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The Blacks vs. Greens in 'House of the Dragon,' explained: Who has the edge?

Princess Rhaenyra and her allies face off against Queen Alicent, her son Aegon II and more in the Dance of the Dragons.
House of Dragon cast
When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.Liza Evseeva / NBC News
/ Source: TODAY

War is finally here.

What began as a slow yet satisfying burn in HBO’s “House of the Dragon” series, harking back to the earlier seasons of “Game of Thrones," has metastasized into a clash of epic proportions between two factions: the Blacks and the Greens, with main characters and their children all involved.

The Dance of the Dragons, the civil war over who will succeed King Viserys I Targaryen and sit upon the Iron Throne, has officially begun with the rapidly unfolding events following the king's death.

Viserys the Peaceful, as he is now christened by Otto Hightower, allowed conflict in the realm to fester. He named his freewheeling firstborn daughter, Rhaenyra, as his heir when she is just 8 years old (in the book, 14 in the show), putting a tremendous weight on the child in a patriarchal, hostile environment. A bit later, he took her best friend, dutiful Alicent Hightower, as his new wife, and had four children with her. 

Paddy Considine, who portrayed the piteous monarch, turned in a masterful performance across Viserys’ decadeslong decline, from his hellbent desire for a male heir to his ruinous but touching devotion to Rhaenyra. Pair that with his flaccid attempt to appease everyone and his last-ditch effort to set things right, about 20 years too late, and you have one of the most tragic figures of the Seven Kingdoms. (Hand this man an Emmy already!)

Paddy Considine plays the tragic King Viserys, the First of His Name, in HBO's "House of the Dragon."
Paddy Considine plays the tragic King Viserys, the First of His Name, in HBO's "House of the Dragon."HBO

In one of the season’s finest scenes yet, Viserys’ dinner — aka the Last Supper, which served as an inspiration for the showrunners here — we see all the key players sitting together, peacefully, for one last time. There are moments of levity, tension and — a foolish thought for any “Game of Thrones” fan — hope. Yes, there’s a brief moment when we think disaster might be averted. 

But nothing is quite that simple in George R.R. Martin’s worlds. “The only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself,” the author of “A Song of Ice and Fire” said in an episode of the official “Game of Thrones” podcast, paraphrasing the writer William Faulkner

Here’s a look at some of those conflicts of the heart, played out on a grander scale, and a breakdown of whether Team Black or Team Green has the edge during the war (and the coming seasons).

Note: This article discusses plotlines and characters through the first season of “House of the Dragon.”

Who are the Greens and the Blacks in the Dance of the Dragons?

The Greens represent the party of Queen Alicent, who grows from a rule-abiding child into an independent and defiant woman, as symbolized by her grand entrance in a green gown at Rhaenyra and Laenor’s wedding feast in the fifth episode. 

Olivia Cooke as Queen Alicent in "House of the Dragon" wearing the requisite green.
Olivia Cooke as Queen Alicent in "House of the Dragon" wearing the requisite green.HBO

“Green is the color the Hightower burns when they call their banners to war,” whispers Larys Strong, referencing the seat of House Hightower in Oldtown, whose motto is “We Light the Way,” which also happens to be the name of the episode.

Alicent and her father, Otto Hightower, install Prince Aegon II as the new king — despite his many deficiencies and lack of ambition. Alicent, who by the eighth episode is an ardent follower of the religion called the Faith of the Seven, knows her eldest son is an "imbecile," as she calls him before his coronation. Yet she misinterprets the last words of Viserys, who mistakes her for Rhaenyra on his deathbed, to mean she must ensure Aegon is king to unite the realm.

(In the ninth episode, we also learn that there is a coup within a coup, as Otto Hightower and some members of the small council have already made plans to install Aegon as king — Viserys' dying wish or not — behind Alicent's back, causing a rift between the two.)

The Blacks represent the faction supporting Princess Rhaenyra’s claim to the throne. When Viserys declared her his heir decades earlier, he had the lords of the great houses swear fealty to her. How many of those men will break their word?

The Blacks' name comes in part from House Targaryen’s colors, black and red, as shown on the three-headed dragon sigil (in the book, Rhaenyra also wore the colors black and red at a feast celebrating the fifth wedding anniversary of Viserys and Alicent, resulting in the factions' names).

Later, Aegon II will choose a gold dragon as his personal sigil, matching the color of his dragon, Sunfyre.

It’s worth paying attention to what colors people are wearing in the show, as it could hint as to which side someone might be leaning toward (though many characters wear black in general). Princess Rhaenys, for example, wore black in the pivotal scene in the Throne Room, where she threw her support behind Rhaenyra and betrothed her granddaughters to Rhaenyra’s sons.

Which side has the dragon advantage?

HBO

Dragons are the ultimate weapons in this war. So it's no surprise that Daemon, ever strategizing, is collecting dragon eggs from one of Syrax’s clutches at the start of the eighth episode. More dragons and dragonriders mean a greater chance for success. 

There are 17 dragons alive at the time of "House of the Dragon," and we'll see nine of them in the first season, showrunner Miguel Sapochnik told the website Empire.

Team Black has the advantage not only in terms of dragon numbers but also their base, Dragonstone, is a volcanic island that provides a hot environment preferred by the creatures (and their eggs).

Still, don't count the Greens out. Vhagar is the largest living dragon, and she's under the control of Aemond, one of the show's most unpredictable, vindictive characters. While size matters, it’s not everything when it comes to dragon battles. As demonstrated in Aemond’s first flight, Vhagar is so huge that taking off is an awkward endeavor. But once in the air, she’s pretty much a tank with wings. The younger dragons are smaller and nimbler, which can become a strategic advantage.

Here's the dragon lineup so far.

Greens: 3

Blacks: 6

  • Syrax (Rhaenrya), Caraxes (Daemon), Meleys (Rhaenys), Vermax (Jacaerys), Tyraxes (Joffrey), Moondancer (Baela)
  • TBD/unclaimed: Seasmoke (Laenor’s former dragon), Vermithor, Silverwing, plus three wild dragons (plus, Rhaena has yet to claim one)
  • Deceased: Arrax

Who are the Blacks' and Greens' key allies?

Sonoya Mizuno as Mysaria.
Sonoya Mizuno as Mysaria.Liam Daniels / HBO

Both sides appear to have a shadowy figure taking care of underhanded business. For the Greens, we’ve already seen Larys Strong’s dirty work, killing his own father and brother. By the ninth episode, we see him lurking in the shadows, informing on Alicent's handmaiden, Talya, and telling the queen about the network of spies throughout the Red Keep. Cue a fire burning at what appears to be Mysaria's residence. Larys' price? It's mainly a bid for power — and to satisfy his foot fetish.

Despite the fire, don't count out Daemon’s former lover, who is now a mistress of whispers, with eyes and ears in the castle. Mysaria has nabbed Aegon before Otto Hightower or the queen can get to him. Although it's hard to get past the White Worm's bizarre accent (Sonoya Mizuno, the British actor who plays her, doesn't sound like that in everyday life and in other roles), she serves as a reminder to the power players that their rule comes from the masses.

On the small council, Lord Lyman Beesbury, the aging master of coin, makes a passionate plea to uphold Viserys' long-held wish to see Rhaenyra take the throne. He boldly speaks out against the Greens' coup, leaving many, myself included, moved by his desire to do what is right. He is immediately killed by Ser Criston Cole. Beesbury is the first official casualty of the Dance of the Dragons.

Firmly on Team Green, we now have, Jasper Wylde, master of laws, and Tyland Lannister, master of ships, who no doubt still feels the sting of Rhaenyra rejecting his twin brother, Jason, all those years ago. Maester Orwyle, though less vocal than the others, can also be considered on the side of the Greens. I'm sure Beesbury's bleeding head, right next to him, had some influence.

Lord Beesbury wears black and red at the small council.
Lord Beesbury wears black and red at the small council.Liam Daniels / HBO

And then there's poor Lord Caswell, who serves as this season's cautionary tale. These characters usually end up with their heads on spikes somewhere, or in this case, Caswell is imprisoned and endures death by hanging.

Lord Caswell wears black.
Lord Caswell wears black.Liam Daniels / HBO

The show introduced twins Ser Erryk and Ser Arryk Cargyll, in an offhand way, with Alicent mistaking one for the other. The brothers, both members of the Kingsguard, are indeed meant to be almost indistinguishable, physically.

Erryk and Arryk, or is it Arryk and Erryk? Who can say?
Erryk and Arryk, or is it Arryk and Erryk? Who can say?Liam Daniels / HBO

We see their split emerge in the ninth episode, when they search for Aegon in Flea Bottom on the orders of Otto Hightower. Erryk shows disgust over Aegon's degenerate ways, expressing doubts over his sworn oath to protect the king; he leaves Arryk alone to fight Criston as they battle over who gains custody of the prince.

Erryk runs off to free Princess Rhaenys, who eventually escapes on the back of her dragon, Meleys. With identical twins on opposite sides, we can expect great levels of deception are in store.

In more neutral territory, we have Ser Harrold Westerling, who refused to serve Aegon II, roaming about somewhere.

The thing about alliances, though? They’re never set in stone.

Which side has more resources and manpower?

Strategically, the Greens are better placed in King's Landing. They’re the first to know of Viserys’ death, and their central location means they can influence others more readily with face-to-face contact with the lords of the realm. They can also sway the hearts and minds of the masses, whether with carrots or sticks. And the Greens, at the seat of power, have the power of the purse and control over other resources.

However, Rhaerya’s alliance with Rhaenys means the Blacks have Driftmark’s tremendous sea power and wealth at their disposal. And from the earlier part of the season, we know that Daemon created the gold cloaks, the City Watch of King’s Landing, who were devoted to him. It's been some years, but his influence and charisma are key assets for the Blacks.

What key players for the Blacks and Greens have died so far?

Greens: Vaemond Velaryon

Blacks: Lucerys Velaryon and his dragon, Arrax; Visenya Targaryen (stillborn), Lyman Beesbury; Lord Caswell; Lyonel Strong; Harwin Strong, Laenor Velaryon (he’s alive but likely in Essos; could he come back?)

Recovered: Corlys Velaryon

Stay tuned for Season Two!