The three-plus-year drought of Game of Thrones-related content is finally coming to a close, as HBO’s prequel series House of the Dragon is set to premiere toward the end of August. It will chronicle the beginning of the end of the Targaryen dynasty in Westeros, leading both the family and the dragons they brought to become endangered.
Emilia Clarke’s portrayal of Daenerys Targaryen on Game of Thrones undoubtedly made her and her character a fantasy icon alongside the likes of Jon Snow and, despite a controversial close to the show, had one of the most engrossing character arcs. From the birth of her three draconic sons to her explosive arrival in Westeros, these are some of the best Daenerys-themed episodes worth revisiting before House of the Dragon‘s premiere.
Winter is Coming (season 1, episode 1)
The series premiere of Game of Thrones was a fairly raw opening on all accounts. Winter is Coming set the stage for how gripping and relentless this dark-fantasy epic would be. It introduces all the key players — at the time — and starts to set them up on the gritty playing board.
That goes for Daenerys’ story opening in Essos, alongside her sadistic brother Viserys Targaryen and their exiled companion Jorah Mormont. It’s a powerful episode that begins with her being unwillingly sold to the Dothraki warlord Khal Drogo. Even if her story here is hard to stomach at times, it sets up the cruelty of the world and how Daenerys would come to navigate it throughout the series.
A Golden Crown (season 1, episode 6)
By the time of A Golden Crown, it becomes satisfying to see Daenerys progressively learn to turn her grim situation into a source and position of strength. The season continues to tease the character’s greater purpose with the supposedly petrified dragon eggs, and just as satisfying as her growth in this episode is Viserys’ continually waning power, petty frustration, and ultimate demise.
The sight of Daenerys eating a horse’s heart is equal parts grotesque and strangely empowering, with the once-scorned wife winning over a whole room’s worth of a barbaric warrior tribe’s members. The perfect close comes as she stands up to her cruel brother and Jason Mamoa’s imposing Khal Drogo gives Viserys the “golden crown” he so craved.
Fire and Blood (season 1, episode 10)
Daenerys and the rest of the Khalasar tribe are in increasingly dire straits following Drogo’s vegetative state, with the maegi unable to bring him back through dark magic. After mercy-killing Drogo, she walks into the scorching pyre that she used to send off her late husband and kill the maegi that put him in this state.
Fire and Blood was a perfect way to close Game of Thrones‘ first season, and, especially after episode 9 with Ned Stark’s death, showed that this series doesn’t play it safe. Seeing Daenerys rise out of the pyre’s ashes the following morning with her three baby dragons in tow is undoubtedly one of her most iconic moments of the entire series and gave a glimpse to her growing power that would fully develop in later seasons.
And Now His Watch Is Ended (season 3, episode 4)
Season 2 of Game of Thrones saw Daenerys stumble more often than not as she was still growing into her leadership role, but season 3 brought another one of her most powerful moments during And Now His Watch Is Ended. The episode sees her negotiate with a slave trader and ruler of Astapor for his Unsullied army, with the trader insulting her in High Valyrian thinking her none the wiser.
It takes a thrilling turn when Daenerys talks back in perfect High Valyrian, swindling the slaver into freeing the Unsullied and turning him into a charred corpse with Drogon’s dragon fire. It was one of her biggest — and most successful — power plays in the series.
The Dance of Dragons (season 5, episode 9)
Daenerys falters even more in her quest to become the future Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, as her time in Mereen was marred with problems. The controversial — and bloody — approach she took against slavers, the faults in the system once some suggested slavery be reinstated, and the bloodthirsty Sons of the Harpy ravaging the city in retaliation was a perfect storm of mayhem.
The Dance of Dragons crescendoed with a hectic all-out fight against the Harpies when she reopened the fighting pits. It was a true spectacle of an episode, complete with Drogon torching the assassins and Daenerys’ council fighting in support.
Book of the Stranger (season 6, episode 4)
In season 6, the new Kal of the Dothraki comes back to haunt Daenerys when it was thought that they were no longer a part of her journey. Following her and Drogon’s daring escape from the chaotic fighting pits of Mereen, the new Dothraki horde kidnaps Daenerys to force her to live out her days imprisoned with the rest of the widows.
However, in another defiant act during Book of the Stranger, she sets the temple on fire, kills her Khal kidnappers, and emerges from the flames unscathed. It’s a great parallel to the season 1 finale, setting her up for her journey to Westeros. And similarly to the Unsullied accepting her of their own accord, so does the Dothraki.
The Queen’s Justice — Season 7, Episode 3
With Game of Thrones being famous for its compelling branching storylines, one of the most highly-anticipated moments was finally seeing Daenerys Targaryen meet Jon Snow — who, unbeknownst to either of them, is actually Aegon Targaryen VI. It finally happened in The Queen’s Justice, after Daenerys reclaimed Dragonstone as her new base of operations.
Jon agrees to meet her in an attempt to gain her support against the impending Night King and his White Walker army, but Daenerys wants him to relinquish the King in the North title and agree to support her claim to the Iron Throne. It’s an expectedly tense meeting, but no less engaging. Many of the show’s strongest moments were in its intense dialogue-driven interactions, and their dynamic was palpable if brief — as well as the romantic tension.
The Spoils of War (season 7, episode 4)
Season 7 leaned more into spectacles in part due to its heightened pacing of seven episodes, but as far as spectacles go, The Spoils of War delivered a suitably gripping one. After Jaime Lannister gathers his forces to battle against Daenerys and those who support her claim to the Iron Throne, she ends up taking the fight to him with Drogon. It’s another explosive show of power, with Daenerys and her favorite son laying waste to Jaime’s army with dragon fire.
The Spoils of War shows more of her shakiness in being a suitable leader for Westeros, and it would have made for another stepping stone to her descent into madness had the showrunners fleshed seasons 7 and 8 out with 10 episodes. Likewise, another season or two could have completed her arc to make the “Mad Queen” ending convincing as opposed to what season 8 rushed to deliver.
HBO’s House of the Dragon premieres on August 21st on both the cable network and HBO Max, and Game of Thrones is available now on both of the network’s platforms as well.