Think House Targaryen is dead? Here's why it's the most important in Game of Thrones

We haven’t seen a lot of our dear Khaleesi lately. Last time Daenerys Targaryen was on Game of Thrones, she was shouting at her loyal horde, making them promise eternal loyalty to the Mother of Dragons in exchange for, I don’t know, more horses or something?

Game of Thrones is hard at work setting Dany up to be a top player in the quest for the Iron Throne. She’s got her dragons and two armies, and Yara and Theon’s fleet is likely on the way. It seriously couldn’t come any sooner. Dany’s storyline got pretty stale over the past couple of seasons. After spending an entire year in Meereen, I was eager for her to get the hell out of dodge and actually start doing some actual conquering. 

We may see Dany as just one half of the creepy brother-sister duo from season 1, those white-haired kids who think they should get to rule just because Daddy did at some point. I’ve heard Dany’s claim to the throne called “entitlement,” since she hasn’t set foot on the continent since she was a baby. However, Daenerys Targaryen is the most legitimate ruler in Westeros right now. Why, do you ask? Because her family literally invented Westeros as we know it.

Hundreds of years before the whole ‘game of thrones’, the Targaryens created the Seven Kingdoms, uniting Westeros under a single ruler. Without them, we wouldn’t have the actual Iron Throne everyone keeps fighting over. In the show, our only hints of this are references to the Mad King, who Robert Baratheon overthrew in a rebellion less than two decades before the series began. But that conflict, which we saw recently in Bran’s visions, is just the epilogue of the Targaryen family legacy.

The Targaryens were one of the ruling families in the Valyrian Freehold, a sort of mythical Atlantis where brothers married sisters, and controlled dragons with blood magic. Nowadays, it’s that place where Jorah got eczema from the stone men during his boat trip with Tyrion. Daenerys is the last known living member of this centuries-long noble lineage, at least in the show. In the books, there’s also young Griff, who claims to be Dany’s nephew, Aegon Targaryen. But given the fact that Griff hasn’t shown up, and the storyline has already moved past him, I don’t think he’s going to amount to much.

Not much is known about the Targaryens during their days in Valyria, other than what George R.R. Martin has shared in interviews and The World of Ice and Fire: The Story of Westeros. According to forums, Martin has mentioned how the Targaryens were one of the lesser-known families in Valyria, an empire famous for taming and training dragons for war. Nowadays, Dany is the only known person alive who can control dragons. Only time will tell if Tyrion’s ability to soothe the savage beasts in his basement was from a power of his own, or just his silky sweet voice. 

When one of the Targaryen family members, also named Daenerys, had a vision of a cataclysmic event that would destroy Valyria, the family fled. Other Valyrian families mocked the Targaryens for abandoned the country. A few years later, the Doom wiped away all of Valyria in a day, and proto-Dany had a good laugh.

The power of premonition is something we’ve seen echoed in our modern-day Daenerys, when she saw a vision of the Red Keep and The Wall at the House of the Undying in season 2. To be fair, the visions she sees in the book were a lot cooler than Drogo hanging out in a tent with a baby. In fact, the premonitions she sees in the book are some of the building blocks for the R + L = J theory, which states that Jon Snow is actually Jon Targaryen (not a Stark). 

After crossing the Narrow Sea and chilling in Dragonstone for about a century, like you do, Aegon Targaryen set out to unite the separated six kingdoms of Westeros under one ruler, which is code for ‘let’s dominate everything’. Equipped with a small army, and of course some badass dragons, he conquered the six kingdoms and forced them to swear fealty to a single ruler. Dorne came onboard about a century later, thanks to some sweet negotiating skills in the form of marriage.

The Targaryen family ruled the Seven Kingdoms for almost 300 years. They kept with Westeros tradition, for the most part, converting to the Faith of the Seven. But they held onto the Valyrian tradition of keeping ‘pure bloodlines’, meaning lots and lots of inbreeding. 

Since the Targaryens are the only living legacy from Valyria, they’re the only people with pure Valyrian blood flowing in their veins. Hence, the whole Dany + fire = goodbye Khals thing. So, for hundreds of years, they tried to keep it in the family with good old fashioned incest. As we know, inbreeding isn’t exactly the healthiest practice, leading to deformity and mental illness. It kept the bloodline clean, but turned out some bat shit crazy Targaryens. In the books, it was said you could flip a coin on a Targaryen baby to determine whether they were a genius or insane. And there’s even debate whether Dany’s actually an insane Targaryen herself, since she makes such bad decisions, and only fixes them by burning people to a crisp.

In fact, most of the problems during the Targaryen dynasty weren’t from invading warlords or White Walkers, but rather the Targaryens themselves. You see, for being so smart and clever (the ones who weren’t insane anyway), they could actually be pretty stupid. The Targaryens fought amongst themselves all the time, squabbling for the crown. For example, the titular Dance of Dragons was Aegon II and his half-sister Rhaenyra fighting over their father’s throne. Both of them died, which made the whole war pretty pointless. 

There was also the belief that before the rebellion, Rhaegar Targaryen was scheming to overthrow his father Aeryn Targaryen, also known as the Mad King. However, that was before Rhaegar kidnapped Lyanna Stark, jump-starting that whole Robert Baratheon throws a hissy fit thing. Baby Daenerys and her brother Viserys were supposed to be killed during the conflict, only they were saved and taken away to Essos, which is where we first meet them in season 1. 

For years, Daenerys Targaryen has been largely dismissed as that Targaryen from across the sea. She seems to be almost a joke, wanting to ‘make Westeros great again’ before bothering to cross the Narrow Sea. But, her presence poses a real threat to the status quo in Westeros, because, for the longest time, her family was the status quo. They created the Seven Kingdoms and ruled them for hundreds of years, and in the time since they were deposed, Westeros has fallen into complete chaos. 

Right now, Daenerys Targaryen looks to be ready to make her big comeback in Westeros, and she might just emerge from the flames victorious. The Dragon Queen’s got tenure on the Iron Throne. Tommen’s just keeping it warm for her, at least until she burns him to a crisp.

Beth Elderkin is a freelance journalist based in Chicago, and co-hosts Once Upon a Timing -  a weekly rewatch podcast for ABC's Once Upon a Time. She's currently Content Marketing Manager for GDC, but previously wrote for io9, Gizmodo, Inverse, and more.