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House Of The Dragon Is Reviving A Longtime Book Theory — And It's A Big One

I really don't trust anyone.

by Ani Bundel
Ollie Upton/HBO

Long before House of the Dragon was a gleam in HBO’s eye, readers of A Song of Ice and Fire studied the Targaryen empire’s collapse. Knowing that Aegon’s line was clinging to power due to the foreknowledge of the Night King, it seems even odder they lost control unless there was sabotage from within. Were the Maesters working against the Targaryens? House of the Dragon has hinted that may have been a factor.

Warning: Spoilers for House of the Dragon Season 1, Episode 4 follow. Google “The Grand Maester Conspiracy,” and you’ll find Reddit posts and ASOIAF forums dating back a good decade. These theories were first inspired in the mid-aughts when book four, A Feast For Crows, was released. It’s the first time fans got a look inside Oldtown and the Citadel and learn a critical piece of information: The Maesters are deeply, troublingly anti-magic.

Put that together with Game of Thrones spelling out the connection between magic in Westeros (and Essos) and dragons existing in the world. The next logical step is to realize the Maesters must have been anti-dragon during the era of Targaryen rule. Consider that their religion, the “New Gods” of The Seven, first rose to prominence under the control of the Andals, those overthrown by the Targaryens. Though the Targaryens did not try to snuff out worship of the Seven or the Maesters, they both lost power, including moving the capitol from Oldtown to King’s Landing.

Ollie Upton/HBO

So, the Maesters were never fans of the Dragon regime. But a generations-long conspiracy to wipe out dragons and overthrow Targaryen rule seems a bit of a stretch. However, House of the Dragon has been hinting the Maesters were instrumental in sowing dissent between the Targaryen factions. They pushed for a schism between the family, hoping to cause something like the Dance of Dragons, weakening the family (and their dragons) considerably. Taken with a few scenes in ASOIAF, cut from Game of Thrones, which suggests some in the Citadel believe the Maesters are responsible for the demise of dragons. It’s understandable where the paranoia comes from.

But whether or not there’s a larger conspiracy afoot doesn’t change that currently — the Maesters are working against the Targaryen crown. The first hint came in the show’s premiere when Otto Hightower was seen writing a mysterious letter and sending it to Oldtown in the hands of a Maester. Whatever the message is, it cannot be trusted to go by a regular courier and clearly meant for the Citadel. It is uncertain whether it’s about Viserys’ infections or Aemma’s weakened state.

Ollie Upton/HBO

However, Hightower is working with the Grand Maester to get his son on the throne, as evidenced by their conversation at the top of Episode 3. That’s not proof of a deep state conspiracy, for the record. The Hightower Family and the Maesters are super intertwined regarding holding power in Oldtown and supporting each other. Having a Hightower-backed King is in their interests.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the Maesters are working against dragons in general. Still, they are on the side of starting a fight for succession that will pit Targaryen against Targaryen and dragon against dragon. It also means that whether or not Hightower is Hand is no longer relevant. These powerful allies will make Rhaenyra’s accession over Aegon far more complicated than anyone realizes.

House of the Dragon Season 1 continues with new episodes every Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max.