The Dance of the Dragons has officially begun.
HBO's House of the Dragon brought fans back to Westeros, a few hundred years before the events of Game of Thrones. Daenerys' ancestors, the Targaryens still ruled the realm during this era, but the line of succession was muddled after the death of King Viserys I (Paddy Considine).
A quick recap before we get into the nitty-gritty: The old king Viserys named his then-only daughter Rhaenyra (Emma D'arcy) his rightful heir to the throne. But the king remarried and bore a son with the princess' bestie Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke)—and since Westeros is a patriarchal world, some believed the son should be next in line.
Warning: spoilers for House of the Dragon season 1 episode 10 ahead.
In the previous episode, we saw Queen Alicent and the usurping Targaryen Greens crown Aegon (Tom Glynn-Carney) as the king in the dragon pit after Viserys died—the queen misinterpreted a prophecy from the dying king. (Rhaenys should've Dracarys-ed them all when she had the chance, if you ask us)
In opposition to the Greens, we have the Blacks headed by Rhaenyra and her husband/uncle Daemon (played by the undeniably hot and charismatic Matt Smith). While Daemon's rearing for war, the princess had a miscarriage. As they buried the stillborn babe, Rhaenyra was hailed the rightful queen of the seven kingdoms. Former rival to the throne Daemon even set the crown on her head.
With war looming, the Blacks call up every ally they can to take back King's Landing. And for what they lack in manpower, Daemon brings up the fact that they have more dragons than the Greens.
Daemon and the dragon
As the episode comes to a close, Daemon goes off to tame a dragon to give their side an advantage. The beast he sings to is the riderless Vermithor, the mount of old king Jaeherys, and it's hinted that the prince wants to subdue the dragon for his daughter Rhaena whose egg never hatched.
Vermithor, aka the Bronze Fury, would provide the Blacks with a huge advantage as he's one of the biggest dragons in Westeros, coming close to matching the Green's Vhagar in size and power.
In the episode, Daemon also revealed a darker side to him and even choked Rhaenyra because she talked of prophecies like the Song of Ice and Fire instead of getting ready to wage war.
"When he learns in that moment that Viserys never believed in him enough, as his actual heir to the throne, to pass this thing on that he clearly just easily passed on to Rhaenrys, it breaks him," showrunner Ryan Condal told Variety.
"He loved his brother so deeply and trusted him, even through all the problems that they had, and Viserys never shared it with him. He kept [Daemon] in the dark, and it just it breaks Daemon. Instead of reacting with grief or sadness that you see out of him later, he reacts with rage and he takes it out on Rhaenrya."
Another crushing ending
In true Game of Thrones fashion, the season ends with a death. Rhaenyra doesn't want to rule over a pile of ash (sound familiar?) so she opts for diplomacy, sending her eldest sons Jaecerys and Lucerys to treat with the lords Stark, Arryn, and Baratheon.
When Lucerys arrives at Storm's End, he saw Aegon's brother Aemond already there, schmoozing Borros Baratheon. As Luke left the castle in the pouring rain on his dragon Arrax, Aemond who was riding on the monstrous Vhagar catches up to him. The two boys try to get their dragons to obey their commands but the beasts followed their own will, killing Luke and Arrax in the process.
While it all plays out the same way as in George R.R. Martin's book Fire & Blood, the show makes it seem like Aemond didn't mean to kill Luke, only to frighten and bully him.
"Aemond got on his giant dragon and chased his nephew on his much smaller dragon through the clouds screaming and yelling at him, incensing his dragon and starting a fight. He didn’t know how Arrax or Luke were going to respond, and it ended in tragedy. I don’t think that was what Aemond intended when he threw his leg over the saddle, but he did a horrible, dangerous thing," Condal said about the ending.
The season closes out with a heartbroken Rhaenyra who is ready to fight and avenge the death of her son.
House of the Dragon offers more nuanced characters compared to its book counterpart. Alicent and the Greens are motivated by their belief in a prophecy other than their thirst for power. In addition, Aemond wasn't as evil as we thought since he looked very surprised at what Vhagar did at the end.
When is season 2 coming?
Condal said that House of the Dragon will begin shooting in early 2023. As for when it will premiere, Condal said it's "to be determined." It took about 10 months to film the first season, so fans might have to wait until 2024 for the second season.