of the Dragon Introduces the Hightower Dynasty

Forget Fire and Blood. It's House Hightower's time to shine as HBO announces a release date for Game of Thrones prequel, House of the Dragon.

Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke)
Photo: HBO

Say what you will about HBO, but it isn’t afraid of a little competition.

Despite the fact that the cable and streaming giant’s rival Prime Video is releasing its own fantasy epic with The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power on Sept. 2, 2022, HBO is now premiering its resident classic fantasy prequel two weeks earlier. Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon is officially set to arrive on Sunday, Aug. 21, HBO announced today.

If it feels like this release date news has been a long time coming, that’s probably because it has. HBO has been hard at work franchising its Game of Thrones IP ever since the flagship series signed off with a controversial finale on May 19, 2019. Among the many projects announced, House of the Dragon was the quickest to develop – likely due to the fact that it is drawing from a wealth of already-written Targaryen history thanks to Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin’s history book-style prequel Fire & Blood.

Ever since House of the Dragon entered production, HBO hasn’t been shy about revealing photos and descriptions of the characters involved in the story. In fact, with the release date announcement, HBO also released a master document of character descriptions that you can check out over here. This is a smart marketing ploy given that, like Game of Thrones before it, House of the Dragon will present viewers with many new faces to keep up with.

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Naturally, much of the previous marketing material has focused on the Targaryen dynasty, since they are the massive monarchal family at the center of House of the Dragon‘s plot. In fact, the prequel is set to depict the events of a massive Targaryen civil war known as “The Dance of the Dragons.” With the announcement of the show’s release date, however, HBO has now highlighted another important family involved in The Dance of the Dragons: The Hightowers. Here is HBO’s updated descriptions for the two major Hightowers at play:

Olivia Cooke as Alicent Hightower, the daughter of Otto Hightower, the Hand of the King, and the most comely woman in the Seven Kingdoms. She was raised in the Red Keep, close to the king and his innermost circle; she possesses both a courtly grace and a keen political acumen.

Rhys Ifans as Otto Hightower. The Hand of the King, Ser Otto loyally and faithfully serves both his king and his realm. As the Hand sees it, the greatest threat to the realm is the king’s brother, Daemon, and his position as heir to the throne.

In the spirit of continuing HBO’s educational mission with House of the Dragon‘s characters, here are some spoiler-free things you should know about the noble House Hightower.

They Come from Oldtown

As its name suggests, Oldtown, in the Westerosi region known as The Reach, is very old. Before Aegon I Targaryen arrived in the Blackwater Rush region of Westeros and built the sprawling city of King’s Landing around it, Oldtown was the biggest and most important settlement on the continent for millennia. Even after Aegon’s Landing, Oldtown remained the cultural center of Westeros in many ways.

The city is home to The Citadel, which is where the Order of the Maesters live and study. Any time a great lord seeks to add a Maester to their house, they must request one from The Citadel in Oldtown. Also in Oldtown is the Starry Sept, which used to essentially be the Vatican for the Faith of the Seven, before it was supplanted by the Great Sept of Baelor in King’s Landing. In addition to these landmarks, Oldtown is just a bustling, busy city in its own right with plenty of trade, art, and people.

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Such a powerful city must require an equally powerful dynastic family to keep it in order. Well, Oldtown has exactly that in the form of the Hightowers.

Their Surname is Very Literal

House Hightower is so-named because they live in a high tower…also called Hightower. Hightower (the structure, not the family) is a simple castle with an enormous lighthouse atop of it that sits on the outskirts of Oldtown right at the mouth of the Honeywine river. The structure is said to be taller than The Wall and is considered one of the major wonders of the world.

House Hightower has occupied the castle for centuries. In fact, the family were kings of their respective area during the time of the First Men during the Dawn of Days. The noble house with an impeccable lineage has used the tower to help guide trade over centuries and build The Reach into the prosperous Westerosi bread basket it is today.

Interestingly, however, though House Hightower has always been immensely powerful and important they’ve never held full dominion over The Reach. House Gardener controlled the area through much of history from their seat in Highgarden before Aegon I arrived and installed House Tyrell as wardens.

Hightowers in House of the Dragon

Things generally don’t seem to go very well for the Hightowers when they leave the comforts of their Hightower. Though immensely rich and often very learned due to their relationship with the Citadel, they’re not particularly interested in participating the game of thrones. That all changes during the era of the Dance of the Dragons.

When House of the Dragon begins its tale, likely around the year 100 AC (After Aegon’s Conquest), Set Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) is one of the most influential men in the Seven Kingdoms. While his older brother serves as the Lord Hightower of Oldtown, Otto has an important job in King’s Landing as Hand of the King. A scholarly intelligent man, Otto essentially ran the kingdom for the last two year’s of the “Old King” Jaehaerys I’s reign, as the beloved monarch experienced ill health. Otto continued on in that role under the new king Viserys I.

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With his daughter, Alicent, firmly entrenched in King Viserys’s court, Otto soon might get a bit too involved in the politicking of the Seven Kingdoms.

House of the Dragon is set to premiere Sunday, Aug. 21 on HBO.