How House of the Dragon Changes Aegon’s Succession From the Books

The following contains spoilers for House of the Dragon Season 1, Episode 9 “The Green Council,” which debuted Sunday, Oct. 16 on HBO.

House of the Dragon crowns Aegon Targaryen as King of Westeros in Season 1, Episode 9, “The Green Council.” He has usurped Rhaenyra Targaryen and been forced upon the Iron Throne by his family and the snakes of King’s Landing. While the HBO series made a huge spectacle of Aegon and his ascension, George R.R. Martin’s book Fire & Blood told a milder tale. The exaggerations of the TV show add a tremendous amount of depth to the story.

Fire & Blood told the history of House Targaryen across hundreds of years. A large portion of the book was dedicated to the Dance of the Dragons — yet very little of that is about Aegon taking the Iron Throne. While it was a significant event and the final straw that started the war, the actual ceremony was tame. Aegon took the crown and began his rule without a dragon bursting out of the pit. Here are the other ways House of the Dragon deviated from its source material to improve upon it.

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The Coronation of Aegon II

After Viserys’ death, the Green Council immediately begins scheming. Their meeting becomes a fight over who can control Aegon and people are sent to find the young prince. Aegon is an awful person and lacks any desire to rule. Yet what is more prevalent in House of the Dragon than in Fire & Blood is how much his brother Aemond despises him. Aemond believes himself to be a better fit for the Throne and is even given the chance to take it from Aegon in the series. In the book, Aegon became eager to rule and insisted upon his coronation, while Aemond said very little about the succession.

Another major departure from Fire & Blood is the part that Rhaenys Targaryen plays in the coronation ceremony. Rhaenys is held captive by the unwittingly powerless Alicent Hightower and her Greens as a way of preventing Rhaenyra from finding out about Aegon’s coronation. In Fire & Blood, Rhaenys was quietly taken out of King’s Landing and made it back to Dragonstone. House of the Dragon gives Rhaenys a much more dramatic, if not confusing, exit — she bursts through the Dragonpit and kills hundreds of civilians. Rhaenys stares down Alicent and Aegon on the back of Meleys before fleeing the city. Her decision to leave the Greens alive directly leads to the Dance of the Dragons.

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House of the Dragon’s Changes Have Benefits and Drawbacks

The changes made with Aegon and Aemond are wonderful for House of the Dragon. Aegon is more self-aware; he knows that he would be a terrible King and that he should leave King’s Landing forever. This makes Aegon more sympathetic and almost tragic. Aemond desires the Throne, he desires power and House of the Dragon reinforces those aspects of his character.

Conversely, Rhaenys’ role at the coronation may have been visually wonderful, but it creates major story issues. There is no logical reason as to why she wouldn’t kill the Greens. They hid Viserys’ death, usurped Rhaenyra and the Velaryons’ power and tried to keep her prisoner. Her actions make no sense and weaken the start of the war.

Fire & Blood told a compelling history of the Targaryen dynasty, but the book left room for interpretation. House of the Dragon is taking full advantage of that fact and working to flesh out characters further. Seeing more of Aegon’s desire to not rule versus Aemond’s desire to rule creates a better understand of what is happening among the Greens. Making changes for television can have its advantages, even with an author as popular as George R.R. Martin.

New episodes of House of the Dragon air Sundays at 9:00 p.m. on HBO and stream on HBO Max.

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