The ‘House of the Dragon’ season one finale took place on a precipice of grief. Between the opening and closing scenes, Rhaenyra is hit with three major deaths: her father, her unborn child, and her son, Lucerys. On top of that, she has to come to terms with Alicent’s monumental betrayal, usurping her throne to give it to her son Aegon II.
That said, we had many a goosebumps moment to celebrate – including Rhaenyra being crowned as Queen of Westeros and Daemon singing in High Valyrian to claim Vermithor. Let’s break down the ups and downs of the finale, which had a ton of dragon action, and culminated with a casualty that signified the point of no return.
The Early Stages of War
Just as last week we saw the official first meeting of the Green Council, the finale brought us the first congregation of the blacks around the painted table. Civil War is undoubtedly in the works due to the greens’ coup, but these first stages of the conflict are a time of caution – with a focus on securing allies, patrolling Dragonstone, sending a slew of ravens, and sizing up their cause’s dragon power.
Daemon is whipped up into wartime excitement, ready to jump into bloodshed to oust and murder the treasonous Hightowers. Rhaenyra is, however, proving to be her father’s daughter. She feels the weight of her responsibility as Queen to hold the realm together and declares that war will not ensue from an event of her instigation. In other words, she will not land the first blow.
There’s certainly volatility in the air, which exposes a fray between Rhaenyra and her King Consort. Daemon is clearly on edge, and as he befittingly declared in the pilot: “we must all mourn in our own way.” Though he’s spent most of this season as the Internet’s boyfriend, I think the finale reminded us all that Daemon is still this complicated, hotheaded, violent figure. Lest us forget he went back to the Vale to murder his wife in episode 5!
I bring this up because there was definitely some fan discontent about his character development online. My take is that, at the end of the day, expecting Daemon Targaryen, the Rogue Prince, to be an unproblematic family man is implausible. He’s always been a loose cannon, and his antihero role made him the show’s breakout star. What always redeems him at the end of the day is that he is fiercely loyal.
Hence, why he is the one who crowns and announces Rhaenyra as Queen for the first time. In my eyes, his intensity to kickstart this war stems from vengefulness fueled by his love for Rhaenyra. He wants to make the Hightowers pay because he is devoted to her. As Rhaenyra said to him in episode 7: “we have always been meant to burn together.“
The climax of the finale was, without a doubt, Lucerys’ flight to (and attempted escape from) Storm’s End. Sent as a messenger by his mother to meet with Borros Baratheon, the boy and his young dragon, Arrax, arrive right as a massive storm is settling in.
Between the cracks of thunder, the dark sky, and the onset of heavy rain, the foreboding atmosphere is already in high gear. Then, when he dismounts off of Arrax, he notices the gargantuan side profile of Vhagar lurking nearby. By this point, Lucerys’ short messenger errand has turned into a horror movie.
As Vhagar’s presence heralds, Aemond is already here. Turns out team green is ahead of the game, and has brought terms to Borros Baratheon, including a marriage pact. Poor Lucerys is clearly in over his head, and Aemond leans into playing the bully. He rehashes their childhood squabble, demanding an eye for an eye. Lucerys essentially repeats his mother’s instructions, declaring he did not come as a warrior but as a messenger.
Borros Baratheon doesn’t want any bloodshed in his hall and asks for Lucerys to be escorted back to his dragon. By now, the weather is even worse, and Lucerys knows he’s in for a tough flight. He gives Arrax instructions in High Valyrian and takes off. Though, as we soon see, he is being stalked by a massive shadow.
The following sequence has fans reeling for many reasons. First, it ends with the tragic deaths of Lucerys and Arrax. Second, it shows the realization of an early quote by Viserys about the control of their dragons being an illusion. This has mixed reactions across the fanbase. Quite frankly, I think it’s an interesting concept to explore.
The dragons are smart and sentient creatures, and their bond with their riders is not just one of servitude. It goes deeper than that. As many have pointed out, Arrax could sense Luke’s fear, and likely fired at Vhagar out of panic. As for Vhagar and Aemond, though it’s insinuated that he lost control and didn’t intend to kill his nephew, I think it’s important to remember that through their bond, Vhagar could sense his true animosity.
I suppose what I’m trying to get at here is the idea that a Targaryen’s role as a dragonrider can enhance or bring out a certain side of them that they might not have leaned into otherwise. It’ll be interesting to see next season whether Aemond chooses to own up to what happened or try and play it off on Vhagar being a rogue, geriatric dragon!
Layers of Grief
No doubt, this finale was chock-full of emotion. Emma D’Arcy put on a stellar performance, allowing Rhaenyra’s compounded grief to be palpably felt through the screen. From enduring a tumultuous miscarriage to losing Lucerys, it’s clear by the closing frame that Rhaenyra is ready for vengeance. In the past, she was always willing to try and find a peaceable road forward, to remain calm and collected, but the greens have gone too far.
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to see an unhinged Rhaenyra commit war crimes next season, and I will be supporting her every step of the way! As the internet swiftly noticed, Rhaenyra’s look of grief has turned to a ferocity we last saw on the face of Daenerys Targaryen. This event changes her, as well as kickstarts the Dance of Dragons once and for all.
Unfortunately, we will likely have to sit on this cliffhanger for two years in typical GoT fashion. Though filming for season two is supposed to commence early next year, most fans don’t expect a premiere until 2024.
Until then, I’ll be pacing in circles, perhaps rereading ASOIAF again to pass the time. I’m a Queen Rhaenyra loyalist, so I’m willing to wait it out.
Finally, make sure to check out our final weekly Tweet round-up for episode 10 here. Dracarys!