HBO is bringing viewers back to the world of Westeros with the forthcoming premiere of its Game of Thrones prequel series, House of the Dragon. The new fantasy series takes place roughly 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones and focuses entirely on House Targaryen, the dragon-riding royal family that conquered Westeros and ruled over its various kingdoms for centuries before being ousted from power.
House of the Dragon’s premiere also comes a little over three years after Game of Thrones wrapped up its eight-season run on HBO. That means it’s been quite a long time since most viewers were exposed to the Targaryen lore that Game of Thrones frequently provided.
With that in mind, here are the six most important Targaryen-centric episodes of Game of Thrones that viewers should make time to rewatch ahead of House of the Dragon’s premiere this Sunday.
1. “Winter is Coming”
Where better to start your Targaryen-fueled Game of Thrones rewatch than from the beginning? While the series might have ended on a decidedly sour note, “Winter is Coming” still holds up as an exceptional introduction to Game of Thrones’ intricate fantasy world. Beyond that, the episode also effectively introduces Thrones’ central Targaryen character, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), as well as her arrogant and abusive brother, Viserys (Harry Lloyd).
Over the course of its runtime, “Winter is Coming” not only establishes the Targaryens’ pre-Thrones fall from power, but also the esteem with which many within the show’s world still view the once-royal family. In case that wasn’t enough, the episode also sees Clarke’s Daenerys receive three fossilized dragon eggs as a wedding gift, which both offers further insight into the Targaryens’ history and sets up the climactic moment of Game of Thrones’ Season 1 finale.
2. “A Golden Crown”
“A Golden Crown,” the sixth episode in the series, is one of Game of Thrones’ most important Daenerys Targaryen episodes.
More than anything, the iconic hour of television allows Dany to prove her fortitude, ambition, and ruthlessness in ways that she hadn’t been able to previously. Indeed, not only does she eat an entire horse heart as part of a Dothraki ritual early on in “A Golden Crown,” but she also makes her final stand against her brother, Viserys, before the episode’s credits have even begun to roll.
That latter moment also, notably, offers just a taste of the kind of violent, interfamilial Targaryen conflicts that will be at the center of House of the Dragon’s story.
3. “Fire and Blood”
Game of Thrones delivered plenty of iconic moments over the course of its time on the air, but few made quite as much of an impact as the final scene of its Season 1 finale, “Fire and Blood.”
For the most part, the episode is an incredibly difficult one for Daenerys. However, the character’s luck takes a turn for the better in the final third of “Fire and Blood,” which ends with Daenerys emerging from a funeral pyre unscathed and clutching three newborn baby dragons in her hands.
It’s the first moment in Game of Thrones’ run in which Daenerys truly begins to accrue the same kind of devotion and power as her Targaryen ancestors, some of whom will be featured prominently in House of the Dragon.
4. “And Now His Watch is Ended”
For a long time, there weren’t many characters on Game of Thrones who were capable of delivering the kind of purely cool, applause-worthy moments that Daenerys could. Nowhere is that more clear than in “And Now His Watch is Ended,” which climaxes with what might be the most ruthless and effective power play that Daenerys ever made on Game of Thrones.
Her victory over the slavers of Astapor in this Season 3 installment is also the first time in Game of Thrones that it becomes clear just how powerful Daenerys’ dragons can be. That’s an important fact to remember heading into House of the Dragon, a show that will find the Targaryens still at the height of their powers, thanks largely to their multiple dragons.
5. “The Dance of Dragons”
The penultimate episode of Game of Thrones Season 5 is worth revisiting for two specific scenes. The first is its climactic sequence, which sees Daenerys narrowly escape an assassination attempt on the back of her dragon Drogon. Their escape marks the first time that Daenerys rides on the back of a dragon in Game of Thrones, but viewers should expect to see similar sequences come much earlier in House of the Dragon, which boasts a cast comprised mostly of Dragonriders.
The episode’s second noteworthy scene, however, comes quite a bit earlier than Daenerys’ escape. The moment in question sees Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) sit down to have a conversation with his daughter, Shireen (Kerry Ingram). Their discussion, notably, begins with Shireen telling her father about “The Dance of Dragons,” a Targaryen civil war detailed in one of her books.
House of the Dragon is set to depict the Dance of the Dragons, which makes Shireen’s brief description of it an effective teaser for the upcoming Game of Thrones prequel.
6. “The Spoils of War”
This standout Season 7 episode is worth rewatching before House of the Dragon’s premiere for one fiery reason. We are, of course, talking about the episode’s climactic sequence, which sees Daenerys unleash a devastating ambush on the Lannister army.
There is no scene in Game of Thrones that better explains not only why the Targaryens were able to use their dragons to reshape the world in the first place, but also why nearly every other royal family in Westeros was so afraid to stand up to them for so long. Consequently, it offers some important historical context heading into House of the Dragon.
To its credit, the climactic sequence of “The Spoils of War” also remains one of the most purely thrilling and well-constructed action set pieces in television history. It’s just as effective today as it was when it first aired back in 2017. That is, assuming you’re able to ignore just how dirty Game of Thrones ultimately did Daenerys in its subsequent episodes.
House of the Dragon premieres Sunday, August 21 on HBO.