I must start off by saying I’m distraught that we have to wait until 2024 for season 2 and how this turns out. Season 2 will begin filming in spring 2023 so it’s likely to air fall 2024.
While I would’ve watched any Game of Thrones related spin-off and probably loved it, House of the Dragon was well done, exciting and captivating episode to episode. The acting, storyline and cinematography was great and there was little to wrong with the show. Little not nothing, my one critique has been the same from episode 1, the pacing which includes the time jumps. I’ve heard reasoning being that the story was sped up to get to the Dance of the Dragons and that is understandable; however, the same could’ve been done with a little more time for more character development and storytelling along the way. That being said, let’s get to the episode!
The finale begins as Lucerys is observing the unlit painted table, specifically Driftmark. Rhaenyra comes in and he expresses apprehension at being the Lord of Driftmark. He is concerned about his grandsire Corlys dying and also not being a sailor on par with Corlys as he gets greensick when sailing. Rhaenyra reassures him that he would have her to learn from and grow into being Lord of Driftmark as she was able to do the same with her father.
The scene speaks to Rhaenyra’s parenting and bond with her children, something we don’t see with Alicent and her children, not only is she able to relieve the anxiety he is having to a certain extent, but Luke tells her be believes her to be perfect, something teenage children rarely do, and it shows how much he loves his mother and feels the same in return.
Ser Lorent Marbrand enters and informs Rhaenyra that Princess Rhaenys has arrived on dragon back to meet with her and Daemon. Rhaenys announces that Viserys is dead and Aegon was crowned successor which triggers Rhaenyra begins to have contractions. Like Lord Beesbury, Daemon suggests that Viserys was murdered. When suspicions are raised at how Rhaenys was able to leave Kings Landing, not having sworn fealty to Aegon, she assures them that she refused Alicent’s demand and escaped on Meleys as the war was not hers to begin, giving the fans the answer to why episode 9 didn’t end in a Dracarys moment. She advises them to leave Dragonstone as the Greens are coming for her and her children and Rhaenyra goes into labor.
Maester Gerardys comments that the babe is not fully formed and is not ready. Elinda and other midwives encourages Rhaenyra that she’s done this 5 times in the past and can manage the 6th time. As Rhaenyra is giving birth, Daemon meets with their limited lords and guards around the painted table but is clearly distracted by the sounds of Rhaenyra in pain in the background. He suggests the dragon keepers be included in the forces as they don’t have enough men to surround the island, but they can appear to be stronger than they are.
Luke and Jace are training on the beach and their guards urge Jace to go easier on Luke so that he may learn what he tries to teach him rather than being as aggressive, a distinct difference in the teaching styles of Criston Cole. Rhaenys informs the boys their mother wants to see them both. Still in labor she tells them Viserys has died and The Greens have usurped the throne. Jace asks what is to be done about it and she instructs nothing yet. He asks where Daemon was and she responds: “gone to madness”, reminding the audience how easy it is for a Targaryen to flip when the Dragon is Awaken. Jace says that he would handle Daemon and Rhaenyra reminds him he is now her heir and instructs that nothing (the war) is not to be done without her order.
Lord Bartimos Celtigar informs Daemon that Lord Corlys is getting better and left Evenfall. Daemon orders ravens be sent to Lord Darklyn, Massey and Bar Emmon. He disregards Rhaenyra’s screams for him and Ser Lorent’s suggestion to speak with Maester Gerardys. He would fly to the Riverlands and gain the Tulley support. Jace enters and orders Daemon to stand down. Daemon ignores him and tells him to patrol the skies on Vermax but 1st invites him to join him as he summons Lord Steffon and the Kingsguard to the Dragonmont.
On the Dragonmont, Daemon asks Ser Marbrand and Steffon Darklyn to renew their oaths of fealty to Rhaenyra and her heir Jacaerys. Caraxes comes out as a show of power and lets Jace see the power they wield. Daemon told Jacaerys he would show him what loyalty looks like but it seems more a show of force than loyalty. Daemon presents them a choice between swearing loyalty, choosing the Greens and so doing dying now, or swearing loyalty and switching sides later and so doing dying a horrible death and his hand.
As they renew their vows, Rhaenyra is screaming in the background delivering the baby on her own. The midwives and Maester look on as she pulls and pushes the baby out on her own. The scene is juxtapose with Syrax also screaming seemingly feeling her rider’s pain. This birth is different than her previous births, it is premature, and Rhaenyra appears to be in much more pain and will not allow the midwives and maesters to help.
This is one of a few scenes that are reminiscent of Rhaenyra’s (6x) great granddaughter in Game of Thrones, Daenerys. The baby is born prematurely due to labor brought on by trauma and there is some suggestion that the baby is deformed, resembles a dragon or is just plain premature and is in between development stages. Rhaenyra swaddles the stillborn baby and sits rocking as Daemon finally enters the birthing room. The scene switches to her preparing the baby for the funeral and Daemon mourning alone on the beach. They then gathered for the funeral, Ser Erryk arrives with Viserys’ crown and swears his Kingsguard oath to Rhaenyra.
Daemon takes the crown and Crowns The Black Queen, Rhaenyra Targaryen 1st of her name. They all kneel except Rhaenys (and a few guards), Rhaenys smiles at her granddaughters Rhaena and Baela then back at her 1st cousin once removed and is proud to be witnessing the event of a woman being crowned Queen regardless of the specific circumstances involving the Greens.
The Black Council has it’s first official meeting finally igniting the painted table. This was probably one of my favorite things visually this season, I actually got chills when the table illuminated. The chess pieces representing the houses of the realm are removed from their cases and swords are placed on a check in table at the entrance (save the guards’ swords). Rhaenyra enters as Daemon announces her titles and she is received by her council. Rhaena is her cup bearer, and she invites her to take a place at the table, as does Baela.
Daemon has sent ravens and gotten a head start of things and reports their allied forces are small, 30 knights, 100 crossbowmen and 300 men at arms with declarations from Massey, Darklyn, Bar Emmon, Celtigar and Staunton. Rhaenyra believes to have support from Arryn because her mother Aemma was an Arryn and Baratheon as Rhaenys is kin. Rhaenys has yet to pledge allegiance to Rhaenyra as she is likely waiting for Corlys to do so. Riverrun is brought up and Rhaenyra says that Lord Grover is fickle and easily swayed. Daemon says he’s going to treat with them himself and Rhaenyra looks stunned, likely because of Daemon’s initiative without her order. Rhaenyra comments that Lord Boros Baratheon will need to be reminded of his father’s promises while House Stark will likely keep their oath. Lannisters are their enemies and as such they have no allies west of the golden tooth.
Lord Celtigar, says what everyone is thinking, why are we discussing men when we have more dragons than the other side. Daemon says the Greens only have 3 adult dragons while they have Caraxes, Syrax, Meleys (including Meleys to Rhaenys surprise), Vermax, Arrax, Tyraxes and Moondancer. Rhaenyra stops him reminding him their dragons have not been to war, he then brings up Seasmoke, Vermithor and Silverwing are on Dragonmont and are unclaimed and the camera cuts to Rhaena as we are reminded, she doesn’t have a dragon. He goes on that they are still 3 wild dragons as well, probably referring to: The Cannibal, Grey Ghost and Sheepstealer, not to mention he has a score (20) of eggs incubating. He says the Blacks have 13 dragons to the Green’s 4, since we only know of the 3 ridden by Aegon, Aemond and Helaena (Sunfyre, Vhagar and Dreamfyre) the 4th must be Tessarion who will be ridden by Alicent’s 4th son Daeron who has not yet been mentioned in the show. Daemon is full speed ahead on the war planning to use Harrenhal as a base of operations to cut off the west.
Ser Erryk is alerted that a ship is approaching with a lone galleon flying the green’s new banner, a green 3 headed dragon. Daemon is in in attack mode as he grabs Dark Sister and goes out to have a repeat stand-off, we saw between he and Otto in Episode 2, including Rhaenyra’s entrance on Syrax. After being corrected that Rhaenyra is now Queen Rhaenyra, Otto delivers Alicent and Aegon’s terms which include possession of Dragonstone for her and then Jace, Luke as heir to Driftmark, Aegon the younger as Aegon’s squire and Viserys as his cup bearer and pardons for the knight and lords on Team Black. Daemon in true Daemon fashion, would rather feed his sons to dragons than have them squire and carry cups for the usurping cunt king Aegon.
Otto runs down the list of accolades they have adorned Aegon with to appear legitimate in the eyes of the realm. He also announces that they are pending RSVP’s from Houses Stark, Baratheon and Tully, all of whom Rhaenyra expect to swear to her. She removes Otto’s hand pin and flings it over the bridge. All the guards are at attention, hands on swords, including Arryk on the side of the greens while his twin Erryk is on the side of the Blacks. As tensions mounted, Otto calls for Maester Orwyle to present a paper from Alicent. It is the page Rhaenyra ripped from a book and gave to Alicent in episode 1 when she was 14. The page documents Nymeria’s conquest and plays on Rhaenyra’s sympathies towards her once friendship with Alicent. Daemon orders Erryk to bring him Otto, but Syrax screeches and Rhaenyra orders all to stand down, again, Daemon follow’s Rhaenyra’s lead in bridge negotiations, despite disagreeing with her actions in this situation.
Back at the painted table, Rhaenyra says “I do not wish to rule over a kingdom of ash and bone” and we are reminded of Game of Thrones season 7 ep 2 Daenerys says “I’m not here to be queen of the ashes” when Lady Olenna urges her to be a Dragon, much like Daemon urges Rhaenyra here. Both Dany and Rhaenyra lose people and Dany ends up annihilating Kings Landing. The House of the Dragon season 1 cliff hanger seems to be setting up a similar occurrence in season 2.
As Daemon continues to push towards war in frustration, Rhaenyra clears the room. Daemon accuses her of channeling Viserys’ inaction and Rhaenyra attempts to remind him of the prophecy and it is why she must proceed with caution. Daemon grabs her throat in anger when he realizes that Viserys never trusted him enough or believed in him enough to have shared the secret of the prophecy. Viserys never truly intended for him to ever succeed him as heir, likely because Viserys believed the prince who was promised would directly come from his own line through Rhaenyra. It may be why Viserys didn’t want Daemon to marry Rhaenyra thinking the prophecy couldn’t be true through both he and Daemon’s line at the same time. Who knows, but Daemon clearly wasn’t let in on the heir secret and takes it out on Rhaenyra. He also makes it clear that if Targaryens owe their success to Dreams vs Dragons, he falls squarely on the side of Dragons, stating “Dreams didn’t make us Kings, Dragons did”.
Finally, Lord Corlys is back and Rhaenys confronts him for abandoning her following the death of Laena and their believed death of Laenor. Corlys admits he used the war in the stepstones as his means of mourning the loss of his children. Corlys took losing Vaemond as I expected, acknowledging he brought it on himself. He also has begun realizing his own heedless ambition and vows to live a quiet life going forward. Rhaenys reminds him their grandchildren are in the midst of all the drama and Rhaenyra is surprisingly the only one with any restraint and acting in the good of the realm.
As a result, Corlys joins the Black Council and throws his support behind Rhaenyra and in so doing behind his 4 grandchildren. Corlys informs her that the narrow sea is theirs and they can use it to cut off trade to Kings Landing. Rhaenyra notes that they will still need the support of the North and Storms End.
Jace volunteers and Rhaenyra agrees to send Jace to Lady Jeyne Arryn in the Vale and Lord Cregan Stark of Winterfell while Luke would go to Storms End to treat with Lord Boros Baratheon. They would go to remind the Lords of the oaths they swore and the cost of breaking them. Rhaenyra also makes the boys swear that they are going to treat as messengers not warriors which seems in conflict with the tones of the letters that include the price the Lords would pay for breaking their oaths. We saw what happened when Daemon received unwanted news from Viserys earlier in the season, the messenger paid for it. Rhaenyra calms Luke, who is obviously nervous, by telling him Lord Boros would be honored to receive him.
As Jace heads off North and Luke goes South, and Rhaenys heads off to patrol. In the meantime, Daemon is attempting to win over Vermithor, the second largest dragon compared to Vhagar. He sings in Old Valyrian as an attempt to bond with Vermithor. We don’t know if it works but it sure looked like he made a connection.
Meanwhile, Luke arrives at Storm’s End and sees Vhagar parked outside. He is escorted in and Aemond is there in the hall having arrived earlier on the same errand as Luke but for the greens. Lord Boros receives the letter and has his Maester read it to him, does he not know how to read or just being formal? Either way, Lord Boros does not take to the strong words used in the letter. He is insulted by the offer that does not include a marriage pact. Aegon offered a marriage alliance between Aemond and one of Lord Boros’ daughters, we saw Lord Tyland mention last episode that Boros had 4 daughters to wed. Luke says that he is not free to marry as he is already betrothed (to Rhaena). Luke is about to leave and Aemond calls him Lord Strong and tells him to remove his eye as he is owed his eye. He removes his eye patch revealing his missing eye that has been replaced with a sapphire. A sapphire is used to represent Aemond in the series opening sequence. Lord Boros interrupts and restricts them from shedding blood in his hall. He calls for the guards to escort Luke out to Arrax.
As Lucerys approaches Arrax, Vhagar is already gone. Luke reminds Arrax to obey and serve him as he mounts him and starts out through the horrible weather that is Storm’s End. The scale of Arrax in comparison to Vhagar is great as we see Vhagar and Aemond stalking and chasing Luke. Arrax is faster and nimbler than Vhagar and for a while, Luke is able to outmaneuver Aemond and fly through canyons. Both Luke and Aemond appear to lose control of their dragons who are sensing the fear and aggression their riders are feeling, causing the dragons to go into fight mode.
Arrax blows fire on Vhagar without the Dracarys command. Aemond is losing control of Vhagar and just as Luke makes it above the storm clouds and out of danger, Vhagar appears and bites Arrax, ripping him in half. Luke and Arrax’s torn bodies fall from the sky. Aemond did not intend for this action and it shows on his face but his actions are directly responsible for Luke’s death. We are reminded that a dragon is not a slave and will do as they please.
Daemon learns of Luke’s death and pulls Rhaenyra aside to tell her, the musical score has been great throughout the series and again here. We do not hear what Daemon says nor are we given any verbal response from Rhaenyra; however, the music paired with Emma D’Arcy’s face and body acting lays it all on the table. As the scene and season ends, we are left to wonder, will Rhaenyra now do what she didn’t want to do and burn Kings Landing to ash and bone, now that they have awakened the Dragon.
Episode 10 left us with a great cliff hanger. We have to wait for 2 years to see how Rhaenyra responds to losing her father, babe in childbirth and Lucerys to Aemond. Overall the episode was a 9 as was the season as a whole. As mentioned before, pacing kept it from being a 10. Even in such a great finale something felt missing, parts of the episode felt too slow and others too fast. The pacing does add to the excitement and tension of the episode; however, it also feels like the audience is missing something, perhaps that is HBO’s intent. Whether it was intentional or not, the show was great and I look forward to a rewatch a few times before we’re given season 2.
Furthermore, House of the Dragon was an excellent start at expanding the Thrones Universe. If the franchise with this level of work in future spin-offs HBO will be unrivaled in serial television for which they have already set the bar with the original Game of Thrones. I’m hoping with season 1 of HOTD at an end we will get an announcement for one of the other spin-offs. I’m most interested in Snow, unpopular opinion. However, The Sea Snake and 10,000 Ships are high on my list as well. The Sea Snake will follow the life of Corlys Velaryon prior to the events in HOTD. 10,000 Ships will tell the story of Princess Nymeria, heroine of both Arya Stark and Rhaenyra Targaryen. Other spin-off’s in development include Dunk & Egg Tales or A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms (I’ve heard both names as the working title), Animated series on Yi-Ti, Flea Bottom and showrunner Ryan Condal has suggested that once HOTD has told the story of the Dance of Dragons, HOTD might go on to tell different stories from Targaryen history. If these spin-off’s don’t suffer the fate of the BloodMoon spin-off HBO scrapped after developing a 30 million dollar pilot, then we’re in for years of Thrones Entertainment.
Let me know if you disagree with any of my interpretations or opinions of the episode in the comments below. What are you watching until Season 2 of HOTD returns?