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HomeTech'House of the Dragon' Season 2, episode 4: What's with the dogs...

‘House of the Dragon’ Season 2, episode 4: What’s with the dogs at Harrenhal?

Usually one to rest on its abundance of winged beasts, House of the Dragon has upped the quota of another loyal creature this season: Westerosi dogs.

The canine count in Season 2 isn’t sky-high (like those dragons), but there’s been enough appearances of four-legged friends to get my attention. (If there’s a dog in it, I’ll watch it, but they had better not die). Early in the season, audiences tossed aside their reactions to casual child murder to instead berate a doomed ratcatcher for randomly kicking his dog.

And in episode 4, “The Red Dragon and the Gold,” there’s a glorious but fleeting moment involving three dogs in the Harrenhal council room. But these dogs aren’t from any of the surreal visions in episode 3 and episode 4 plaguing Daemon (Matt Smith). According to keen-eyed viewers on X (formerly Twitter), they seem to be an Easter egg pointing to the future of the biggest, most cursed castle in the Seven Kingdoms, and the many different houses who will hold Harrenhal during the Game of Thrones years. Here’s what it all means.

What do the dogs mean in House of the Dragon, Season 2, episode 4?

At the beginning of the episode, after a disastrous meeting between Daemon and Oscar Tully (Archie Barnes), we get a shot of three giant dogs that resemble wolfhounds or deerhounds, sitting illuminated by the castle’s very little light. We’ve seen the hounds in the background of Harrenhal scenes before, but here, they’re overtly symbolic.

Matt Smith in "House of the Dragon."

Matt Smith in “House of the Dragon.”
Credit: Ollie Upton / HBO

X user @TheJoeMagician posted about the moment, identifying the dogs as one of two connected Easter eggs in the episode, representing characters crucial to the future of Harrenhal.

“The three dogs, House Clegane for Gregor Clegane and the Black Goat for Vargo Hoat. Both characters who in the future hold Harrenhal. Daemon seeing the future?” they wrote.

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The three dogs represent the sigil for House Clegane, an image made for the unnamed founder of the Lannister-loyal house, who was the kennelmaster at Casterly Rock. The story goes, he and Lord Tytos Lannister were on a hunt when they encountered a lion, and three dogs died defending them (heroes!). For his pooch-assisted rescue, he was given a title and land to start his own house. Game of Thrones fans will recognise this house as that of Ser Gregor Clegane (“The Mountain”) and his brother Sandor Clegane (“The Hound”). The violent, brutal Gregor in particular will become Castellan of Harrenhal down the track, so this question about Daemon seeing the future seems pretty spot-on. Especially because of the goat.

What does the black goat mean?

Earlier in the same scene in episode 4, Daemon is marching through the halls with Ser Simon Strong (Sir Simon Russell Beale), the current Castellan of Harrenhal, when he sees a black goat. It could represent Vargo Hoat, who, like Lionel Messi and Serena Williams but with none of their talent or decency, is referred to as The Goat.

A sword for hire, he betrays the Lannisters in exchange for Harrenhal in Game of Thrones. In the show, Vargo was replaced by the character Locke (Noah Taylor). He’s the guy who cuts off Jaime Lannister’s hand. Notably, in A Feast for Crows, Gregor Clegane chops off Vargo’s limbs and serves them back to him as… roast goat. When we see the goat in House of the Dragon, as X user @erinwallaceyay points out, it’s standing among several pieces of chopped wood. The dismemberment imagery isn’t subtle.

Both House Clegane and Vargo Hoat meet sticky ends associated with the Harrenhal curse, which Mashable’s Belen Edwards has explained for you here. Daemon seeing images — whether real or imagined — of houses associated with grave misfortune can’t be a good sign, as Daemon himself was told he’d meet his demise in the castle by the mysterious Alys Rivers (Gayle Rankin) on arrival.

There’s even more animal sigil symbolism in the Harrenhal scenes, as @TheJoeMagician also points out; when Daemon first arrives at Harrenhal in episode 3, he’s greeted by a cauldron of bats flying into the night. These nocturnal mammals could represent two Riverlands houses who later have control of Harrenhal one after the other. House Lothston‘s crest is one bat on gold and white, while House Whent is nine bats on gold.

So, Daemon is getting a bit of a subliminal future history lesson at Harrenhal, much like we’re seeing in the House of the Dragon opening credits. But that’s not all his vision means; luckily, we’ve got an entire explainer for that.

New episodes of House of the Dragon air Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and Max.

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