The House of the Dragon Season 1 Ending Should Leave Alicent Scared
The following story contains spoilers for House of the Dragon Episode 10, “The Black Queen.”
HBO’s House of the Dragon is in this for the long haul. Perhaps the premium cable giant took one of the main critiques of the final seasons of Game of Thrones—that they were simply too rushed—to heart, and that’s what we’re seeing at play in that show’s top-notch prequel spinoff. Season 1 of Dragon turned out to be, essentially, a season of pure prologue. Not that it was without thrills, but after 10 episodes that clearly have laid the groundwork for an epic civil war, it’s clear that this is a show that is taking its time to tell its story, and not worried about anything else along the way.
By the end of Season 1, the stage has clearly been set for the events known in author George R. R Martin’s world as “The Dance of the Dragons,” which was the civil war between the Hightower (Green) and Targaryen (Black) factions of the Targaryen dynasty. Martin himself has recently said that for that story to be told right, it’ll need to be somewhere in the range of 40 episodes long. A far cry from Thrones, which depicted Daenerys Targaryen’s heel turn and downfall (after the tiniest bit of build up) in the space of an hour and change.
The 10th and final episode of House of the Dragon‘s freshman season took a major step toward that war, as Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) was crowned Queen of Westeros on Dragonstone in front of her numerous followers only one episode after Alicent (Olivia Cooke) and Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) usurped the true succession plans of King Viserys (Paddy Considine) to crown Alicent’s awful, drunken, rapist, son Aegon II (Tom Glynn-Carney) as the new king. There are two clear roads here, and only one can ultimately be taken.
There are also a few key moments at the end of the episode that will clearly impact the events to come. Co-showrunner Ryan Condal told EW that the end of the season marked “another major point of no return” for Rhaenyra—and it’s hard to argue with that one. Still, let’s get into what exactly went down as the season came to a close.
What happened with Aemond and Lucerys and their dragons?
Thinking of yourself as an underdog can go a long way. Despite being a literal prince—the son of a King and Queen—Aemond has clearly always seen himself as someone who needs to fight and be on the defensive. As a timid child, he bucked up and mounted Vhagar following Laena’s death, and while the ensuing scuffle cost him his eye, it gained him not only a dragon, but a whole lot of confidence. When House of the Dragon‘s timeline jumped and Aemond was portrayed by actor Ewan Mitchell, the character had become someone constantly telling himself of his greatness, and, as the second-born son of his house, feeling the need to prove it to himself and to others. While his brother, Aegon, is handed everything he gets and responds by being a lazy degenerate, Aemond trained himself to be a master warrior and constantly feels like he needs to prove his importance to everyone around him.
That’s never more true in Season 1 of House of the Dragon than when he finally shows up, evil smirk on his face, at the end of “The Black Queen.” Rhaenyra has sent her son—only as a messenger—to reaffirm Lord Borros Baratheon’s loyalty to her throne claim, but he arrives to see the giant dragon Vhagar outside and his sinister uncle waiting inside. Borros is not nearly as kind or as honorable as we saw his descendant, Robert, to be in Game of Thrones, but at least he is decent enough to not allow Aemond to carve Lucerys’ eye out (like he appears to want to) in his throne room.
But Aemond won’t stop. As Lucerys departs on the back of his dragon, Arrax, Aemond intends to give his nephew a scare. The weather is not great anyway, and both uncle and nephew eventually lose control of their dragons. And just as it seems like poor Lucerys has gotten out of the woods, Vhagar re-emerges and takes a big old chomp out of Arrax. We see bits and pieces falling out of the sky as a troubled Aemon looks on with rare concern on his face. That was, without question, not the plan.
It’s a fairly stark departure from how the events are recounted in Fire & Blood, the book upon which House of the Dragon is based. In the source material, Aemond has the same confrontation at Storm’s End with Lucerys—he demands his eye. But the aftermath is different. In the book, Aemond wants the eyes for his new wife, Lady Maris, rather than his mother, Queen Alicent. And in the book, the events leading to Vhagar eating Arrax (and probably Luke too) for dinner aren’t accidental. In the show, while Aemond’s intentions were, clearly, far from good, he didn’t plan on that being the day that he murdered his nephew.
It’s worth thinking back to a line from Episode 1 of House of the Dragon that seemed like a throwaway at the time, but now takes on a much larger meaning. Viserys explained that while most in the realm believed that Targaryens are able to fully tame dragons, it’s dangerous to actually believe that. And here, we see that realized in deadly fashion.
Is Lucerys dead?
The answer is: almost certainly. It absolutely looked like Vhagar took a huge chomp out of Arrax, and, as Arrax’s rider, Lucerys was caught in the line of fire. Even if he didn’t die from the bite, falling from the sky would probably do the trick too. Insider recounts how Fire & Blood, which recounts the events of Westeros through the tellings of various sources including one untrustworthy person named “Mushroom,” describes the various accounts of Luke’s death.
“Arrax fell, broken, to be swallowed by the storm-lashed waters of the bay. His head and neck washed up beneath the cliffs below Storm’s End three days later, to make a feast for crabs and seagulls. Mushroom claims that Prince Lucerys’s corpse washed up as well, and tells us that Prince Aemond cut out his eyes and presented them to Lady Maris on a bed of seaweed, but this seems excessive. Some say Vhagar snatched Lucerys off his dragon’s back and swallowed him whole. It has even been claimed that the prince survived his fall, swam to safety, but lost all memory of who he was, spending the rest of his days as a simpleminded fisherman.”
While that final scenario is a possibility for House of the Dragon, given how we saw the story of Laenor’s death play out, it doesn’t seem super likely. On top of the fact that Vhagar’s teeth and bite looked, well, quite vicious and deadly, and the boy would’ve been falling from quite high heights out of the sky, there’s also the fact (which we’ll get to more below) that the story is greatly served by Rhaenyra losing someone she loves to the Blacks. With Luke taken from her after being sent on a seemingly-innocuous mission as a messenger, she’s looking for blood in a way that she wasn’t before.
No pun intended here even a little bit, but “an eye for an eye” seems like a phrase that will be at the top of Rhaenyra’s mind, especially considering that she doesn’t know the accidental circumstances upon which the dragon battle occured. And this should make Alicent quite concerned.
What Does the Final Shot of Rhaenyra Mean?
Let’s give all the credit in the world for the very end of the House of the Dragon Season 1 finale to the body language and look that Emma D’Arcy gives. Without a word of dialogue, we see Rhaenyra buckle ever so slightly when Daemon clearly passes along the news that her young son has died on a mission that she clearly thought was relatively simple and harmless. It’s at this point that Rhaenyra is no longer looking back; she’s no longer looking for peace. Someone important to her has been taken—and she’s going to strike back with full force as soon as she possibly can.
D’Arcy gives the camera a look that sells all of this in just a single moment. We see the tears streaming down Rhaenyra’s cheek, an obvious reaction to losing a child. But in their eyes, we also see the confidence that’s been growing all season as Rhaenyra has made her way through all the trials and tribulations of being a royal heir, and one who’s had people like Otto Hightower constantly trying to undermine her. And in D’Arcy’s eyes we also see a quiet rage that’s been slowly simmering.
Rhaenyra did her best to follow in her father’s footsteps and approach things with the intent of maintaining peace in the realm. She even strategized in a way that Daemon didn’t agree with—a rarity among these two who have largely been on the same page for the second half of the season.
But once this has happened—once her child has been taken by her half-brother, the son of her former best friend—there’s no turning back. War is among us, and it’s only going to end with way more bloodshed.
Evan is the culture editor for Men’s Health, with bylines in The New York Times, MTV News, Brooklyn Magazine, and VICE. He loves weird movies, watches too much TV, and listens to music more often than he doesn’t.
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