House of the Dragon Finale Recap: The Dance of the Dragons Gets Underway —  Plus, Grade It!

Armor up, House of the Dragon fans: We’ve got ourselves a war.

It was one thing to hear little Shireen talk about Rhaenyra vs. Aegon, aka the epic war that came to be known as the Dance of the Dragons, as a history lesson in Game of Thrones. It’s entirely another when House of the Dragon‘s Season 1 finale brings us to the precipice of that legendary entanglement and then dragon-dives us right into the fray.

Read on for the highlights of “The Black Queen,” and then make sure to hear what Emma D’Arcy and co-showrunner Miguel Sapochnik have to say about that major death at the end of the hour.

BAD NEWS, WORSE RECEPTION | Rhaenyra finds Luke perseverating about how he’s not a fit heir for Driftmark. She consoles him by telling him that she was the same age as he is now when she was named heir to the throne, and she wasn’t ready either: “I had to earn my inheritance.” He counters that he’s not like her — “perfect.” She kisses him head and assures him she’ll prepare him the way that her father prepared her.

house-of-the-dragon-finale-recap-season-1-episode-10-They’re interrupted by the arrival of Rhaenys, who requests an audience with Rhaenyra and Daemon. She doesn’t beat around the bust. “Viserys is dead,” she says bluntly, offering her condolences before following up with: “Aegon has been crowned as his successor.” Daemon immediately assumes the king was killed; Rhaenyra’s eyes fill with tears and she grips her belly as if pained. “The Greens are coming for you, Rhaenyra, and for your children. You should leave Dragonstone at once,” Rhaenys counsels, walking out as she makes it clear she only came out of loyalty to Viserys, but she wants no part of what’s ahead. But that doesn’t seem likely, given that Rhaenyra’s pains are getting worse. She reaches under her skirt and finds blood: The baby is coming.

It’s too early for the birth, but the princess is definitely in labor as she retreats to her quarters and paces, moaning in agony when the contractions come on. She summons her two oldest sons to her side; they wonder where Daemon is. “Gone to madness. Gone to plot his war,” she pants, then demands that Jacerys, as her next-in-line, makes sure that no action is taken while she’s indisposed. Daemon brings the boy out as he gives two Kingsguard knights an ultimatum: Switch their loyalty to Rhaenyra, or die by dragon.

At that moment, Rhaenyra — who has refused to let any of her attendants help her — has the child right there on the stone floor of her bedroom. The infant is stillborn. She cradles and wraps the child, and the next we see, everyone from the castle has gathered around the baby’s funeral pyre out on the cliffs. That’s where Ser Erryk Cargill finds them, presenting Viserys’ crown to Rhaenyra and swearing his fealty to the princess. Daemon places the crown on his wife’s head and bows, saying “My queen.” Everyone else follows suit.

A DIFFERENT KIND OF ASCENSION | Rhaenyra quickly shakes off — or stuffs down — her grief and makes her way to the Chamber of the Painted Table to strategize. They discuss which houses are likely to support them and which are likely to side with Alicent’s Greens, and then Daemon gets all hopped up as he points out that Rhaeynra’s Blacks have far more dragons at their disposal than the Hightowers & Co. do.

house-of-the-dragon-finale-recap-season-1-episode-10Everything comes to a halt, though, when Otto Hightower arrives bearing a message from Alicent that is intended only for Rhaenyra. “Where is the princess?” he wonders as he stands on the bridge outside the castle; Rhaenyra chooses that moment to swoop in on Syrax. Otto offers her Dragonstone, with her sons taken care of, if she swears loyalty to Aegon. “Every symbol of legitimacy belongs to” Aegon, Otto says, adding that Houses Stark, Tully and Baratheon will side with Aegon. She and Daemon loudly say hell nah to those terms, and she rips his Hand of the King pin from his lapel and tosses it over the side of the bridge. Otto doesn’t react, instead handing Rhaenyra a personal note from Alicent: a page from one of the books they used to read together when they were kids. Daemon is ready to fight, and everyone draws their weapons. But the message has made Rhaenyra cry, and she orders all of the men to stand down, telling Otto that King’s Landing will have her answer soon.

Shocker: Daemon wants to head into war straight away. Rhaenyra points out that when dragons are used in war, everything burns. And ooooh the idea that the new queen is even considering taking Otto’s deal makes Daemon pissy. When he yells at her in front of everyone, she clears the room. (Side note: I absolutely loved that look Rhaenys shoots them on the way out.)

Rhaenyra uses the alone time to bring up the Song of Ice and Fire, which infuriates Daemon even more; he grabs her by the throat (!) as he angrily dismisses it as one of Viserys’ fanciful dreams. “Dreams didn’t make us kings. Dragons did,” he spits. But that’s when she realizes that Viserys never told him about the prophecy… which coincides with the moment that Daemon realizes the prophecy is going to be a THING.

house-of-the-dragon-finale-recap-season-1-episode-10THE SEA SNAKE SLITHERS AGAIN! | The good news: Corlys is alive and seems to be doing better! The bad news: Rhaenys is mad at him for running off to war, and she’s got all of the bad news of the past few episodes to fill him in on before he’s even out of his sickbed. “Our pursuit of the Iron Throne is at an end,” he decides, adding that they’ll declare for no one and just chill. Isn’t it pretty to think so? Rhaenys makes it clear that their grandsons Jacerys, Lucerys and Joffrey will never be safe as long as Aegon is king. And what’s more, the Queen That Never Was is kinda impressed with her cousin’s ability not to be a hotheaded asshat.

Lord Corlys improves enough to make his way to the Chamber of the Painted Table, where he grandly pledges his loyalty — and the Velaryon fleet — to her side. She’s touched, and with a glance at Rhaenys, she acknowledges how much Mrs. Sea Snake did to make this happen. Oh, and good news: They control the Stepstones and access to the Narrow Sea, thanks to the mess that Corlys got himself into years ago.

Still, Rhaenyra isn’t running headlong into a fight. “Taking caution does not mean standing fast. I mean to know who my allies are before I send them to war,” she tells Corlys. They discuss sending ravens, but Luke and Jace volunteer to ride their dragons to bring messages to some far-flung houses that might need a little in-person convincing.

house-of-the-dragon-finale-recap-season-1-episode-10The queen makes her boys swear that they are traveling as messengers, not warriors. She has a tender moment together with them, and then they’re off.

R.I.P., LUCERYS | It’s stormy when Luke arrives at Storm’s End… and he’s surprised to see there’s another dragon already hanging around outside. Inside, he learns that Aemond has arrived before him, and he’s standing next to Lord Borros Baratheon as Luke delivers the message from Rhaenyra. Baratheon is mad that Luke showed up empty-handed; at least Aemond brought a marriage pact. Dejected, Luke turns to leave… and then Aemond demands that the boy cut out one of his own eyes in exchange for what he did to Aemond years ago. Aemond rips off his eyepatch and we see that he’s got a giant sapphire stuffed into the socket. Also? He’s super mad. As he comes after Luke, Lord Borros orders them to go spill each other’s blood somewhere else.

So Luke hightails it out to Arrax and flies off in the thunderstorm. Luke seems to be getting away just fine… until Aemond flies over him on Vhagar and you get a sense of how incredibly teeny Arrax is in comparison. There’s a lot of back and forth and a chase, but then Arrax goes rogue and breathes fire on Vhagar, and Vhagar counters by swooping down and biting Arrax’s head off. Unfortunately, he snags Luke in the process, and that’s all she wrote for Rhaenyra’s second-born. For what it’s worth, it’s clear that both dragons have stopped listening to their riders when all of this is going down; afterward, Aemond looks more gutted than I would have thought him capable.

Rhaenyra receives the news in her war room. We don’t see her face at the moment Daemon tells her that her son has died, but we DO see it when she turns around. Though tears slide down her cheeks with abandon, the look is pure fury: This war is ON.

Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the episode? Grade it — and the season as a whole — in the polls below, then hit the comments with your thoughts!

 

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