Game of Thrones is well known for its complex characters, political intrigue, and fantastic world-building, but some of the most thrilling moments of HBO’s adaptation of George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire are the big battle sequences. House of the Dragon had no such full-scale battle episodes in its first season, as that season was focused on establishing the characters and setting up the conflict which will flow into Season 2 and beyond, a conflict called “The Dance of the Dragons”.
In this tragic event in the history of Westeros, House Targaryen has split into two warring factions: the Greens led by King Aegon II and House Hightower, and the Blacks led by Queen Rhaenyra and her supporters. In Season 2, this conflict will come to a head and lead to an all-out war between the Greens and the Blacks, and the first battle will occur at Rook’s Rest in the season’s fourth episode.
Special thanks to our sources UnBoxPHD and Sara Talib, as well as everyone else who dropped by the location during filming and provided pictures or information.
We have a whole lot of behind-the-scenes footage to share from its filming. Before that, though, we have the episode title for the Battle at Rook’s Rest.
Episode title for the Battle at Rook’s Rest
As our sources told us, this episode will be titled “A Dance of Dragons“. It’s simple, but rather effective as this is likely the first major battle of House of the Dragon with dragons from two opposing sides.
If we had to guess before today, we would have said the epic dragon duel above the God’s Eye would have this episode title, perhaps in Season 3 or Season 4, but giving this title to the Battle at Rook’s Rest works just as well.
Game of Thrones already had a similar title with “The Dance of Dragons” in Season 5. That episode included Daenerys Targaryen riding a dragon for the first time as well as Shireen Baratheon reading a history book about the conflict between Rhaenyra and Aegon.
Who will direct “A Dance of Dragons”?
House of the Dragon‘s fourth episode of Season 2, reportedly titled “A Dance of Dragons” and focusing on the Battle at Rook’s Rest, is directed by Game of Thrones alumni Alan Taylor. Taylor has directed seven episodes of Thrones, including the iconic death of Ned Stark and various other episodes in Seasons 1, 2, and 7. Besides Thrones, Taylor has a rich resume that includes Sopranos, Mad Men, Thor: The Dark World, and most recently the show Interview with a Vampire.
Taylor will bring a lot of experience to the set of House of the Dragon, and he has already participated in a big action episode in Thrones‘ seventh season, albeit not quite a full-scale battle like Rook’s Rest. The episode, titled “Beyond the Wall”, followed Jon Snow and a band of fellow warriors on their quest to capture a wight to prove the threat of the White Walkers to the people of Westeros.
This episode included a swarm of wights trying to tear apart our heroes, and also the first big showdown between dragons and White Walkers that ended with the Night King’s takedown of the dragon Viserion. We can expect the visuals of the Battle at Rook’s Rest to be of a similar caliber but, hopefully, the writing will be improved.
Speaking of the writing, at the moment we have no information regarding the writer of “A Dance of Dragons”.
Which cast members were involved?
Season 2’s big battle episode involves a number of key cast members, whose characters will be clashing outside Rook’s Rest. The first cast member to be spotted during this filming is Fabien Frankel (Ser Criston Cole), who was all suited up in his armor as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard and general of the Greens’ army.
Cole is also Aegon’s new Hand of the King at this stage of the season as we clearly see the Hand’s golden chain around his neck.
This is after Otto Hightower is once again dismissed from his position. Hightower already has a history of being fired as late King Viseryes fired him last season, but gave him the position back after Larys Strong arranged an accident to happen to then-Hand and his own father Lyonel Strong.
Freddie Fox (Ser Gwayne Hightower) was spotted filming beside Frankel. The two shared several scenes during this section of filming, which may indicate that Gwayne will serve as Cole’s second in command.
This would not be a shocker given that Gwayne is a Hightower, much like Alicent and Otto who are pulling the strings at King’s Landing. Cole is Alicent’s agent, and it’s likely that Gwayne’s allegiance belongs to his father Otto.
Another actor spotted in the Green army for this filming is Eddie Eyre, a new addition to House of the Dragon‘s second season whose role is unknown. Though he is new to HOTD, Eyre is not new to Westeros, as he has already had a small but memorable role in Game of Thrones‘ sixth season, where he portrayed Ser Gerold Hightower, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard a century after the events of House of the Dragon.
Whoever Eyre plays, his character survives the battle as we saw him filming alongside Cole returning to King’s Landing after this episode.
Back to the Battle at Rook’s Rest, it wasn’t just warriors and generals who were spotted during filming, royals were also there. Of the three royals present for filming, only one was captured on camera: Ewan Mitchell, who portrays Prince Aemond Targaryen.
Mitchell’s last appearance as Aemond was in the final, tragic moments of House of the Dragon‘s Season 1 finale, in which he accidentally urged his dragon Vhagar to kill Queen Rhaenyra’s son Lucerys and his dragon. The death of the young prince kickstarts a war that will come to a head at Rook’s Rest.
Though we have no pictures of him, Talib reported to Redanian Intelligence that a burnt costume was passed on location during filming, and it was labeled “Aegon”. Indeed, Tom Glynn-Carney who portrays King Aegon II Tragaryen was also involved in this filming.
But enough with the Greens, let’s talk about the Blacks! Another key character that fought in the Battle of Rook’s Rest in the book was Princess Rhaenys Targaryen, the Queen Who Never Was, who is portrayed in the show by Eve Best.
Best was not spotted on set, but that is likely because she will be filming most of her scenes in the studio in front of a green screen, as she will be spending the duration of the battle riding her dragon Meleys.
Speaking of dragons, two dragons were spotted on location. The HBO production has resorted to using dragon head props to help the cast and crew identify the location of these dragons during filming.
In this case, we have pictures of two dragon heads. The first is the head of Vhagar, Aemond’s gigantic and very old dragon. This one is a big part of the battle in the book, so it’s no surprise to see Vhagar on location. However, the second dragon head is more interesting.
The red wyrm Caraxes is the dragon of Matt Smith‘s King Consort Daemon Targaryen, who is Queen Rhanyra’s husband. The head of Caraxes was also carried around during filming, and this is quite surprising to book readers because Daemon was not involved in this battle in Fire and Blood.
This is not really going to be Caraxes in the show, but rather one of the two other dragons besides Vhagar who were present in the battle in the books.
It stands to reason that the HBO production will not produce a dozen accurate dragon head props for each of its fire-breathing lizards, so in this case it is most likely that the head of Caraxes was used to represent Sunfyre or, more likely, Meleys. Plus, these exact prop heads were used back in Season 1.
Unrelated to Rook’s Rest, but filmed in the same area
That being said about Caraxes above, Daemon actor Matt Smith was reportedly filming a scene in a nearby location. Scenes from many different episodes were filmed at Bourne Woods, including one featuring Phoebe Campbell (Rhaena).
Campbell was spotted with a stunt double alongside the Director of Photography of Episodes 3 and 8, meaning this scene was from a completely different episode than “A Dance of Dragons” and not related to the battle.
Another scene filmed nearby involved what looks like the Night’s Watch. We’ve already seen The Wall set being built in Leavesden Studios for House of the Dragon as we’ll see Jace Velaryon and Cregan Stark visit the iconic location in Season 2. This is, again, unrelated to Rook’s Rest so we’ll keep it brief in this article.
In addition to the Night’s Watch scene and the scene featuring Rhaena, another scene was filmed nearby in a campsite with a dear cooking over the campfire.
All of these scenes are unrelated to Episode 4’s Battle at Rook’s Rest. For this reason, we believe the scene filmed with Daemon, which reportedly involved no other cast members or extras, is also unrelated to Rook’s Rest.
Speaking of other, unrelated scenes, HOTD has also stopped by Salisbury for some more filming. At Salisbury, filming also took place on the hills with men riding horses, which could be the Green cavalry.
All the Spoilers from the show’s Battle at Rook’s Rest
The battle begins with the Greens attacking Rook’s Rest
Besides giving us some good snapshots of the cast in costume, we were also provided some amazing footage depicting the show’s massive production.
This battle scene seemingly involved dozens and perhaps hundreds of extras portraying the army of the Greens and a lesser number of extras for the army of Blacks as their army is smaller for this battle.
Here’s a few videos by UnboxPhD:
The Green army dashes for the gates of Rook’s Rest with their battering rams, ready to breach the gates and storm the castle. But, before long, they are intercepted by a certain someone and her dragon.
Rhaenys and Meleys join the fight, Cole fights deserters
Princess Rhaenys, the Queen Who Never Was, rides her dragon Meleys to the battlefield, and rains dragonfire on the Green army. Many of the Green soldiers die in Meleys’ fires, in the books it was as many as 800 soldiers, about a third of the Green army.
The aftermath of this attack was filmed at Bourne Woods as well, with extras dressed in burning rags and fitted with prosthetics and makeup to give them a crispy finish. Additionally, many burnt corpse props were littered across the field.
We can see a few pictures of the aftermath below, provided by Kyle Russell and UnBoxPHD.
Reacting to the dragon attack quite realistically, many of the Green soldiers turn back and retreat. The Green general Ser Criston Cole is not a fan of this choice.
During the filming, there were a couple of shots depicting Cole fighting and killing his own men, and allegedly shots of the dragon Vhagar attacking and killing men of the Green army as well.
This is described by locals, who witnessed glimpses of the filming, so the Vhagar part isn’t as certain as the Cole one since a human fighting other humans is one thing and sounds quite certain, but humans pretending to be burned by Vhagar is another. It’s possible the person who witnessed the Vhagar part misread the scene somehow.
From what we can deduce, it seems likely that Cole (and maybe Aemond) will be killing deserters who attempt to escape Meleys’ dragonfire.
Aegon and Sunfyre join the fight, Cole rallies the troops to advance
In one video captured by our on-location source Sara Talib, we can hear Fabien Frankel’s Ser Criston Cole gathering the Green army and delivering a speech before riding to battle. You can hear Frankel’s voice in the video above, quite clearly, and these seem to be his words:
Men-at-arms, your king has joined you! Hold to your courage, hold to your wits, for the Seven have blessed and shielded this host with divine purpose! For the one true king, Aegon! Advance!
This is likely Cole’s attempt to get his troops to advance on enemy’s army, inspiring them by the fact that King Aegon has arrived on Sunfyre and they have no excuse not to fight alongside their king, who, according to him, has a divine purpose, but more importantly a dragon that can fight the enemy dragon.
It is unclear at which point during the battle Aemond arrives on Vhagar. Whether it’s alongside Aegon or at a separate time. Scenes aren’t filmed in order, so it’s hard to tell sometimes.
Dragons dance and the aftermath
Though we will see a lot of sword fighting and burning men running across the hills outside of Rook’s Rest, and we have seen this being filmed in Bourne Woods, the epic climax of the fight will happen in the sky and will be filmed in front of a green screen at Leavesden Film Studios. This means we will have to wait for 2024, to get our first look at the epic battle between Meleyes, Sunfyre, and Vhagar.
That being said, the aftermath of this battle was indeed filmed in Bourne Woods. As you can see in the above picture, the production built a scorched crater into the forest floor which will, no doubt, be the crash site of several dragons.
Another similar crater was created in a set at Salisbury, which may or may not be the landing zone of the second dragon. Readers of the books know that Rhaenys and her dragon Meleys do not survive this fight, while King Aegon and his dragon Sunfyre are also severely wounded.
During filming, our on-set sources noticed a costume carried around on location labeled “Aegon”, and this royal costume was burnt quite badly. As in the books, Rhaenys’ attack will leave a mark on the Green King.
As for Rhaenys and Meleys, we have already seen the aftermath of their deaths in a previous behind-the-scenes leak from filming in Spain. Here, the giant head of Meleys is paraded across the streets of King’s Landing, proving to the commonfolk that the Blacks and their many dragons were mere mortals, who can lose in battle and die.
This is a bitter victory to the Greens, with Aegon wounded, but a great victory for Prince Aemond, who not only killed another enemy dragon, but also becomes Regent while his brother recovers.
What happened in the books?
In the books, the Battle at Rook’s Rest was the first major confrontation between the Greens and the Blacks after the murder of Prince Lucerys Velaryon at the hand of Prince Aemond Targaryen and his dragon Vhagar. The death of Rhaenyra’s son was a point of no return, afterwhich further conflict was inevitable.
The war began with King Consort Daemon Targaryen’s conquest of Harrenhal, which would then serve as a base camp for the Blacks, where they would amass their various supporters from the Riverlands.
The loss of Harenhal was a significant defeat to the Greens, who gathered their own army in retaliation. The Green army was led by Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, Ser Criston Cole and joined by King Aegon II and his brother Prince Aemond, with their two dragons Sunfyre and Vhagar.
The Greens marched first to Rook’s Rest in the Riverlands, the home of House Saunton who had joined the Blacks in support of Queen Rhaenyra. With the Green army gathering at his gates, Lord Saunton sent ravens to the Blacks to beg for their support, and Princess Rhaenys Targaryen answered the call with her dragon Meleys.
Rhaenys and Meleys joined the meager army of Lord Saunton to defend Rook’s Rest, but the Green army was waiting for her. They had already set up scorpions ready to shoot down the dragons of the Blacks. This didn’t work out so well for the Greens, however, as Meleys was able to skillfully dodge these scorpion arrows and rain down dragonfire on the Green army. But the Greens had dragons of their own.
Aegon and his dragon Sunfyre joined his brother Aemond and his gargantuan dragon Vhagar to attack Rhaenys. The dragons danced in the sky, lashing at each other, swirling with dragonfire, and came crashing to the ground. When the dust settled, Princess Rhaenys and her dragon Meleys were found dead, and King Aegon and his dragon Sunfyre were severely wounded.
This seems like it will be an epic battle to behold come the release of House of the Dragon Season 2. Unfortunately, it will still be some time, as release is expected in 2024. Meanwhile, we’ll continue to cover the filming and various leaks. Follow our Twitter account @RedanianIntel for live updates.