House of the Dragon pulled off a streaming miracle on debut night while crashing servers at HBO Max, and there are already plenty of Defenders and Contenders for the throne. That fight will undoubtedly play out for multiple season, but in the meantime, there will be plenty of Game of Thrones callbacks. A few very pointed moments got things rolling in that direction, but the premiere episode also contained a quieter reference to the Westeros we’ve known before (or rather, after in the chronology) in the form of a Weirwood tree ^^^ at King’s Landing.
Hmm, that’s an unexpected but curious development. While Rhaenyra Targaryen and Alicent Hightower chattered together, that tree — with its distinctive carvings and bright red leaves — stood out in the background like an Old God’s thumb. As the George R. R. Martin-written lore dictates, those Weirwood trees were considered sacred to those who worshiped those gods, and the Children of the Forest are said to have carved faces into these trees. All of that is good and well, but the odd thing about this particular tree is that we never saw any Weirwood trees at King’s Landing during the events of Game of Thrones. And since the prequel takes place about 170 years before the flagship series, what gives?
As any Westeros devotee knows, the Weirwood trees carry plenty of significance, and there’s no way that this tree simply appeared as an unintentional detail like that Starbucks cup. The tree’s existence at King’s Landing was clearly deliberate and, given that it appears in the premiere episode, this could be a signal that it carries plenty of thematic heft for the seasons to come. It’s worth noting that the Weirwood tree at Winterfell was a place that coincided with Bran Stark’s greenseer visions. He could see the future and the past in conjunction with that tree, and as we already know, Bran ended up on the Iron Throne in the end, so that adds another layer.
Does this tree tell us that Rhaenyra does, in fact, end up on the Iron Throne (like Bran) in lockstep with her father’s declaration that she is the royal Targaryen heir? Perhaps. The tree’s might also clue us into a devastating event that leads the tree to no longer stand, long after it survived the Andal invasion that occurred thousands of years prior to (and after thousands of years of peace between the Children of the Forest and the First Men) the events of this HBO franchise. The timeline is a bit whack, I realize, but certainly, we’ll see some battles go down at King’s Landing as this show wears forth. I can only hope that these battles will be a lot more visible (to the streaming audience) than the famed “Battle of Winterfell.”
Then there’s the foreshadowing that occurred in House of the Dragon‘s exposition from King Viserys I, who told Princess Rhaenyra about the winter to come. The tree also evokes memories of the Night King’s Weirwood tree connections. He first underwent his transformation after being killed tied to one of the trees, and during the Battle of Winterfell, Arya Stark him with Valyrian steel (gifted to her by Bran) in nearly the same way he was “born” (by stabbing him right through the heart, although it initially occurred by way of dragonglass) in front of a Weirwood tree.
At the beginning of House of the Dragon, Prince Daemon gifts Rhaenyra with a Valyrian steel piece of jewelry. This may or may not have anything to do with the Weirwood tree reference, but it might not not have something to do with it. Regardless, it will be a joy to see how all of this connects as this event TV continues.
HBO’s ‘House of the Dragon’ airs on Sunday nights at 9:00pm EST.