Olivia Cooke as Alicent Hightower in House of the Dragon

That Song In HOTD Episode 9 Ties Back To A Major GOT Moment

Pianos are a bad omen for the realm.

Ollie Upton/HBO

In creating House of the Dragon, HBO brought back some key players from Game of Thrones behind the scenes. GOT director Miguel Sapochnik, for example, was a showrunner for the first season of HOTD, and his contributions brought a continuity of visual choices into the new show. Meanwhile, Ramin Djawadi, the composer, brought back some familiar elements of the original GOT sounds to HOTD. Most recently, the piano music in House of the Dragon Season 1, Episode 9, gave major Game of Thrones vibes — and for good reason.

Warning: Spoilers for House of the Dragon Season 1, Episode 9 follow. Even if you don’t actively listen to the score of your favorite TV shows, when a different instrument is used, it will likely catch your attention. You may not immediately know how something is different or why you’ve all of a sudden tensed up — you just know only that *something* is off, like when “The Rains of Castamere” playing during GOT’s Red Wedding. You might not have known the song right away, but the lone cello was not the usual aural accompaniment to the series, and deep down, you probs sensed something was amiss.

So when a piano was introduced in the opening moments of House of the Dragon Episode 9, as the song “Lament/Fate of the Kingdoms” played, viewers probably knew something big was happening, even if they didn’t know why.

It’s not just that piano music largely absent from GOT and HOTD (a conscious choice by composer Djawadi). It’s also that when it is used, it always spells trouble. Djawadi broke his “no piano” rule for the first time in Game of Thrones Season 6, Episode 10, with the song “Light of the Seven.” The haunting piano track played over one of Game of Thrones’ most stunning scenes, when the royal family, save Cersei and Tommen, traveled to the Sept of Baelor along with hundreds of onlookers. As Cersei stood safely in the Red Keep, the kegs of wildfire she’d had placed beneath the sept exploded, murdering all of her rivals and giving her a clear path to take the throne.

Djawadi broke his no piano rule again in “The Long Night” in the show’s final season, in what he admitted was “a deliberate callback” to “Light of the Seven,” designed to freak viewers out.

Djawadi’s new track in HOTD warned viewers of what was about to come: The Hightowers were about to attempt to usurp the throne. Most of the royal family would travel to the sept for the coronation, along with hundreds of onlookers. And from beneath the sept, someone’s vision of justice would rise through the floor, taking out those above. The only difference here was that Rhaenys did not snuff out the royal family with fire. Instead, she intimidated the eff out of them, then flew off to Dragonstone to touch her lit match to a far more deadly powderkeg: Rhaenyra.

House of the Dragon Season 1 continues with one more episode, premiering Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022, at 9 p.m. on HBO and HBO Max. For the sake of the realm, let’s hope there are no more pianos.