This week, House of the Dragon unveiled its sleek new opening credits sequence. After fans had grown used to the iconic Game of Thrones credits greeting them before every episode many were caught off guard when the premier of HotD appeared to buck that trend. However, as promised, the credit sequence has returned and there is a lot to discuss.
A low-quality version of the credit sequence leaked several hours before the second episode The Rogue Prince (of which you can find my review here); the initial online reaction was mixed with a lot of confusion as to what the credits represent. With Thrones, the intention and execution of the sequence were abundantly clear: each episode would introduce the key locations across the Westeros and Essos map that would feature across the season. It was an inspired concept that not only helped familiarise viewers with the broad geography of George RR Martin’s richly detailed world, but also contained significant details that laid the foundations for key story ideas. Namely, the sigils of the major houses as well as the ‘game board’ aesthetic as a nice thematic nod to the intricate political games that took place in the earlier seasons.
The credit sequence visualizes the Targaryen lineage: the “Blood of the Dragon”
The sequence features a stony landscape, beginning with an ornate circular icon that produces a pool of… you guessed it, blood. The sequence then follows the blood as it flows towards and between other similar icons. From broad consensus among fans, here is a breakdown of these icons and whom they each represent in the Targaryen family tree:
AEGON I (‘Aegon the Conqueror’)
The first icon shown in the credits produces the ‘bloodline’. Aegon was the first self-proclaimed King of all the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. I believe a depiction of his crown is shown at the bottom of this icon. The background itself likely depicts the dragons in Valyria, what the Targaryens fled from in coming across to Westeros.
Aegon’s sister-wife, Rhaenys was one of Aegon’s two siblings that conquered Westeros (the other is Visenya, whose icon is just barely visible at the bottom left of the above shot). The icon depicts Rhaenys’ legendary dragon Meraxes, who was impaled through the eye leading to Rhaenys’ own death.
AENYS I (‘King Abomination’)
Aegon’s son through Rhaenys who inherited the Iron Throne after his father died
JAEHERYS I (‘The Old King’)
Old King Jaeherys (lower icon) – seen in the opening prologue of House of the Dragon, was one of the last surviving descendants of Aenys. Marrying his sister Alysanne (top icon), the couple spawned thirteen (!) children, even if the HotD credits appear to reduce that number to nine in the web of bloodlines that flow from their union.
BAELON & ALYSSA
Shown only very briefly in the credit sequence, Baelon and Alyssa were siblings who had both died before Jaeherys. Their deaths factor into Jaeherys calling the Great Council to vote on his successor which, as we know by now, fell to Baelon and Alyssa’s eldest son:
VISERYS I (‘The Young King’)
Viserys (left) is portrayed by Paddy Considine in HotD. As book aficionados will point out, Viserys wore his grandfather’s crown, which is reflected here with Jaeherys’ icon showing the same crown as Viserys. To the right is Aemma Arryn, depicted with the crescent moon sigil of her house.
RHAENYRA (‘The Realm’s Delight’)
At this point in the show’s chronology, Rhaenyra has been named Viserys’ heir and so the Blood of the Dragon flows to her icon. The pattern matches that of the Valyrian steel necklace her uncle Daemon gifted her in the premier.
In Thrones, the credit sequence continually evolved as new places were introduced, before being completely revamped for Season 8 as the plot became more focused on the White Walker’s advance on Westeros. For people who are even vaguely familiar with the events of the Dance of Dragons, it shall be very interesting to see how this credit sequence evolves as the lineage of the Dragon is increasingly contested and disrupted.
Considering the entire sequence, I feel it is a very interesting choice that differentiates HotD as its own entity from Thrones. While Thrones’ graphics were a fitting amalgam of maps and game boards, HotD’s credits evoke the stonework of Valyria we later see in Viserys’ chambers:
Given how prominently the Targaryen’s mythology features the doomed civilization of Valyria, the image of the blood ebbing and flowing through this recreation is a very compelling creative decision for this credit sequence. I also really like the detail pointed out that ‘death’ is symbolized by the icons filling with blood, which explains why Viserys’ and Rhaenyra’s look different to the others.
That being said, there are a few points about this credit sequence I feel could have been improved. The most significant thing, for me, is the lack of names or other key identifiers that would definitively clarify whom each of the icons represents. In Thrones the names of each location were always clear and unobtrusive to the flow of the sequence. Given the rich history of the Targaryen family tree, why there could not be simple engraved names alongside each icon is a somewhat confusing omission. This becomes increasingly an issue when the credit sequence teases other bloodlines on the periphery of the stone sculpture:
The consensus among fans would indicate these are the links to the Velaryons and the Hightowers respectively, however, the lack of text really makes it hard to discern who these circles represent at such a distance.
Another general problem I have with the credit sequence ties is being unable to tell who is who: the editing and overall composition of the sequence. At times, the fast movement of the camera and the more frequent cuts make it far more difficult to be able to focus on each icon for more than a handful of seconds. I really wish this credit sequence could have had a slower pace that did not require the camera to very quickly track from one icon to the next. This also begs to question why the credit sequence could not have used a slower tune in lieu of the classic Thrones theme. The soundtrack’s leitmotif of The Prince That Was Promised – which plays over the final sequence of the premier – feels tailor-made to become the show’s core theme. It remains to be seen why a more fleshed-out rendition of that theme could not have worked better with a more detailed opening credit sequence. This would also have allowed for more nuanced details about the Targaryen lineage to be alluded to. The fact that Aegon’s firstborn Maegor (The Cruel) reigned between Aenys and Jaeherys is completely absent here, as is the allusion to Rhaenyra’s younger brother Baelon (‘The Heir for a Day’) who died shortly after his birth in the series premiere.
HotD’s new credit sequence leaves a fair amount to be desired, nevertheless, while it does not hit it out of the park on its debut as Thrones’ did, it is still an impressive VFX showcase that stylizes itself very differently from its predecessor.
Read a review of House of the Dragon: Episode 1 “The Heirs of the Dragon”.