The Context of the Mad King Widens the Scope of 'House of the Dragon'

Jamie Lerner - Author

Aug. 22 2022, Published 1:16 p.m. ET

The Mad King in 'Game of Thrones'
Source: HBO

Winter came and went, and now, House of the Dragon is finally here. After a disappointing end to Game of Thrones, fans are hopeful for the future (or the past) thanks to HBO’s new prequel. The prequel begins by telling us that the events of House of the Dragon take place 172 years before the death of the Mad King and the birth of Daenerys Targaryen.

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While many House of the Dragon viewers likely watched Game of Thrones, some might not remember every detail, including who the Mad King is. And other new viewers of House of the Dragon may not have even seen Game of Thrones, which isn't a problem when it comes to watching the prequel series. So, who is the Mad King and what is his relevance to the new series?

Daenerys Targaryen in 'Game of Thrones'
Source: HBO
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The death of the Mad King kickstarted the events of ‘Game of Thrones.’

Game of Thrones began due to the death of the Mad King, who succumbed to his own madness due to generations of incest. His death left a vacancy on the throne for someone new to take over — enter Robert Baratheon. With his hand to the king, Ned Stark, the ensuing fight over who should sit on the Iron Throne became the catalyst for Game of Thrones.

Vaserys and Rhaenyra in 'House of the Dragon'
Source: HBO
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So, knowing that the Mad King died 172 years after the events in House of the Dragon gives us some context into where we are in the Targaryen bloodline. Not only that, but it clues us into what might happen, and what we might expect for the rest of House of the Dragon. Many of us know it follows House Targaryen, but now we also know that it will likely lead up to the death of the Mad King.

The Mad King, Daenerys Targaryen’s father, was the 16th member of House Targaryen to rule the Iron Throne.

King Aerys II Targaryen, nicknamed the Mad King and King Scab, was the final Targaryen to rule the Iron Throne before the “game of thrones” ensued. He was actually known as a benevolent and beloved king, but after he succumbed to his madness, all else fell to the wayside. In Game of Thrones, Danaerys’s ultimate demise was supposed to match that of her father; however, fans and critics felt there was little character development to justify her shift in attitude.

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Aerys fought valiantly for his father, Aegon V Targaryen, and won his right to the Iron Throne. However, as time passed, his madness made him paranoid about his hand to the king, Tywin Lannister, as well as his family members. The “Mad King” even knighted Jaime Lannister to spite Tywin. Eventually, Aerys II’s murderous sprees and delusions caught up with him.

Jaime Lannister stabs Mad King in 'House of the Dragon'
Source: HBO

The Stark, Tully, and Baratheon houses aligned to rebel against House Targaryen while Tywin Lannister led an army under the false pretense of defending the capital at King’s Landing. When the Mad King ordered Ser Jaime Lannister to bring him Tywin’s head, Jaime stabbed the Mad King in the back and cut his throat to end his reign.

Perhaps we’ll see all of this play out towards the end of House of the Dragon, which airs every Sunday at 9 p.m. EST on HBO.

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