In its first episodes, house of the dragon it stumbled at times and often felt like a project that owed its existence to HBO’s hunger for a new hit rather than an understanding of what it did game of Thrones convincing first. But in his season 1 finale, house of the dragon proved to be worthy game of Thrones successor and something like a dragon egg: a surprising gift that needed time, heat and just the right intensity to become truly fantastic.
game of Thrones had the luxuries of time, space and novelty working in its favor when it was first released in 2011 and introduced a new audience to the Song of ice and fire that has been haunting George RR Martin’s mind for the last three decades. Though it took a while for his shock to become apparent, game of Thrones he focused on gradually revealing more and more of the inside of his characters with a measured slowness that made it easy to empathize with them, especially as the shape of Westeros’ politics became apparent. Doing that, game of Thrones cultivated its cast of incestuous, murderous, traitorous child defenestrators into a group of people audiences loved and wanted to see survive in the great war against the frozen dead, even though the series had lost much of its luster by that point.
Other than just copying game of Thrones‘ narrative structure and teasing its story over the course of eight seasons, there was no way house of the dragon he could have developed his heroes and villains in exactly the same way. And so, instead of slowly burning, house of the dragon it came hot and explosive by condensing its story with jumps in time. He used his time to focus solely on the most pivotal moments in Westeros’ history, like director Greg Yaitanes’ “The Black Queen” spin, the season 1 finale.
“The Black Queen” is a reckoning episode for many of house of the dragon‘s players, Princess Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) in particular. But it’s also a critical turning point that brings a kind of clarity to the show’s story so far and the path it will follow in season 2.
As sickly as King Viserys I (Paddy Considine) was when leprosy ravaged his body in the years before his death, his unwavering determination to keep his family together ahead of the prophesied great winter was also what kept his loved ones from sinking. to Westeros. at war In her youth, Rhaenyra and her uncle and husband, Prince Daemon (Matt Smith), couldn’t see Viserys’s relative gentleness as the blessing to Westeros that he was. Neither could appreciate how their own ambitions for the Iron Throne might one day endanger House Targaryen as a whole or how Viserys’s rule as king, flawed and sometimes monstrous, was genuinely defined by his deep and enduring love for his entire family. family.
While Daemon and Rhaenyra’s relationships with Viserys were complicated, “The Black Queen” lays bare just how much their love meant to both of them even though it stood directly in the way of their ability to claim the Iron Throne at different points throughout. early this season.
It was hard to feel much of anything house of the dragon‘s premiere when old King Jaehaerys I (Michael Carter) first convened a Grand Council to select an heir because house of the dragon He had not yet given us the opportunity to properly know who these people were. So it was unclear how dirty Jaehaerys made Princess Rhaenys (Eve Best) or how attuned Rhaenyra was to the dangers she and Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke) would one day face as women born into royal families. But as a heavily pregnant Rhaenyra lurks in a war room on Dragonstone with her highly illegitimate children Jacaerys (Harry Collett) and Lucerys (Elliot Grihault), you can clearly see how learning to play the game of thrones has shaped the trajectory of the princess life. .
“The Black Queen” does nothing about the form house of the dragon he has seemed obsessed with the idea that women endure less disconcertingly painful and traumatic births. But the way Rhaenyra goes into premature labor upon hearing the news of her father’s death from Rhaenys is one of the most powerful scenes in the episode, a vital piece of gut-wrenching horror that draws on the potent energy that D’Arcy pours into his performance.
As Rhaenyra refuses the help of her handmaidens, “The Black Queen” demands that you witness the physical pain she is capable of enduring and the emotional agony that nearly broke her in her last moment of vulnerability. Instead of focusing solely on the tragedy of Rhaenyra’s stillborn baby, the episode focuses on how easy it is for Daemon to leave Rhaenyra’s side during labor even though the baby is his and how the death of the baby was related, at least partially, to the profound toxicity of their relationship.
“The Black Queen” leaves little doubt that a part of Daemon truly believes he is acting in Rhaenyra’s best interests as he begins to advocate war with the Greens in King’s Landing. That said, the episode also highlights how much of Daemon walking away from Rhaenyra as she literally calls out to him also stems from a place of disdain that’s easier to tap into with her brother Viserys I finally out of the picture for good. Daemon’s frustration with Rhaenyra when he refuses to kill Ser Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) after he shows up at Dragonstone on King Aegon II’s (Tom Glynn-Carney) terms is understandable to a degree.
However, as Daemon smothers his new queen for daring to mention the real Song of Ice and Fire to him, “The Black Queen” introduces him in the most honest and unsympathetic way possible to underscore how dangerous his aspirations make him. men.
Recounting the many ways the nobles of Westeros could harm one another without using dragons, house of the dragon did a surprisingly effective job of illustrating why anyone with common sense who had it at their disposal might be inclined to exercise restraint. The true level of chaos and destruction that the Targaryen dragons could unleash was a concept that game of Thrones he spent years alluding to and eventually building back to when magical creatures returned to Westeros from the brink of extinction. But where game of Thrones Shrouding her dragons in a certain degree of mystery, “The Black Queen” is quite realistic about the danger they pose due to their raw power and how difficult it is to control that power after it’s been unleashed.
Rhaenys’ understanding of that reality is what would have made her a great queen and what made her decision not to murder everyone at Aegon’s coronation such an elegant and unexpected power move. And she is house of the dragonThe commitment to delve into that concept that ultimately makes “The Black Queen” feel reminiscent of game of Thrones when it was at its peak.
house of the dragon more than earned its right to punctuate its story with moments of pure sword and sorcery spectacle. Beyond building a dragon fight, though, “The Black Queen” gave us a preview of the upcoming Dance with Dragons by giving Prince Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) the chance to finally get revenge on his nephew Lucerys, who ( accidentally) He had one of his eyes removed when they were children.
For all of Rhaenyra’s wartime wisdom, it doesn’t even occur to her that sending her two teenage sons out into the world with their relatively immature dragons might not be the smartest idea given how many people want them all dead. . But the brilliance of “The Black Queen” is how the episode reminds you that it’s optimism rather than just silliness that motivates Rhaenyra and how much that optimism makes her like her father.
Rhaenyra doesn’t send Lucerys to Storm’s End because she wants Lord Borros Baratheon (Roger Evans) to humiliate him before Aemond chases him through the sky and slays him on dragonback. She does so because she believes that the leaders of Westeros may err on the side of caution due to an overabundance of concern about what might become of her kingdom if an all-out war with dragons ever breaks out. Technically speaking, she’s right, as Lord Borros makes it clear that he doesn’t want to get involved in any personal issues the two Targaryen children have with each other. but in classic game of Thrones fashion, “The Black Queen” came to an end with a surprising twist that deviated from the style of George RR Martin fire and blood while perfectly capturing the spirit of the source material.
Aemond killing Lucerys accidentally instead of on purpose like he does in fire and blood adds a delicious top note of tragedy to house of the dragon‘s season 1 finale that feels indicative of just how much more personal and ugly the upcoming chapters of the series will be. Rhaenyra going on the warpath to destroy her best friend was always going to be interesting, but now, it’s going to be complicated in the way that everyone game of Thrones they are usually conflicts, born of pain and misunderstanding. house of the dragon I wouldn’t have been able to get to this kind of comfortable cruising altitude if it wasn’t for all the world building and careful character development that went into the rest of the season. But now that the show has gotten hyped up and primed for bombast, there’s no going back, which feels like a more than promising note for house of the dragon to end in.