Episode 3 of 'House of the Dragon' was all about the white hart

Will Rhaenyra Become Queen? HOTD’s White Hart Hinted At The True Heir

Does her decision change things?

by Ani Bundel

Despite Shireen’s best efforts in Game of Thrones, many viewers don’t know their Westerosi history going into House of the Dragon. Most realize there’s a fight for the Iron Throne between Targaryen factions. Some know the dragon population was decimated, and the Targaryen never recovered. But the details in between are a mystery. For example, does Rhaenyra become Queen, or does Aegon become King? The show has already given audiences a hint.

Warning: Spoilers for House of the Dragon Season 1, Episode 3 follow. The bulk of the episode “Second of His Name” focused on the second birthday of Aegon Targaryen. The tyke is the firstborn child of Viserys and Alicent and the first surviving male heir birthed by the King. Though the babe is barely out of swaddling clothes, the moves in court are already underway, with Otto Hightower scheming to put his firstborn grandson on the throne following Viserys.

Rhaenyra knew it, too. Despite her status as her father’s declared heir, she knew the score. Those men might have knelt and sworn allegiance to her. However, that was before her father remarried and his new wife birthed a boy. When Jason Lannister came up to her during the hunt celebrating Aegon’s birthday, having been permitted to court her, she took it as a sign. Her father was readying to pack her off and transfer the inheritance of the throne to Aegon.

Ollie Upton/HBO

But something funny happened on the way to Aegon’s supposed crowning. Rhaenyra took off, with only Ser Criston Cole going after her to keep her safe. Moreover, the hunt didn’t go as planned. Hightower initially arranged it with plans for Viserys to take down a white stag (referred to as a White Hart) he’d found and corralled into the Kingswood.

Before the arrival of dragons, the White Hart was *the* symbol of royalty in Westeros. Hightower kept harping on Viserys taking it down “for Aegon” as a sign of Aegon’s right to royal ascendence. Once the King took the White Hart down, Hightower could argue the gods were giving them a sign Aegon was the rightful next King.

But the White Hart never came to Viserys, who had to settle for a generic one, roped in by his hunters for him to slay — something he barely managed as it was. Instead, when it appeared, it did so to Rhaenyra, far off in the forest.

Ollie Upton/HBO

Rhaenyra already had an eventful evening. She and Cole were attacked by a wild boar (which Game of Thrones fans will remember is what took down King Robert). Cole wasn’t the one to slaughter it, though; Rhaenyra took the blade and massacred the animal, proving herself willing to spill blood in a way her father wasn’t.

But when the White Hart came to Rhaenyra, she did not aim or let Cole take it down, despite knowing bringing back its pelt would be the perfect symbol to prove herself her father’s heir. Like her father, she cannot murder a helpless beast. It’s one thing to take out an attacking boar, but the Hart did nothing but exist. She let it go, showing herself more worthy of the throne than anyone back at camp.

The gods may smile on Rhaeryna now, but her decision not to show up to Hightower may be a mistake. House of the Dragon Season 1 continues with new episodes every Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max.