Warning: Contains SPOILERS for Fire & Blood, the book on which House of the Dragon is based.A House of the Dragon season 2 reveal about Rhaenyra Targaryen teases not only big things to come for that run of episodes, but an even more important storyline for season 3 of the Game of Thrones prequel. House of the Dragon season 2’s story will see the Dance of the Dragons begin in earnest, following on from Aemond Targaryen killing Lucerys Velaryon at the end of the season 1. That means things will seriously escalate between the greens and the blacks, and that includes how the former side sees Rhaenyra Targaryen.
Rhaenyra will be called “Rhaenyra the Cruel” in King’s Landing, with the nickname revealed in a House of the Dragon season 2 set video. The term comes as a reference to King Maegor I Targaryen, aka Maegor the Cruel, widely regarded as one of the worst and most despicable Kings in Westeros history.
With the blacks and greens in the midst of a war that will leave countless dead, as well as House of the Dragon‘s Blood & Cheese story happening early (which she is being blamed for in the set video), then such nicknames and propaganda from the greens make sense, but are only the beginning.
“Rhaenyra The Cruel” Sets Up Her Taking King’s Landing In House Of The Dragon S3
The Rhaenyra the Cruel nickname is not taken directly from Fire & Blood, but does reference part of Rhaenyra’s story. When Rhaenyra takes King’s Landing and the Iron Throne from the greens in the book, the smallfolk initially welcome her return, having held little love for King Aegon II Targaryen. However, with the war ongoing and the blacks needing money, Rhaenyra imposes extreme new tax measures on King’s Landing’s residents, leading the people to turn against her. Rhaenyra eventually became known as “King Maegor with teats,” similarly after Maegor the Cruel, and it seems as though her season 2 nickname is laying the early groundwork for that.
With Rhaenyra already being deemed “cruel” in House of the Dragon season 2, then it suggests the smallfolk turning against her after she takes the Iron Throne could happen more quickly in season 3. Her re-taking King’s Landing, which she does with the strength of her and Daemon’s dragons as much as her army – with green forces elsewhere – will likely happen early in season 3, and it could then move quickly into the people disliking her and the riots in King’s Landing that leads to. With House of the Dragon season 2 already having fewer episodes, then further expediting some future events seems possible.
Just How Cruel Will Rhaenyra Actually Be In House Of The Dragon?
While she may be called Rhaenyra the Cruel in some quarters, there is a question over just how deserving of that nickname she will be in House of the Dragon season 2 (and 3). Aemond killing Lucerys in House of the Dragon season 1’s ending certainly set up a darker version of the character, and one who now seems hell-bent on revenge by any means necessary rather than simply playing by the rules. Rhaenyra has nothing to do with Blood and Cheese in the book, but could be involved in the show, and likewise may be more heavily involved in the actual fighting during the Dance of the Dragons.
Rhaenyra sits out most of the actual fighting in the book, but her dragon, Syrax, is a valuable weapon, and she herself less the kind of character to simply sit by while others – especially her sons – put their lives in danger. With that, then Rhaenyra taking part in battles, and killing others, is more plausible. So, her partaking in some fiery vengeance could well lead to her actually becoming more cruel a person, but it could also be a continuation of how House of the Dragon twists Fire & Blood’s perspectives on history.
It has already given Rhaenyra more agency in the story and painted her in a far better light than the book does, and it may not actually risk its main character becoming too unlikable. Instead, it’s quite possible – perhaps even likely – that Rhaenyra the Cruel is a tactic from the greens used to turn people against her, but that she in truth is no more cruel than she was in season 1. The difference between truth or mere perception may not matter too much, though, in House of the Dragon seasons 2 and 3.