'House of the Dragon': Meleys The Red Queen, Explained

One of the most imposing dragons in Westeros went to battle this week.

Fair warning: there are spoilers ahead for House of the Dragon Season 2, Episode 4! After several skirmishes, the dragons of House Targaryen finally went to all-out war this week, starting with Sunfyre, Vhagar and Meleys, The Red Queen. Meleys was sent to battle because she was the largest and most experienced dragon on Rhaenyra's (Emma D'Arcy) side, but she was taken down in the fighting, along with her rider Rhaenys (Eve Best). For those heartbroken by the episode's ending, here's a look at Meleys, her riders and the battle prowess that made her formidable for this fight.

According to George R.R. Martin's book Fire & Blood, Meleys was hatched on her own, unlike many of the other dragons who hatched in the cradle of a Targaryen baby, who would grow up to be their rider. Meleys was tended by the dragon keepers in King's Landing, and was fully grown by the time Alyssa Targaryen went looking for a dragon in the year 75 AC – about 54 years before the battle we just saw on House of the Dragon. Alyssa was the mother of King Viserys (Paddy Considine) and Daemon (Matt Smith), and aunt to Rhaenys. She died in childbirth in the year 84 AC, leaving Meleys riderless while Rhaenys, 14 years younger, was looking for a mount.

On the show, Rhaenys says that she must go to Rook's Rest because Meleys is the most powerful dragon at Team Black's disposal, with the most experience in battle. In truth, Meleys did not see any combat with Princess Alyssa, though she did race against other dragons for fun. Alyssa was also said to have flown with both of her infant sons shortly after they were born in the hopes of acclimating them to flight. Obviously, Daemon got more out of the experience than Viserys.

Still, Meleys has seen some action off-screen in Rhaenys' time. The duo flew alongside the Velaryon fleet in the opening moves of the war, which was mentioned but not shown on screen. However, compared to dragons like Daemon's mount Caraxes and Laenor's mount Seasmoke – both of whom we saw fighting the Crabfeeder – Meleys was unaccustomed to combat. For all intents and purposes, "The Battle at Rook's Rest" was their first real engagement together.

In Fire & Blood, the historians of Westeros speculate that Meleys probably would have won a fight with Sunfyre alone – and perhaps even a one-on-one battle with Vhagar, since she was older and slower. Instead, Meleys was overwhelmed by the two dragons together, but not without cost. As the end of the episode teased, both Sunfyre and his rider Aegon II were badly injured in the fighting, with one of Sunfyre's wings ripped off.

The deaths of both Rhaenys and Meleys will have a huge impact on the story going forward, and many fans are feeling like they experienced that harrowing fall for themselves. House of the Dragon continues on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and Max. Fire & Blood is available now in print, digital and audiobook formats.