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‘House of the Dragon’ characters, explained: Meet all the Targaryens and more

Keeping up with the Targaryens could be a part-time job.

Drawing from George R.R. Martin's fantasy novels, this post contains likely spoilers for the show "House of the Dragon."

"House of the Dragon," a prequel to HBO's hit series "Game of Thrones," premiered on HBO and HBO Max on Aug. 21. The series takes place 200 years before the events of "Game of Thrones," a time when House Targaryen ruled Westeros.

"House of the Dragon" tracks the lead-up and aftermath of the Targaryen civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons, making the Targaryens — Daenerys' distant relatives — the undeniable focal point of the show.

That said, the show also features characters adjacent to the Targaryens who become integral to the action, like Alicent Hightower, played by Olivia Cooke.

Based on George R.R. Martin's novel "Fire & Blood," the new series will — like its predecessor — show characters battling for their right to rule. Once again, anyone can be tossed into the pits of dragon fire. And this time, there are multiple dragons.

We drew up a roster to help you keep track, based on George R.R. Martin's books. We'll be updating this character guide as the episodes wind on.

Who's who in the Targaryen family of 'House of the Dragon'

King Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine)

Paddy Considine as King Viserys Targaryen.
Paddy Considine as King Viserys Targaryen.Courtesy HBO

King Viserys is the fifth Targaryen king. He ascends to the Iron Throne after the death of his grandfather, King Jaehaerys I Targaryen. Viserys, the eldest son of Jaehaerys' son Baelon, was selected by the Great Council to be king.

In Martin's books, Viserys is 26 when he ascends to the throne. Rhaenyra, his sole surviving child with Queen Aemma, is 6.

At first, Viserys is determined to produce a male heir who can succeed him, but then he devises a plan to uproot the order of succession entirely: He will prepare his daughter, Princess Rhaenyra, to be queen.

Viserys is a dragonrider who rides the dragon Balerion. 

Where you've seen Paddy Considine before: "The Journeyman," "In America," "Dead Man’s Shoes," "The Bourne Ultimatum."

Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith)

Matt Smith as Prince Daemon Targaryen.
Matt Smith as Prince Daemon Targaryen.Courtesy HBO

Daemon Targaryen is the undeniable fox in the Targaryen henhouse. The younger brother of King Viserys Targaryen, Daemon considers himself Viserys' heir. Daemon wields the Valyrian steel sword Dark Sister and is thought to be the type of Targaryen with a dangerous streak. Daemon's dragon is Caraxes.

Where you've seen Matt Smith before: "Doctor Who," "The Crown," "Last Night in Soho," "Morbius"

Princess Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best)

Eve Best as Princess Rhaenys Targaryen.
Eve Best as Princess Rhaenys Targaryen.Courtesy HBO

Rhaenys is better known as "The Queen Who Never Was." She could have been heir to the throne, but life's drawn her, uh, no stick at all. Her chance to ascend to the Iron Throne is ultimately scorched to bits.

Here's what happened: Rhaenys' father was Prince Aemon Targaryen, Prince of Dragonstone, and the third-born child of King Jaehaerys I Targaryen. When Aemon unexpectedly died, Jaehaerys had to choose a new heir.

His options? A pregnant Rhaenys or Aemon's younger brother Baelon. Jaehaerys decided to appoint Baelon the new Prince of Dragonstone. When Baelon died, Viserys took his place in the line of succession. Essentially, Rhaenys could have been queen, but her dad died before her grandfather did.

Rhaenys is married to Lord Corlys Velaryon. They share two children: a daughter named Laena Velaryon (Savannah Steyn) and a son named Laenor Velaryon (John MacMillan).

Her dragon is Meleys.

Where you've seen Eve Best before: "The King's Speech," "Nurse Jackie," "Fate: The Winx Saga."

Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D’arcy and Milly Alcock)

Emma D'arcy as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen.
Emma D'arcy as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen.Courtesy HBO

The only child of King Viserys and Queen Aemma, Princess Rhaenyra grows up believing she will be the queen of Westeros.

This belief ends up fueling much of the plot of Martin's book "Fire & Blood" and the series: Both center around the Targaryen succession crisis. When Viserys dies, Rhaenyra believes herself to be the rightful heir to the throne, as does Aegon, Viserys' son with Alicent Hightower.

Rhaenyra rides her dragon, Syrax, during the Dance of the Dragons.

Where you’ve seen Milly Alcock before: Australian shows like "Upright," "The Gloaming," "Reckoning."

Where you’ve seen Emma D'arcy (young Rhaenyra) before: “Mothering Sunday," "Truth Seekers," "Misbehaviour."

Meet the characters outside of the Targaryen bloodline

Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans)

Rhys Ifans as Otto Hightower.
Rhys Ifans as Otto Hightower.Courtesy HBO

Otto is the Hand of the King, serving both King Viserys and the realm. He occupies the same role that Ned Stark did in "Game of Thrones." Otto is suspicious of Prince Daemon's pursuit of the throne. His goal is to create a pathway for his daughter, Alicent, to rise to power.

Where you've seen Rhys Ifans before: "Notting Hill," "Snowden," "The Amazing Spider-Man."

Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey, Olivia Cooke)

Olivia Cooke as Alicent Hightower.
Olivia Cooke as Alicent Hightower.Courtesy HBO

Alicent is Otto Hightower's daughter and is considered the most "comely" woman in Westeros, per HBO. In the book, Alicent marries King Viserys when Princess Rhaenyra is 9, and they are initially close.

Their relationship is strained by both women's ambitions for control of the Iron Throne. Alicent has two sons with King Viserys. But Rhaenyra, the king's eldest child, is still in the line of succession.

Where you've seen Olivia Cooke before: "Bates Motel," "Vanity Fair," "Life Itself."

Where you've seen Emily Carey (young Alicent) before: "Anastasia," "The Lost Girls"

Lord Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint)

Steve Toussaint as Lord Corlys Velaryon.
Steve Toussaint as Lord Corlys VelaryonCourtesy HBO

Nicknamed the Sea Snake, Corlys is the lord of House Velaryon and is known for his knack for nautical adventures. Like the Targaryens, members of House Velaryon are of Valyrian descent, giving them silver-hued hair.

Corlys, married to Princess Rhaenys Targaryen, is father to Laena and Laenor.

Where you've seen Steve Toussaint before: "Pine Gap," "Doctor Who," "Line of Duty," "Death in Paradise."

Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno)

Sonoya Mizuno as Mysaria.
Sonoya Mizuno as Mysaria.Courtesy HBO

Mysaria is a dancer from Lys, a city in Essos, who becomes Daemon Targaryen's trusted ally and mistress.

Where you've seen Sonoya Mizuno before: "Ex Machina," "Annihilation" and "Crazy Rich Asians."

Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel)

Fabien Frankel as Ser Criston Cole.
Fabien Frankel as Ser Criston Cole.Courtesy HBO

Ser Criston Cole is Lord Commander of the Kingsguard who serves Viserys I Targaryen.

Where you've seen Fabien Frankel before: "The Serpent," "Last Christmas."