House of the Dragon Just Foreshadowed a MAJOR Book Spoiler

For those sullied few who’ve read George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood, there was a macabre in-joke during Sunday night’s House of the Dragon.

A mummers' puppet show on House of the Dragon episode 4
Photo: Ollie Upton | HBO

This article contains MAJOR SPOILERS for House of the Dragon and Fire & Blood. Seriously, seasons ahead stuff!

“The gods have a dark wit.” So muses Paddy Considine’s King Viserys I Targaryen in last night’s sordid and steamy episode of House of the Dragon. The aging king utters this while reflecting on the irony of his strong, handsome, and noble father dying from a “burst belly” after a hunt. No sword, no dragon, and no glory. It was a cruel twist of fate.

But Viserys could just as well be referring to the narrative fates being spun in House of the Dragon’s writers room. They, after all, control the destinies of every player on this stage. And in tonight’s episode, which was written by Ira Parker and directed by Clare Kliner, those storytellers provided the bleakest of in-jokes for those who know what the God of Death—aka George R.R. Martin—has fated for these characters.

It’s at this point we give one last warning that we will be discussing major, earth-shattering moments from the history of the Dance of the Dragons, and therefore one of the biggest climactic scenes that will come years from now on House of the Dragon. Read on only if you are familiar with Fire & Blood or are a true free folk who cares nothing about spoilers. Seriously, we cannot impress upon you enough how many SPOILERS you are about to read if you continue on.

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What made the fourth episode of House of the Dragon so significant is how it slows down, both by the standards of this new young series and Game of Thrones in general. An entire hour is devoted to the rumors and whispers about Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) and her uncle Prince Daemon (Matt Smith). And the way the show lingers, reveling in the ramifications of a night of passion and the entirely misogynistic palace intrigue it brews, has a touch of the great tragedies of historical fiction: Shakespeare’s plays about the Roman generals-cum-dictators, or Robert Graves’ I, Claudius. And like those texts, dark fates can be heavily foreshadowed with a bitter sense of fate.

Take the first moments of reverie Rhaenyra and Daemon have along the Street of Silk. It is there that uncle and niece partake of wine, theater… and magic. In what seems like a charmingly cheap carnival act, a medium asks the young and happy Rhaenyra, “Would you wish to know your death, child?”

The scene then smash cuts to the fourth shot of an ornamental dragon “breathing” flames into the street.

If you are passively watching this scene, or simply unaware of what occurs in Fire & Blood, the repetition of the proverbial dragonfire is just a neat editing trick to suggest the taste of excitement, laced with a touch of danger, that Rhaenyra is feeling. However, if you know what horrifying death awaits this young woman… it is a macabre promise of the wars to come.

While we don’t know what the medium told the Princess of Dragonstone, the editors are right on the mark: Years and years after last night’s midnight liaisons, Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen, First of Her Name, will be consumed both by dragonfire and then a dragon itself when her younger half-brother, the self-styled King Aegon II, orders his mutilated mount to feast on Rhaenyra’s flesh.

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These events—which despite Aegon II’s best hopes did not mark the end of the Dance of the Dragons civil war—occur after years of fighting have taken a heavy toll on both of Viserys’ self-proclaimed monarch children. Rhaenyra and Aegon have each lost children of their own to their war, and scores of followers by the thousands. Aegon is in worse physical shape during their fatal reunion, however.

Like his dragon, Aegon is disfigured and broken after incurring brutal war wounds. Still, he is able to raise his broken body up enough to travel in secret to Dragonstone and regroup his forces alongside his grounded and mutilated dragon, the once magnificent Sunfyre. When he learns Rhaenyra is retreating to Dragonstone following her own more recent defeat, he bides his time and waits for her… welcoming her with a host of men and a blind, and pitifully hungry, Sunfyre.

We do not know how House of the Dragon will portray this sudden, cruel turn of fates for Rhaenyra. In Fire & Blood, historical chroniclers sympathetic to Aegon II claim she looked at the butchered dragon and laughed, “Who’s work is this? We must thank him.” According to her own partisans, she simply lamented, “How has it come to this?”

No matter what was said, the actual events that follow are agreed upon. After Rhaenyra assures Aegon that her leal lords will find her, the broken and bitter half-brother snarks, “If they search the seven hells, mayhaps.” His men then take Rhaenyra’s young son from her arms, and cut her above the breast so her blood will arouse the hunger of a blind, sad dragon.

Sunfyre bathes Rhaenyra in flames before feasting on her still shrieking body. According to the maesters, Sunfyre consumed Rhaenyra in six bites while her son watched. The bits the dragon didn’t like, mostly a few pieces of her left leg, were eventually buried beneath the Great Sept of Baelor in King’s Landing when it was built.

In fact, you’ve already heard this story before. Below is a clip of Jack Gleason’s reliably nasty Joffrey Baratheon from Game of Thrones’ third season giggling at Rhaenyra’s tragic fate.

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So it is written, so it will be. Last night showed a young and giddy Rhaenyra enjoying life and taking what is hers. Yet the visual storytelling of the hour suggests the Auriga slave in Roman history. During the days of that ancient republic, when generals and leaders were celebrated with the grandest of Roman Triumphs, there always remained the Auriga, who would stand by the hero of the hour to whisper, “Memento Mori.” Remember, you will die.