‘House Of The Dragon’ Season 1 Finale Recap And Review: ‘The Black Queen’

House Of The Dragon’s first season has come to an end and I know I’m not alone when I say that waiting for Season 2 is going to be a struggle. The first season was a lot of build-up and character development.

The showrunners wisely spent virtually the entire season setting the stage for the Dance of Dragons. They took pains to show us a peaceful Westeros under the rule of the good King Viserys I (Paddy Considine). And they set into motion all the various palace intrigues that would lead us to this moment, as Team Green and Team Black teeter on the edge of civil war.

Last week, when Queen Alicent (Olivia Cooke) discovered that her husband had died, she quickly brought the matter before the Small Council, where she revealed that he had told her in his dying breath that he wanted his son, Aegon (Tom Glynn-Carney) to succeed him. The Greens moved fast, staging the coronation in the Dragon Pit in front of the masses. Princess Rhaenys (Eve Best) escaped on her dragon Meleys and made her way to Dragonstone where, in this week’s finale, she revealed the treason to Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) and her husband Daemon (Matt Smith).

The news of her father’s passing and the Hightower betrayal is such a shock that Rhaenyra goes into early labor, giving birth later to a stillborn monstrosity. It’s yet another powerful scene of childbirth gone astray in a season that’s bloodiest moments are often the act of childbirth gone terribly wrong. Rhaenyra, unlike her mother, survives but it’s just the beginning of a long parade of tragedies to come.

Daemon is quick to action. He has ravens sent to allies and orders men to patrol the island both to search for enemy ships and to make a show of strength. Ships do arrive. One of these bears Erryk Cargyll (Elliott Tittensor) the Kingsguard knight who couldn’t stand the thought of Aegon as king. (His twin Arryk—played by Luke Tittensor—remains in Aegon’s camp.

Erryk comes bearing the crown of King Viserys which he gives to Rhaenrya, swearing his sword to her cause.

The other ship brings the Hand of the King, Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) who was Hand to King Jahaerys and King Viserys before his grandson, Aegon II, took the Iron Throne. It’s a tense meeting that recalls a similar confrontation years earlier, when Otto and Rhaenrya showed up on the same side, demanding that Daemon return the dragon egg he stole. Now, the tables have turned and when Rhaenyra sets down on her dragon, Syrax, she’s Daemon’s wife and a sworn enemy of the Hightowers.

Otto lists Aegon’s terms and they’re certainly generous enough. Rhaenyra will keep Dragonstone. Lucerys (Elliot Grihault) will remain heir to Driftmark. Rhaenyra’s younger sons by way of Daemon, Aegon and Viserys, will be squire and cupbearer to the King. All that Rhaenyra and her family need do is bend the knee.

“I’d rather feed my children to the dragons,” Daemon says, adding some colorful language about Aegon. But Rhaenyra isn’t sure what to do yet. After unpinning Otto’s Hand pin and throwing it into the sea, she tells him that King’s Landing will have her answer on the morrow.

Later, Daemon is aghast that she would ever consider surrender. She suggests that he’s just itching for a war, but he tells her it’s her duty as queen to put down rebellion, whatever the cost. It’s at this point that she brings up Aegon’s dream, A Song Of Ice And Fire, that Viserys told her about years ago. Daemon loses his patience and goes cold, grabbing his wife/niece by the throat and telling her “We didn’t become kings because of dreams. We became kings because of dragons.”

“He didn’t tell you,” she says, realizing that her father never truly took Daemon seriously as heir. Daemon just storms from the room. It’s . . . a strange, fraught moment, like almost every scene Daemon occupies.

Lord Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) arrives at Dragonstone having survived the grievous wound he received in the Stepstones. He learns of his brother’s death and tells Rhaenys that they should declare for neither side and return to Driftmark to live out their days in peace. But Rhaenys reminds him that the fate of his grandchildren relies on Rhaenyra becoming queen. As long as Aegon sits the Iron Throne, her children will be a threat. Besides, Rhaenyra has shown impressive restraint. So Corlys declares House Driftmark and his fleet to Rhaenyra’s cause. He’s taken over the Stepstones as well, and controls trade in the Narrow Sea. Rhaenys says she’ll patrol the Gullett—where Blackwater Bay meets the Narrow Sea—herself, on dragonback.

But the need to secure allies remains an issue, and Jacaerys (Harry Collett) suggests sending him and Luke to treat with the major Houses of the realm that are most likely to be swayed to the Black banners. Rhaenyra agrees, sending Jace north to the Vale and then to Winterfell to treat with Lady Arynn and Lord Stark. She sends her younger son on the closer, easier flight to Storm’s End and Lord Baratheon. It’s a tragic mistake.

When Luke arrives in the Stormlands he does so in the midst of a growing storm befitting the location. Worse than the storm is the presence of Aemond Targaryen (Ewan Mitchell) who brought sweeter terms to Lord Borros Baratheon (Roger Evans). The proud—but illiterate—lord is irritated that Rhaenyra sent no terms or offers of her own, only a reminder of his father’s oath. He tells Luke to go. Far from the “warm welcome” Rhaenyra predicted, the Lord of the Stormlands is outright hostile.

But when Aemond tells “Lord Strong” that he wants him to cut out his eye as repayment for the one he lost, Borros quickly becomes uncomfortable, telling them that no blood will be spilled in his hall. He orders his men take Luke back to his dragon.

Aemond heads to his dragon, the massive Vhagar, as well. As Luke makes a hasty retreat back toward Dragonstone, we suddenly see Vhagar above the far smaller dragon, high in the clouds. Rain and lightning and gusting winds fill the night sky.

Luke tries to escape as Aemond laughs above him. He almost does, too, darting between narrow cliff walls where the much larger Vhagar can’t follow. But it’s at this moment that Luke loses control over his dragon. Like Luke, the dragon Arrax has never been to war. Provoked by the larger dragon, the younger Arrax goes on the offensive, breathing a fiery gust into Vhagar’s face.

Now it’s Aemond’s turn to lose control. Vhagar moves to attack and Aemond pleads with the beast to obey him. But Vhagar is ancient and has no patience for her rider. As Luke and Arrax make their way higher, up above the clouds and into blue skies, Vhagar pursues. Suddenly, the massive dragon bursts through the clouds, opens its jaws wide, and then snaps them shut, cleaving Arrax into pieces. The mutilated dragon and its rider fall from the sky, plummeting to their deaths below.

Back on Dragonstone, we see Rhaenyra at court with her lords and knights and soldiers. Daemon enters and goes to her. Hand in hand they walk, their backs turned. He whispers something to her, and we see her stop. Without seeing her face, we know what she’s just learned. We can see her heart breaking even before she turns.

And when she turns, we see it in her eyes: Fire and blood.

War is coming.


This was a tremendous and powerful season finale for House Of The Dragon. I have to say, this show has surpassed every expectation of mine. I’ve essentially watched every episode now twice except this one, and I fully intend to watch it another time now that the whole season is out. The show’s creators, Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik (the latter of whom has now left the show) have crafted a truly unique fantasy show. Nothing like it has been done before. This is a serious character drama. It is darker and slower and more serious and more grownup than Game Of Thrones.

Whereas Game Of Thrones was epic fantasy, House Of The Dragon is historical fiction with dragons. But it’s more than that. The writing and the acting and the whole production just feels more rich and personal and intimate than its predecessor. It’s not as fun. There aren’t as many characters to root for. No Tyrions or Aryas or Jon Snows. But the complicated characters we do have feel more lived in, more weather-beaten and more real. And good grief, Ramin Djawadi is at the top of his game with the score.

I don’t mean to spend so much time comparing the two shows, but it’s hard not to here at the end of Season 1. At the end of the first season of Game Of Thrones, war was also stirring, with many different sides vying for control of the Seven Kingdoms, or out for revenge. Here, there are only two sides, but war and revenge is on the horizon just the same. I hope that Season 2 doesn’t forget that this show’s strengths are largely in its careful, detailed approach to character development and not in battles or dragons, as entertaining as those most certainly are.

What did you think of the House Of The Dragon season finale? Let me know on Twitter or Facebook.

You can watch my video review of the episode below:

As always, I’d love it if you’d follow me here on this blog and subscribe to my YouTube channel so you can stay up-to-date on all my TV, movie and video game reviews and coverage. Thanks!

Read my previous House Of The Dragon reviews:

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2022/10/24/house-of-the-dragon-season-1-finale-recap-and-review-the-black-queen/