House of the Dragon remains ard to watch, but you can't look away. The best thing on TV right now.
Warning spoilers ahead for House of the Dragon episode 10. Welp, after ten weeks of teasing us the Targaryen civil war, the Dance of the Dragons has finally begun, but who’d have thought the whole thing could have been avoided? Anyway, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Our episode begins on Dragonstone, where Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D’Arcy) and her son Lucerys (Olivia Cooke) argue over duty.
Rhaenyra tells her son that we don’t choose our destinies but that we must rise to them all the same. Lucerys counters, arguing he’s not perfect like his mother, but she reassures him she was not born this way; she grew into the role. Before they can continue, though, Princess Rhaenys and Meleys arrive with news from Kings Landing.
Rhaenys (Eve Best) tells her cousin that Alicent (Olivia Cooke) and Otto (Rhys Ifans) have had Aegon II Targaryen (Tom Glynn-Carney) crowned king in front of the common folk. A furious Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) demands to know how his brother died, but before the pair can take any action, Rhaenyra starts to give birth to her baby prematurely, forcing her to take to her chambers.
With Rhaenyra bedridden, Daemon immediately starts planning a war in her name, coordinating with his fellow Blacks (Rhaenyra’s supporters) to organise support in Westeros. Rhaenyra’s son Jacaerys tries his best to stop the rogue prince, but he’s too forceful for the younger man and ravens are sent to the lords and ladies of the mainland.
Daemon’s excitement at the potential for violence, however, is short-lived. Rhaenyra gives birth to a stillborn baby boy, and the royal family have him quickly cremated. We’ve come to expect blood and screams from House of the Dragon, but this isn’t a thrilling action scene or a moment of cathartic violence. It’s heartbreaking, painful, and sad.
There’s little time to mourn, though, as Ser Erryk Cargyll (Elliott Tittensor) arrives carrying Viserys’ old crown. Placing it upon her head, Rhaenyra declares herself Queen of the Seven Kingdoms and the plans for war begin in earnest.
Despite naming herself Queen, Rhaenyra finds herself trapped in the same situation she was in at King’s Landing. Men, in particular Daemon, speak for her. Still, he at least does have a plan. The Blacks will use Harrenhal as a base from which to retake their throne.
Before Rhaenyra’s men can be despatched, the Greens (Aegon’s supporters) arrive, led by Otto. Rhaenyra and Daemon meet with him, and he offers generous terms for their surrender. Rhaenyra’s sons will all be given positions at court and allowed to rule Dragonstone as they see fit, but the Blacks must surrender any claim to the Iron Throne.
Daemon, being, well, Daemon, is itching to kill Otto, but Rhaenyra is reminded of her friendship with Alicent and tells the Greens she will give them an answer in 24 hours. That night Daemon and Rhaenyra argue over Otto’s offer, and when the Queen reminds her husband of the Song of Ice and Fire prophecy, he chokes her.
Again Game of Thrones has never shied away from violence. Still, such a shocking display of domestic abuse is highly disarming and reminds us that despite being played by the charming Smith, Daemon is, in his words, a “c*nt” and a power-hungry one at that.
As Daemon tells her his brother only believes in prophecy because t made his own feckless rule mean something, Rhaenyra realises he does not know about the prophecy.
In a nearby bed chamber, Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) finally wakes from his fever and finds Rhaenys watching over him. Corlys isn’t keen to embroil himself and his house in Rhaenyra’s war, especially considering the ruin she’s brought to the Velaryons in her quest for power.
Rhaenys contradicts her husband, explaining how Rhaenyra is fighting to avoid war. Soon after, Corlys swears his loyalty to Rhaenyra and offers to blockade King’s Landing, hopefully ending the war peacefully.
With Daemon missing (he’s gone hunting dragons after his violent outburst, Rhaenyra is finally able to take charge of her own war and despatches her sons to Storms End, Winterfell, and the Eyrie seeking allies. Her only command is that they act diplomats, not soldiers, and she bars them from fighting.
Lucerys arrives at Storm Ends hoping to convince the Baratheons to join his mother’s cause. As he flies over, the sight of Rhagar alerts him that his uncle Prince Aemond has already arrived, and Borros Baratheon is less than receptive to Rhaenyra’s message.
When Lucerys turns to go, Aemond rubs salt in an old wound calling the boy “Lord Strong”. Aemond then demands Lucerys finally repay an old debt and cut out his eye, which the boy refuses to do. Not wanting blood spilt in his halls, Borros has Lucerys escorted out to his dragon Arrax, but it’s too little too late.
Aemond and Vhagar chase down Lucerys and Arrax as they fly away, and both boys momentarily lose control of their dragons. In the melee, the much larger Vhagar devours Arrax killing Lucerys.
Did Aemond mean to do it? Honestly, it doesn’t look like it, but it’s too hard to say. Ultimately it’s Lucerys death that forces Rhaenyra’s hand. In the last dreadful moments of the episode, Rhaenyra is informed of her son’s death and coldly stares forward, clearly ready for war.
It’s a wonderfully compelling cliffhanger to leave the first season on and a desperately sad one as well. All the coming bloodshed could have been so easily avoided were it not for petty grievances and silly rivalries. All in all, though, The Black Queen was an excellent conclusion to House of the Dragon, and we can’t wait to see the fantasy series return.