hairy styles

Ranking the Half-Ponytails of House of the Dragon

Photo-Illustration: Vulture. Photos: HBO

In the years since Game of Thrones ended on May 19, 2019, a lot has changed. Namely, the world has been totally ruined. Did the Game of Thrones finale incite the apocalypse? It’s hard to say for sure, but we don’t have time for uncertainty in the apocalypse, so I’m going to go ahead and say yes, it did. Despite this, we have, as a society, allowed Game of Thrones to continue marching forward, spawning exponentially, prying its way into our homes and our brains, which it will eat for sport. Yes, I am talking about House of the Dragon.

After the Game of Thrones finale aired, disappointing untold trillions, I swore to myself I would never think about it ever again. It had eaten up years of my life taking screenshots and making insane memes that only made sense to a handful of people on Tumblr. I did such a good job not thinking about it that I had no idea a Game of Thrones–adjacent series was premiering this week. When my editor asked me to write something, I initially said no due to my commitment to myself. Unfortunately, after I watched House of the Dragon, I had to break that promise. I realized there was a crucial story to be written.

Why is everyone on this show wearing a half-pony? I’m not sure. Perhaps it has something to do with “historical” accuracy. Perhaps it’s to do with the wigs. Maybe it’s about crown logistics. (Easier to put a crown on top of a half-pony than a normal head?) Maybe it is a statement about human duality — how we can be two things at once, good and evil simultaneously, both a ponytail and not a ponytail at the same time. Perhaps the half-pony is a metaphor: Sometimes you’re on top, sometimes you’re on the bottom … in this gorgeous game of thrones we call life.

For me, the half-ponytail has always represented something complex and tenuous. It is really hard to do a good half-ponytail; one is always seeking the perfect balance of ponytail and not-ponytail, the correct amount of hair gathered into a rubber band atop one’s head and the correct amount of hair left to hang over the ears. Go too far in one direction and suddenly you’re wearing a full ponytail by accident, with a few errant strands hanging out, looking unwell. Go too far in the other direction and suddenly your hair is just normal, except with a little chimney sticking out of it. And don’t even get me started on the bumps! It’s nearly impossible to have a half-ponytail without any bumps, because unlike a standard ponytail, you’re not merely smoothing your hair over your scalp — you’re smoothing it over several additional layers of hair, all of which are going in another direction.

With those challenges in mind, I have ranked the half-ponytails in the pilot episode of House of the Dragon using the following categories: execution on concept (what did the half-pony want to be, and what is it?), level of realism (would the half-pony really be able to stay up like that under the circumstances in which they are wearing it?), and Game of Thrones–y–ness (is it Game of Thrones–y?). It’s important to note here that the plot has nothing to do with this ranking, as I have no clue what’s going on in this show.


This Almost King

Photo: HBO

I like the low-key nature of this half-pony. It suggests minimal effort. This is a half-pony you do when you have just left the gym and you’re like, “Oh, shit, I have to do my half-pony to go to this palace thing.” It achieves exactly what it sets out to do: humanize this guy who is about to be king, I think. Unfortunately, all of this means it’s incredibly not Game of Thrones–y. It’s more Lord of the Rings–y.


This Doomed Pregnant Woman

Photo: HBO

This is almost not even a half-pony — more of a half-half-pony, as her hair is pulled up in two separate areas, with the suggestion of a joining somewhere in the middle of her head but no actual ponytail to speak of. It achieves what it sets out to achieve: the appearance of exhaustion, but in the part of the Game of Thrones universe where you have staff to do your updos for you. This is the half-pony of a woman who has no time to care about her hair because she is about to get in the bath for the eighth time today, then die.


This Interesting Woman

Photo: HBO

This is an elaborate half-pony that includes both braids and some kind of special ornament. The execution is incredible and very Game of Thrones–y, but I don’t buy its realism. It would hurt to wear your hair like that for a whole ceremony, and I don’t quite understand the physics of the ornament portion. But this half-pony raises an important question: Who is she?


This Main Girl

Photo: HBO

This is really more of a quarter-pony. First, this girl did a half-pony, then divided that half-pony into two additional half-ponies, which she then formed into a braid, sort of like a river with several tributaries. High complexity, high effort, perhaps meant to indicate that this is the Main Girl of the show. While it is very Game of Thrones–y, it would not hold up while riding dragons. Docked for realism.


This Main Girl’s Friend

Photo: HBO

This is the most traditional half-pony we’ve seen yet. It feels very out of place in the context of the series, but I admire it for giving “Joe Wright period adaptation”: the curls, the minimal amount of hair sitting on top of the head, the stiffness, the length, the fact that she is the only person on this show who is not freakishly blonde. I guess this is supposed to be the main girl’s one Jewish friend.


This Important Guy

Photo: HBO

I like this half-pony. It says, “I tried, but not too much, because I have a lot of war to do.”


 These Randos in the Crowd

Photo: HBO

They have no faces, they have no names, but they do have incredibly elaborate half-ponies. This one in particular is stunningly complicated, the kind of half-pony that says, “Yes, I am a peasant watching people fight each other to the death, but I have more hair than you will ever dream of.”


This Incestuous Uncle

Photo: HBO

This is the most classic half-pony we’ve seen thus far. It’s sleek on top, no bumps. It’s not super-high, but it’s not a low pony either — it sits at a very reasonable place on the guy’s head. It’s also got a great pony-to-hair ratio. Exactly half of this creepy fuck’s hair is in the pony and the other half is spilling over his freaky body as he flirts with his niece, who looks 14 years old. It’s not very Game of Thrones–y, because it has no real frills to speak of, but it does achieve the platonic ideal of a half-pony while involving itself in incest, and for that, I’ll rank it here.


The Incestuous Uncle’s Girlfriend (?)

Photo: HBO

This one is particularly boho and interesting. It is also not very Game of Thrones–y (too cool), but it is highly realistic (half-pony mussed from having sex with incestuous uncle) and achieves its goal (of looking both cool and mussed from sex). I love Sonoya Mizuno and I hope she is being paid handsomely for this role.


This Petite Legend

Photo: HBO

This gray-haired child has by far the best half-pony in the pilot episode. Not only is it larger than her entire body, but it is incredibly chic, with the sort of slouchy off-duty Hadid vibe the girlies are paying thousands for in lower Manhattan. Where the heck is her spinoff?

Ranking the Half-Ponytails of House of the Dragon