What Happened on House of the Dragon? Here’s Our Recap of Episode 10.
The following story contains spoilers for Season 1, Episode 10 of House of the Dragon, titled “The Black Queen.”
War is here. After House of the Dragon‘s Season 1 finale, “The Black Queen,” the show is thoroughly done with prologue and ready to dive headfirst into civil war. Before we reach that heartwrenching conclusion, however, the finale ostensibly functions as a mirror to the events of last week’s episode, showing how Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) and Daemon (Matt Smith) respond to the passing of King Viserys (Paddy Considine) and the coronation of King Aegon (Tom Glynn-Carney). As such, we see only a handful of appearances from the Greens, including a swaggerful Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans, excellent as always) and a predictably unhinged moment from Aemond (Ewan Mitchell).
Upon receiving the news of both Viserys’ death and Aegon’s crowning from Rhaenys (Eve Best), the Blacks realize they’re behind the eight-ball and quickly work to shore up their power. Unexpected allies enter the picture in the form of Ser Arryk and the return of the Sea Snake himself, Lord Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint). Rhaenyra then receives her own coronation on Dragonstone, with her allies swearing loyalty as she figures out what to do.
One of House of the Dragon’s biggest strengths is how it manages to provide nuance to each character—and how the past influences their decisions. Sure, Rhaenyra could have burned everyone on the bridge this time, just like she could have all those years ago. But escalation would come with its own set of problems, just as there are consequences for inaction. Those ramifications feel like the tip of the spear, a brief hint into the bloody carnage that’s about to unfold. Let’s dive into some major takeaways from Episode 10, “The Black Queen,” and enjoy these final moments of calm as the Dance of the Dragons begins in full.
To Kinslay or Not to Kinslay?
If you spent any time on Twitter over the last week, you’re likely well aware of the reaction to Rhaenys’ actions (or lack thereof) at the end of Episode 9. The character seems to address that conversation head-on, as she explicitly states to Rhaenyra and Daemon that the “war is not mine to begin.” While that won’t likely be enough reasoning for some viewers—myself included, perhaps—it’s refreshing to see that Dragon knew ahead of time that people might be asking that question. It also continues to make it clear to viewers that Rhaenys is well-established as someone capable of seeing the entire chess board. Much of “The Black Queen” embodies her approach, in fact. If there’s going to be a war, someone else will need to start it first.
While Daemon and Rhaenyra disagree about Rhaenys’ approach, the two will likely agree that the stillborn death of their third child is the second casualty in the Dance of the Dragons, after Lyman Beesbury got his head smashed into a marble orb by Criston Cole in Episode 9. House of the Dragon’s view of childbirth is particularly brutal, and the tragic death of Rhaenyra’s daughter and sixth child, Visenya, is certainly positioned by showrunner and episode writer Ryan Condal and director Greg Yaitanes as a direct result of Aegon’s ascension and Viserys’ death. Between the deaths of Visenya and Lucerys (Elliot Grihault), the Greens are quickly amassing quite the body count in the early stages of this war. Given how hell-bent Daemon is about striking back in these early stages, the moment he gets his chance, it will be brutal.
Long Live the Queen
If you couldn’t keep Ser Arryk and his brother Ser Erryk straight, well, that should be much easier now that the two have picked separate sides. After helping Rhaenys escape last week, Arryk shows up on Dragonstone with a critical gift for Rhaenyra: the Targaryen crown worn by Viserys. The Hightowers decided to crown Aegon the second with the helm and sword of Aegon the Conqueror, a not entirely subtle nod to the fact the Greens were conquering the throne for themselves.
Arryk’s decision to return the crown to Rhaenyra allows Dragonstone a chance for a coronation of their own and further divides the realm as those gathered pledge allegiance to her. A critical partner in Rhaenyra’s alliance is the Sea Snake, who survives his injury and declares support for the Queen. Lord Corlys brings a particularly critical bit of information with him; the Triarchy is finally done, and the Narrow Sea is under Velaryon control. A few maneuvers will allow Rhaenyra to launch a blockade of King’s Landing, chocking out resources to the Greens and allowing the Blacks to lay siege to the Red Keep. That’s quite an asset for Rhaenyra to have at her back.
Echoes of the Past
At times, House of the Dragon’s timeline jumping made it hard to keep up with shifting actors or even skipping through critically essential parts of characters’ lives. Still, it works well in service of the relationship between Alicent and Rhaenyra. As such, the climatic bridge confrontation not only echoes the fateful encounter Daemon and Rhaenyra shared all those years ago—albeit with some new wrinkles, like Rhaenyra flying in to support Daemon instead of sauntering in to persuade him.
As if the echoes of Dragon past weren’t enough, Condal and crew go a step further by having Otto present a page from the book young Alicent and Rhaenyra spent so much time reading together. It’s a tangible reminder of their love for one another, despite their differences over the years. It’s certainly a play, one that Alicent hopes will sway Rhaenyra to her side but also a final olive branch before a descent into chaos.
The both-sides-ing that House of the Dragon does is a delicate dance in and of itself, bolstered by wonderfully touching moments like this that remind us and the characters we’re watching of what’s really at stake. To have that level of shared history between these characters as a mechanism to help us feel that weight is especially effective—and one of House of the Dragon’s greatest assets.
The (Storm’s) End is the Beginning
Oh, boy, those Baratheons. As Game of Thrones viewers know, the future holds quite a conflict between the Stags and the Dragons, as future Baratheon descent Robert Baratheon will eventually rebel against the Targaryens and hunt down every last one of them (or almost all of them, save for one Daenerys) throughout Robert’s Rebellion. (Side note: The myriad civil wars throughout Westeros’ history have the coolest names). But it might be said that the seeds of the bad blood between the two houses start, in earnest, with the tragic events at Storm’s End, the nearly impenetrable seat of the Baratheons.
In a televised first—Game of Thrones never really showed the full extent of the massive stronghold—we see the full splendor and danger of Storm’s End. Located cliffside in the aptly-named Stormlands, the Baratheons had previously pledged their loyalty to Rhaenyra. As such, she sends along Lucerys as a pure messenger to draw the Stags to her cause. Only, as Luce quickly realizes, Rhaenyra is one step behind; Aemond and Vhagar are already there.
Lord Borros (Roger Evans), who has a somehow worse temperament than Robert, rejects Luce’s message and Aemond looks to add insult to injury by, once again, seeking vengeance over his missing eye. While Borros wisely demands no bloodshed in his throne room, that doesn’t stop Aemond from chasing after Luce on Vhagar.
In Fire & Blood, the circumstances surrounding Lucerys’ death are less gray and more black and white. After Aemond’s new wife, Maris, taunts him, the Green dragon rider chases after Lucerys and intentionally kills him. To add insult to injury, Aemond locates Lucerys’ corpse and removes both eyes before presenting them as a gift to Maris. As a result of his brutality, Aemond is known henceforth as Aemon the Kinslayer.
In keeping with Dragon’s penchant for misunderstandings, the dragons that made the Targaryens power, as Daemon points out, go rogue. Against their riders’ wishes, Arrax tries to take Vhagar down before Vhagar—the massive and oldest dragon—eats Arrax (and Lucerys by victim of circumstance) for dinner. The reality of Luce’s death will cause that “Kinslayer” title to take on a tragic nature. While Aemond’s intentions were far from good, death was seemingly never on the agenda. Now, it’s perhaps the inciting incident in the Dance of the Dragons. Despite their best intentions, the Greens and the Black are now at war—and Emma D’Arcy’s look at the end of the episode, without a single word of dialogue, says it all. Shit is about to go down. Who will be left when it’s all said and done?
William Goodman is a freelancer writer, focused on all things pop culture, tech, gadgets, and style. He’s based in Washington, DC and his work can also be found at Robb Report, Complex, and GQ. He’s yet to meet a jacket or cardigan he didn’t love. In his free time, he’s probably on Twitter (@goodmanw) or at the movies.