The civil war has been brewing for a few seasons, and there have been tensions over who will succeed the Iron Throne for three decades.
House of the Dragon is a story of power and betrayal. Numerous people died as House Targaryen went through time, showing off all the minor moments that led to them becoming embroiled in conflict. That was until Season 1, Episode 8–Dragon’s Final–when Vhagar, the mighty dragon, slew Arrax and his rider—Prince Lucerys Velaryon.
“The first battles in the Dance of the Dragons were fought with quills and ravens, with threats and promises, decrees and blandishments.” From Fire & Blood’s text, Dragon. “Many still hoped that the question of succession might be resolved peaceably.”
The first season of Game of Thrones has ended, but now the war is coming. Rhaenyra’s second son has already died, and now she has her sights set on vengeance. With the royal blood spilled, there’s no telling where this story will go next.
Dragon’s Season 1 finale focuses almost exclusively on Rhaenyra, and her supporters after Episode 9 focused entirely on the greens. “The Black Queen” begins with a blow, as Viserys dies and the greens stage a coup.
On the last episode of “Game of Thrones,” Rhaenyra, the character who wants to take over the Iron Throne, gave birth prematurely. Now she is in a difficult choice: Should she stay and sit the throne, risking her son’s life? Or should she go and save his life? This event bookends with the pilot episode when Rhaennya’s mother dies during childbirth. Daemon and Viserys’ mother also died due to pregnancy complications, before the show’s events began. In Episode 6, Daemon’s second wife Laena died from maternal complications as well.
Daenerys doesn’t die, but her sixth child does. Her emotional roller coaster speeds around another bend as she buries her child, however, because Erryk Cargyll arrives with a gift – removing Viserys’ crown from his satchel like Flynn Rider in Tangled. Daemon places the crown atop Rhaenyra’s head, and the burial transforms into an impromptu coronation; everyone present (save Rhaenys, who has yet to confer with her husband Corlys and pick a side) kneels.
Aegon II’s coronation in “The Green Council” was pompous and formal; it was a staged, public event meant to make the people of King’s Landing believe that all the trappings of power belonged to him. In contrast, Rhaenyra’s coronation is smaller and more personal; with new significance for the first woman to have been named Queen of Westeros.
Monarchs are a bit like quarterbacks – if you have two, you don’t. And in the latest, most urgent entry in the “quills and ravens, threats and promises” phase of the war, Otto Hightower arrives for a callback to Episode 2 when he once again sizes up Daemon across Dragonstone’s bridge.
Later in the series, Rhaenyra also arrives in style- just a little more timely- on dragonback. However at this encounter, she is on Daemon’s side, not Otto’s and she receives the greens’ terms for peace: If Rhaenyra swears fealty to Aegon, she will get to keep Dragonstone and pass it down to her sons, who will be royally acknowledged as trueborns; Lucerys will inherit Driftmark; her sons with Daemon will become Aegon’s squire and cupbearer; and all her supporters will receive pardons.
Daemon rejects the terms at once and threatens Otto with his sword; Rhaenyra preaches caution, lets Otto leave in peace, and agrees to consider the proposal. Then follows a harrowing scene, as Daemon chokes his wife as they argue about Aegon the Conqueror’s prophecy—of which Daemon isn’t aware— and the proper path to save the realm. This scene doesn’t appear in Fire & Blood, yet it fits a character who already killed one wife. One hopes that in Season 2 of Dragon, they will explore the fallout of this violence with more care than Game Of Thrones considered when Jaime raped Cersei.
In this episode, at least, there is no fallout. Instead of moments of darkness like we saw in the last few episodes, the battle plans commence quickly with triumphant music in sight. Corlys Velaryon is back from his injury that bailed him out for two episodes and agrees to support Rhaenyra’s claim to the throne and uses his family’s naval power to blockade shipping lanes on the chaotic Narrow Sea. Now Rhaenys needs to take charge by patrolling Meleys and cut off all entries into King’s Landing by sea. And as for Eddard Stark, Arryn, Baratheon fight against Baelor Falaris – it will be lords from these factions who will need to help her siege landward side of the capital too.
Thus, Rhaenyra sends Jace and Luke to be ambassadors to both of the other factions. “You go as messengers, not warriors,” she tells them, “but you’re also not to take part in any fighting.”
Yet this is only the latest in a series of McBain moments for Luke, who soon meets his demise. The episode’s first scene hosts a tender moment between Rhaenyra and Luke, as she comforts her son. Before she sends him on his way to Storm’s End, she also tells him, with a smile, “I expect you will receive a very warm welcome.”
Seeing Vhagar at Storm’s End, Luke knows Aemeron beat him to the Baratheons. Inside, Borros’s reception isn’t very warm and he demands something in return before he’ll confirm his father’s oath. Outside, Aemond insults Luke, calling him “my lord Strong” and “bastard.”
Aemond wants Luke to give up one of his eyes as payment for the eye Luke had slashed many years ago at the children’s scuffle. Borros won’t let this happen, even though he won’t let violence happen in his own hall.
Because Arrax’s never bonded to a dragon and only flies when commanded, he easily tumbles off the back of Vhagar. So instead of guarding his friend, as he would in an aerial fight, Luke follows him out of the protective walls of Harrenhal — and into his fate. The camera tracks their flight from ground to air as they flee across a forlorn and rain-soaked wasteland. They take to the sky on powerful wings, but in those ancient places just outside the High Valyrian forts that once surrounded Harrenhal, Vhagar is waiting.
Thanks to his smaller size and a narrow canyon, Arrax almost escapes, disappearing into the fog—but then, scared and resisting his master’s commands, he breathes deadly flames at Vhagar’s thick hide. The chase is back on. Aemond shouts desperately “No!”
This deviation from the source text is reminiscent of one of the other major changes within the show. In episode 8, Alicent misinterprets Viserys’s dying words as a plea for her Aegon to become king. These changes share a common theme: that the tragic Targaryen civil war may have been avoided if not for a name-based misunderstanding and a disobedient dragon.
The maester looks out at the raging fire, still licking at the burning Tower of Joy. Maester Aemon can see a boy with a dragon—a youth whose dragon had been tethered to a lower parapet to keep it from hurtling into the tower and damaging its furnishings. But the flames have leapt up anew. Now Tyrion’s dragons are pulling back, but they’re too small to beat down so vast an inferno; this time, they will not be enough.