February 8, 2023

All through Daenerys Targaryen’s rise to energy in Recreation of Thrones, the specter of her father, the Mad King Aerys, looms giant. In the midst of the sequence, as Daenerys experiences setbacks and successes in her quest for the Iron Throne, quite a few characters, from Barristan Selmy to Tyrion Lannister to Varys to Jon Snow, query whether or not she is going to in the end exhibit greatness or succumb to the genetically predisposed insanity of her line.

Equally, Home of the Dragon makes use of the reminiscence of a previous king identified for his brutality and cruelty to tell the characterization of one in all its central characters, Prince Daemon. The repeated invocations of King Maegor the Merciless in relation to Daemon all through the sequence aren’t any accident. However who precisely was Maegor the Merciless, and what’s the present making an attempt to say about Daemon by creating this hyperlink between the 2?

The abomination on the Iron Throne

Photograph: Ollie Upton/HBO

Maegor the Merciless was son of Aegon the Conqueror and the third Targaryen ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. Like his descendant Daemon, he was a second son, along with his elder half-brother Aenys the inheritor to Aegon’s throne. The place Aenys took to cerebral pursuits, Maegor was extra of a jock. When he turned 13, his mom Visenya gifted him her Valyrian metal sword Darkish Sister, and he was knighted by his father on the age of 16, making him the youngest knight within the realm on the time.

Regardless of their completely different proclivities, Aenys and Maegor received alongside effectively sufficient. When Aegon died, Aenys declared to his brother, “We will rule this realm collectively, you and I,” however in apply, Aenys alone was topped. Maegor did assist his brother (brutally) put down a number of rebellions and was named Hand of the King. But the brothers fell out over a wedding. After 13 childless years with Ceryse Hightower, Maegor determined to take a second spouse, an act which so affronted the Religion of the Seven and so upset the widespread folks that King Aenys gave him an ultimatum: Put aside his second spouse, or go into exile. Maegor selected exile.

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He returned when Aenys died all of a sudden, however slightly than bend the knee to Aenys’ inheritor, Maegor’s nephew Aegon, Maegor claimed the Iron Throne for himself. Ultimately, Aegon started rallying forces to press his declare, prompting Maegor to satisfy him in battle atop Balerion the Black Dread — the most important of the Targaryen dragons in Westeros. He slew his kin (and the true inheritor to the Iron Throne), incomes him the sobriquet “Maegor the Merciless,” in addition to a black mark as a Kinslayer, believed to be one of the cursed and dishonorable issues anybody in Westeros could possibly be.

Maegor’s battle with the church and his capability for cruelty escalated when he took a 3rd spouse, prompting a spiritual rebellion led by the Warrior’s Sons and the Religion Militant (the army arms of the church). The rebellion ended when Maegor used dragon hearth to burn the Sept of Remembrance and everybody inside it. He then ordered the development of the Dragonpit the place the church as soon as stood. In different construction-based atrocities, Maegor celebrated the completion of the Crimson Maintain by throwing a large three-day feast for everybody who labored on its development; when the feast ended, he executed all the employees to make sure he could be the one one with full data of its many hidden chambers and secret passageways.

Maegor’s rule of six years and 66 days concluded when his grotesque and mysterious loss of life launched one of many nice city legends of the Seven Kingdoms. It ended because it existed, drenched in blood.

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Maegor reborn

Photograph: Ollie Upton/HBO

Simply because the Mad King looms over Daenerys all through Recreation of Thrones, Maegor is held up as a comp to Prince Daemon, in methods each apparent and refined, all through Home of the Dragon. In episode 1, Otto Hightower overtly warns that naming Daemon inheritor dangers giving the realm one other Maegor the Merciless. A lot of that sentiment arises from Otto operating his personal lengthy recreation to achieve management over the road of succession, however there are kernels of reality underscoring the comparability that helps it resonate.

Like Maegor, Daemon is a second son, and like Maegor, his declare to the throne is usurped by his brother’s youngster. Each wielded Darkish Sister. Each achieved army fame and glory combating pirates within the Stepstones. Each are thought of warriors in comparison with their extra bookish brothers. And each had been exiled by their kingly brothers for his or her transgressions. However regardless of Otto’s assertions, Maegor stays extra of a worst-case state of affairs for Daemon’s development than a mirrored image of who he’s when Home of the Dragon begins.

By episode 2, nonetheless, Daemon is seemingly leaning into the comparability for his personal ends: Exiled from courtroom, squatting on Dragonstone, determined for his brother’s consideration, he steals a dragon egg for his unborn youngster through a girl he proclaims he intends to marry — even supposing he’s already married to a unique girl. Whereas it’s the dragon egg which in the end lights the spark below Viserys, Daemon’s (in the end false) declaration of his intent to take a second spouse instantly calls to thoughts Maegor’s historical past with polygamy and the way in which his want to marry and marry once more led to vital struggles with the church and large bloodshed all through the realm. The standoff at Dragonstone represents Daemon at arguably his most Maegor-like but.

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A screenshot from HBO’s House of the Dragon. Rhaenyra is holding her arms behind her back and looking up at Daemon, who is holding his hand out to inspect the necklace he gave her, which she is wearing.

Photograph: Ollie Upton/HBO

Whereas Home of the Dragon is amplifying the Maegor/Daemon comparability — the Dragonstone standoff is sort of completely a creation of the present, including heightened drama and cinematic panache to what’s a fast apart in Hearth & Blood — showrunners Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik are in the end selecting up on what George R.R. Martin put down, because the parallels between Maegor and Daemon come from the textual content of the e book itself. Identical to the showrunners, Martin clearly needs readers to carry Maegor of their minds as they examine Daemon (and readers of Hearth & Blood know the Maegor/Daemon comps aren’t executed but), to fret alongside Otto Hightower and the remainder of the realm that Daemon is leaning too far into that comparability.

Fortunately, Rhaenyra is ready to defuse the state of affairs in episode 2 — and Daemon proves himself higher than his great-grand uncle when he doesn’t strike down his niece, the individual elevated above him within the line of succession. In episode 4, Daemon returns to courtroom and patches issues up with Viserys, solely to be thrown out once more after being caught practically hooking up with Rhaenyra (vital to notice: one in all Maegor’s six wives was his niece). However the story of Daemon Targaryen isn’t over, and the specter of Maegor will proceed to loom over him as he strikes deeper into the Dance of the Dragons.

Identical to the narrative stress created by the query of which approach Daenerys’ coin would land, Home of the Dragon is invoking the reminiscence of the cruelest Targaryen ruler to tease the worst-case state of affairs for Daemon’s character arc.