’House of the Dragon’ Episode 10 Review: The Dance of the Dragons Begins in 'The Black Queen’
It is undeniable that we are currently navigating an outstanding time for fantasy storytelling. With Prime Video’s The Rings of Power wrapping up just a few days ago and now House of the Dragon delivering a season finale to remember, fantasy fans are eating quite well these days.
Much like episode 9 of HBO’s first Game of Thrones spin-off was only focused on King’s Landing and Alicent’s council maneuvering and politicking their way around to crown King Aegon as Viserys’ successor, the finale is solely focused on Rhaenyra’s side of the story. This decision works on multiple levels — it allows the audience to see the events play out from each side so that we are able to back each claim (I decided last week that Alicent was my favorite character of the show, and then I decided this week that Rhaenyra takes that spot), and also emphasizes the division between the two lifelong friends. For the first time in the entire series, they do not share an episode.
But this episode is probably the most important episode of the entire first season of House of the Dragon, not only because it acts as a great finale (an episode capable of taking in everything that has happened so far, wrapping it up with a satisfying conclusion, and getting us excited for what’s ahead), but also because it gives a lot more weight to the events of Game of Thrones. First introduced in the series premiere as a sort of Easter egg, we are now starting to realize how vital the Song of Ice and Fire is to Westeros. This is not just the title that Sam gave to his recapping of the events. It is a prophecy that once split the country in half and, at the same time, almost kept it together.
Whether or not the Green Council would have proceeded with Aegon’s crowning in episode 9 if Alicent hadn’t misinterpreted Viserys’ words in episode 8… is up to the viewer to decide. But the prophecy plays such an important role in the finale that the showrunners might as well have cast the part. This is Rhaenyra’s episode through and through — after learning about Viserys’ passing and Alicent’s betrayal, Rhaenyra suffers a painful miscarriage. It’s obvious from the very beginning that this is happening, and yet, Ryan Condal’s writing and Greg Yaitanes’ directing keep us on the edge of our seats while looking away because it’s too grotesque. And I thought the miscarriage from the first episode was one of the most horrible scenes in the Game of Thrones universe…
The entire sequence was even more effective because when we are not with Rhaenyra in the room, she is still with us. We can hear her scream when Daemon is plotting his war, a poignant reminder of the gender dynamics of the times. But it’s not only that — we are reminded of who really is in control here, because as much as Daemon and his men are plotting, we are still aware that Rhaenyra may have something to say.
Her claim to the throne is backed in this episode by a few powerful allies, including members of the King’s Guard, but most importantly, Princess Rhaenys is able to convince Steve Toussaint’s Lord Corlys Velaryon, who makes a triumphant return in The Black Queen, to put aside their differences with Daemon and Rhaenyra and appreciate that, at the end of the day, she is the one that best suits their interests. As a quick note, I would like to ask for more Sea Snake in the coming seasons. I know there is a spin-off series in development, but I feel like House of the Dragon is leaving a lot on the table by not giving us Toussaint exercising his full power over the Narrow Sea.
But let’s get to the meat of the episode, because there’s a lot to digest here. While episode 10 was Rhaenyra’s episode, we still get a couple of visits from the parallel storyline in the form of Otto and Aemond. Otto arrives at Dragonstone to give Rhaenyra a peace treaty. We, as an audience, are quick to laugh along with Daemon at the proposal, but Rhaenyra is not. She knows better. Her father entrusted her in the first episode with a burden, known as the Song of Ice and Fire. There is a great danger coming from up North. Nobody knows when or how. But it is coming. And to make sure Westeros can survive it, the House of the Dragon must make sure that a Targaryen is sitting on the Iron Throne. Keeping the family on the Throne is more important than who is actually sitting on it.
And there is a lot more. Viserys raised Rhaenyra to be a peaceful Queen, to maintain his legacy of holding the country together with a lack of armed conflict. And there is obviously the matter of her love for Alicent, her childhood best friend. This is also why it was so important to have five episodes to explore the dynamics of the two characters during their shared childhood. Every relationship in this show is based on layers upon layers, and we are now seeing the results of that complexity.
The Song of Ice and Fire is so important in this episode that it caused Daemon’s weekly seizure. Upon learning that his brother, whom he dearly loved, never believed in him as his successor, he flips out and chokes Rhaenyra. As Ryan Condal told Variety, this was his way of reacting to the news. Instead of feeling great sadness or grief, he goes for her throat, and he does not look back.
Rhaenyra is also very keen on keeping her father’s legacy by passing on what he taught her to her children. Jacaerys and Lucerys are eager to aid their mother, who sends the two of them as messengers to remind her tentative allies that they have an oath to keep. We only see one half of the mission, and it doesn’t go so well… As soon as Lucerys lands on Storm’s End to gather support from House Baratheon, we realize that something’s wrong. We quickly realize that Aemond may have arrived here sooner than Lucerys as the shadow of a giant dragon is seen against the clouds.
Lucerys enters the castle, and we quickly find out that Aemond, also known as the character with the most punchable face on television at the moment, may have already made his claim to House Baratheon. He is now alone, still a kid, facing off against an entire room of adults that will soon turn against him, and among them is his most feared opponent in the country. Lord Borros Baratheon is only able to buy him some time before Vhagar appears in the sky in one of the most impactful shots of the entire series so far, and we then get ready for two dragons dancing. Lucerys is able to get the upper hand for a brief moment, but makes the terrible mistake of striking back instead of going into hiding, and once he pisses off Vhagar, the dragon takes it personally, and there is nothing Aemond can do. He was only seeking his cousin’s eye, and got his body falling from the sky instead.
We learn from his reaction that he never intended to kill Lucerys, only to scare him, but he soon realizes there is no messing around in times of war — a lesson that he will surely mull over in the next few seasons. And so will Rhaenyra. She doesn’t know about Aemond’s intentions, and even if she did, she wouldn’t care. Her dear boy is dead, and as she learns the news, “Rhaenyra looks up and war is in her eyes.” Let the Dance of the Dragons begin.
House of the Dragon will return in 2024.
Miguel Fernández is a Spanish student that has movies as his second passion in life. His favorite movie of all time is The Lord of the Rings, but he is also a huge Star Wars fan. However, fantasy movies are not his only cup of tea, as authors like Scorsese, Fincher, Kubrick or Hitchcock have been an obsession for him since he started to understand the language of filmmaking. He is that guy who will watch a black and white movie, just because it is in black and white.