Previously on House of the Dragon …
Last week, we said our final farewells to Paddy Considine’s King Viserys as he finally succumbed to years of illness — spurring the true center of this series. Upon his death, Queen Alicent and her father, Otto Hightower, devise a plot to forego the named succession of the crown and usurp the throne to Aegon II rather than his older half-sister, Rhaenyra. Those who remember their vow to Rhaenyra and hold true are slain by the Greens or imprisoned, including Princess Rhaenys, before she can make her escape on Meleys.
The following contains spoilers for the season 1 finale, episode 10 — “The Black Queen.”
We open on Lucerys mulling over his destiny as the Seasnake’s — Corlys Velaryon — fate hangs in the air. Lucerys, a sensitive and prone to sea-sickness fourteen-year-old, is terrified at the thought of becoming Lord of Driftmark. While his mother, Princess Rhaenyra, attempts to instill faith in him, he maintains that he is not fit for the position, or any position of power, because he is not perfect like her. Rhaenyra insists that Lucerys must have faith in himself and that he will not have to do any of it alone — that she will always be there to guide him.
“We don’t choose our destiny, Luke, it chooses us.”
The pair are interrupted by Princess Rhaenys, who has arrived on dragonback from King’s Landing and is requesting an urgent audience with Rhaenyra and Prince Daemon. The news she brings, of course, is that Viserys has died, and what’s more — the throne has been usurped, and the crown placed upon Aegon II’s head. While Daemon is quick to question the cause of death for his late brother, the multitude of distressing news has more affect than anyone can bare — Rhaenyra enters labor with her child far too early.
As Rhaenyra painfully births a stillborn daughter, her husband stays far from her and attempts to get a handle on the situation in the only way he knows how — aggression. Thankfully, Rhaenyra’s eldest sons, Jacaerys and Lucerys, have been to see her and ensure that their mother’s wishes are heard — there are to be no acts of war carried out by those aligned with her at the moment. Jacaerys, as the next in line after Rhaenyra, stands his ground against his stepfather and refuses to go against his mother’s word. Good news amongst all of this — Lord Corlys’ fever has broken, and he sets sail for Dragonstone.
Daemon, with Caraxes beside him, presents the members of the Kingsguard who are with him with a choice — to stay loyal to Princess Rhaenyra and swear their oath anew or to receive a clean and honorable death now. The caveat is also presented to the latter option — if the two swear to Rhaenyra now and betray her later in honor of the usurper, they will die screaming.
No time is wasted before the stillborn daughter is laid to rest on a funeral pyre, though the event is shortly brought to an end by the arrival of Ser Erryk, who comes to pledge his loyalty to Rhaenyra and present her with her father’s crown. Daemon places the crown atop her head, claiming her as Queen Rhaenyra — all those present bend the knee to her in respect, hold for Princess Rhaenys, who bows to no one.
Funeral concluded, and title claimed, Rhaenyra and company move onto plotting for the inevitable war to come. Rhaenyra would much rather see strength in numbers throughout the kingdom and to know who her allies are, while Daemon puts his faith in fear and the use of dragons, claiming their side to be the sure winner on the number of dragons alone and proclaiming his intent to secure riderless and wild dragons to their side. The plotting is interrupted by the arrival of a ship.
Once again, Rhaenyra marches her way through Otto Hightower and his men on the steps outside Dragonstone after landing on Syrax to hear the message from Queen Alicent. Otto offers terms to Rhaenyra, her family, and her supporters — if they accept Aegon II as their king and refute any claim to the Iron Throne, they will all live and be bestowed with land, titles, and wealth going forward to ensure their comfort. Rhaenyra takes in the information gracefully, while Daemon does not, loudly proclaiming his opposition.
“I would rather feed my sons to the dragons than have them carry shields and cups for your drunken usurper cunt of a king.”
Rhaenyra does allow emotion to get the better of her momentarily, tossing the Hand of the King pin bestowed upon Otto by her father aside, but promises that King’s Landing will have her response within the day.
Back to the plotting before the painted table, Daemon and Rhaenyra continue to disagree on the best course of action, leading to Rhaenyra ordering the room to be cleared so she can have a conversation alone with her husband. She pleads with Daemon to keep his head and to remember that being the monarch of Westeros means more than to be king or queen due to the Song of Ice and Fire — though judging by Daemon’s rage, his brother never shared this prophecy with him.
Lord Corlys is brought up to speed by his wife (he’s missed a lot in the six years since he basically abandoned her to be at sea) and joins Rhaenyra and company in their continued plan-making. Corlys brings a much-needed level-headedness and experience to this council and helps devise fitting next moves after swearing his continued loyalty to her. Though having the strength of the Velaryon fleet does aid her cause, Rhaenyra still wishes not to be the aggressor and instead focus her efforts on knowing who her allies are.
“I made a promise to my father to hold the realm strong and united. If war’s first stroke is to follow, it will not be by my hand.”
House Arryn at the Vale, who Rhaenyra feels is an absolute given her mother was an Arryn, House Stark in Winterfell, and House Baratheon at Storm’s End, all of whom swore to her upon Viserys claiming her as his heir, are still up in the air as to whom they are supporting. Ultimately, the decision is made to send Jacaerys and Lucerys on dragonback to deliver messages to these houses from the Queen.
Prince Daemon’s attentions are on singing to Vermithor, the Bronze Fury — the second largest dragon in Westeros who was once ridden by King Jahaerys and is somewhere around 100 years old. The hope here is to persuade the dragon to their side, though we are left questioning if the attempt was successful — though given that the dragon did not immediately swallow Daemon, this is a good sign.
The remainder of the finale is every bit as heart-wrenching as can be expected. Lucerys makes the flight to Storm’s End on his young dragon, Arrax, to find that his uncle, Prince Aemond, has already arrived with a message from King’s Landing. There is obvious confusion from Lord Borros Baratheon, who is decidedly offended that Rhaenyra’s message does not come with an offer of wealth or status as the offer from Aegon II came with an offer of a marriage between Aemond and one of the Lord’s daughters. After being turned away, Lucerys’ exit is halted by Aemond, who declares he wishes for his nephew to take out his own eye to repay the years-old debt. Borros puts a stop to this before fighting ensues, declaring he will not have bloodshed beneath his roof, but that doesn’t stop the bloodthirsty one-eyed prince.
Lucerys returns to Arrax in a hurry, but the pair are pursued in a horrible storm by Aemond and Vhagar — a much larger and war-hardened dragon. Aemond’s attempt to simply scare his nephew ultimately goes disastrously wrong as we are reminded of King Viserys’ words earlier this season:
“The idea that we control the dragons is an illusion. They’re a power men should never have trifled with. One that brought Valyria its doom. If we don’t mind our own histories, it will do the same to us.”
Unable to control his young and frightened dragon, Lucerys begs for his dragon to serve him as Arrax breathes fire onto Vhagar, ignoring the pleas of his rider. Vhagar, a product of war, takes the action as a sign to escalate her own actions and, despite the pleas from her own rider, ultimately bites the younger and much smaller pair, who never stood a chance. Aemond, now a kinslayer, must watch as his nephew and pieces of the young dragon fall from the sky.
The season closes on Daemon delivering the news to Rhaenyra that her son has been slain. A quote from the novel from King Daemon Targaryen that would have fit effortlessly into this scene:
“An eye for an eye, a son for a son. Lucerys shall be avenged.”
There is no more attempt at holding the realm together after this from the Black Queen … there will be war.
You can find our episodic recaps for the first season here. Stay tuned with Nerds & Beyond for future news on House of the Dragon.