In the “House of the Dragon” recap for the season 1 finale, Rhaenyra learns that the Iron Throne has been stolen from her and the Dance of the Dragons begins…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
The inevitable war for the Iron Throne has begun.
The season 1 finale of “House of the Dragon” finally set the stage for the infamous Dance of the Dragons — the Targaryen civil war for rule over the Seven Kingdoms. As it turns out, however, the war didn’t necessarily have to start but the death of a prince will ultimately lead to one of the bloodiest wars in the history of Westeros.
Last week centered on the aftermath of King Viserys I Targaryen’s death and plans put in motion by Otto Hightower to usurp the throne from Princess Rhaenyera and instead crown his grandson Aegon II Targaryen as the new King. His daughter Alicent Hightower believes that the King gave his blessing for Aegon to succeed him as his final wish before dying but that’s only because the Viserys believed he was speaking to his daughter Rhaenyra about the Song of Ice and Fire prophecy.
That prophecy foretold by Aegon the Conqueror was passed down to every Targaryen king but nobody else with privy to the dream about a great threat rising in the north that would require the entire realm to rally together to stop the dead from snuffing out the living. Sadly, when King Viserys spoke about Aegon, prophecy and the Prince That Was Promised, his wife Alicent took that to mean their son.
As a result, Alicent’s plans lined up with Otto’s long orchestrated coup that he planned to unleash the moment the king expired. With that, Aegon II Targaryen was crowned king in defiance of Viserys’ actual wishes that his daughter Rhaenyra succeed him on the Iron Throne.
Thankfully, Princess Rhaenys refused to bend the knee to Aegon and instead escaped on her dragon to inform Rhaenyra about what had just happened in King’s Landing and the Iron Throne that was stolen from her. That sets the stage for the season 1 finale as Rhaenyra makes her next move with hopes that she can maintain the peace until the moment that she learns about an awful tragedy that befalls her house, which sparks the flames for war.
With that said, let’s recap the “House of the Dragon” season 1 finale titled “The Black Queen”…
The Greens Are Coming For You
Following last week spent in King’s Landing with the Greens of House Hightower, this week returns to Dragonstone with the Blacks under the rule of Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen.
As she continues to mind her pregnancy, Rhaenyra finds her second oldest son Lucerys struggling under the weight of his birthright where he will eventually rule over House Velaryon at Driftmark as the Lord of the Tides. Unfortunately, Lucerys just doesn’t believe he’s fit to rule in Corlys Velaryon’s place should he die and he’s definitely not ready to rule over the Velaryon fleet considering he gets sea sick before ships even leave the port.
Rhaenyra comforts her son and promises that when the time comes, he’ll be ready to rule. She was his exact same age when King Viserys named her as his heir and it took time for her to learn and grow enough to feel confident that she would be ready to rule as queen.
Their conversation is soon interrupted after learning that Princess Rhaenys has arrived on dragonback with a message for Rhaenyra. When Rhaenys makes her way inside, she informs Rhaenyra that her father has died.
Rhaenys then breaks the news that her half-brother Aegon II Targaryen was crowned king in a ceremony in front of thousands at the Dragon Pit. It was all part of Alicent’s planning and Rhaenys was held prisoner while it all happened.
She then tells Rhaenyra that she refused to bend the knee to Aegon before leaving on her dragon Meleys, which forces Daemon to ask the question — why didn’t she just burn them all for their treasonous act to steal the Iron Throne from the rightful queen. Rhaenys answers that a war is almost certainly coming but it wasn’t hers to start.
Convinced that the Hightowers had his brother killed so they could steal the Iron Throne, Daemon is already preparing for war but the stress of the news sends Rhaenyra into premature labor, which pulls her away from any planning about what comes next.
As Rhaenyra struggles under the weight of her latest birth — a child that’s coming months too early — Daemon is plotting to send ravens to various Lords across the Seven Kingdoms to ensure their loyalty is pledged to the rightful queen.
Knowing that Daemon is beginning to stage a war, Rhaenyra calls for her sons Jacaerys and Lucerys while giving them both orders that no action is to be taken until she’s back at full health again. She doesn’t want to see any blood spilled until it’s absolutely necessary.
Of course, Daemon is already plotting to fly to the Riverlands to secure support from House Tully but he’s interrupted by Jacaerys, who informs him that nothing is to be done until his mother is back from giving birth. That doesn’t seem to concern Daemon much as he orders the maesters to send the ravens as he ordered while he decides to teach the young prince a lesson about loyalty in a world where it appears that’s coming up in short supply these days.
Outside, Daemon summons to members of the Kingsguard, who stayed at Dragonstone to protect Princess Rhaenyra. The members of the Kingsguard are sworn to serve the King and just now, there’s a usurper sitting on the Iron Throne wearing a crown.
Daemon offers the knights the opportunity to swear fealty to Rhaenyra or they can pledge loyalty to Aegon and he will offer them both an honorable death. If they pledge themselves to Rhaenyra and then turn on her, Daemon promises they’ll both die screaming as he looks over his shoulder to fight Caraxes looming large behind him.
As Daemon secures the members of the Queensguard, his wife Rhaenyra is suffering through the birth of a stillborn daughter. Rhaenyra weeps as the misshapen child falls from her body, obviously far too young to actually be alive. The war for the Iron Throne has tragically claimed its first casualty.
In the books, Rhaenyra gives birth to a stillborn daughter that she names Visenya, although that’s never mentioned in the show.
Sadly, Rhaenyra doesn’t have much time to mourn the loss of a child as the baby is soon wrapped up and set on a funeral pyre per Targaryen family traditions.
As she mourns for the loss of her child, the funeral procession is soon interrupted by the arrival of Ser Erryk Cargyll — member of the Kingsguard and sworn protector of the realm. He approaches while retrieving the crown that once belonged to King Viserys from a pouch he brought with him fron King’s Landing.
Ser Erryk was the member of the Kingsguard, who attempted to fight Ser Criston Cole last week and had no desire to see a drunken twat like Aegon sit on the Iron Throne. Now he’s decided to align himself with Rhaenyra while presenting her with the crown that she will wear as queen.
Daemon looks down at the crown before turning to face his wife and he places it on Rhaenyra’s head before bowing down before her. As Rhaenrya looks up, the rest of the members of her court start bowing down as well including the members of the Queensgard as well as her sons and their future wives.
At the back of the court stands Princess Rhaenys, who can’t help but have a small smile on her face as Rhaenyra is crowned queen — an honor that was stolen from her simply because she was a woman.
Calling Your Banners
Now embracing her role as queen, Rhaenyra returns to the planning room where she begins looking towards allies and potential enemies. While certain houses have already pledged loyalty to Rhaenyra, there are many others who still fall into question — particularly those belonging to House Stark and House Baratheon.
Rhaenyra is confident that House Arryn will back her claim considering her mother was an Arryn and that family would never turn against one of their own. She also knows no Stark has ever broken an oath and Lord Cregan Stark isn’t likely to become the first, which means all of the houses in the North will follow his lead to back Rhaenyra as queen.
She can’t be as confident about House Baratheon, however, because it was Boremund Barratheon who swore fealty to her when Viserys named her heir but now its his son Borros ruling over Storm’s End. He may not be as quick to bow down to the dragon queen.
As for the military that Rhaenyra will have at her command — she barely has 400 men serving her, which is far too few to actually win a war. While Dragonstone is fairly easy to defend, launching an offensive against the Greens will be much tougher without more support. Daemon suggests taking Harrenhal, which will get them a staging point for a war against the west where the Lannisters will surely serve Aegon.
The biggest ally that Rhaenyra could have at her side would be House Velaryon and the mighty fleet they command but as it stands, Princess Rhaenys isn’t declaring for anybody and Lord Corlys is just now recovering from a fever that nearly took his life.
But soon Rhaenyra is reminded that she has a power greater than any army of men.
She has dragons.
Of course, Rhaenyra knows that the Greens have dragons as well but Daemon is quick to point out that they have three adults at their command. The three dragons would be Sunfyre (Aegon), Dreamfyre (Helaena) and Vhagar (Aemond).
Now Vhagar is the largest and most battle tested dragon among any remaining in the Seven Kingdoms after she once belonged to Princess Visenya Targaryen, who was one of Aegon the Conqueror’s sister wives.
Meanwhile, Daemon reminds his wife that her side commands far more dragons including his own beast Caraxes, Syrax, which belongs to Rhaenyra and Meleys, who answers to Princess Rhaenys. Rhaenyra’s sons have Vermax, Arrax and Tyraxes. Daemon’s daughter Baela has Moondancer and there are several unclaimed dragons including Seasmoke, who previously belonged to Laenor, as well as Vermithor (who belonged to King Jaehaerys prior to his death) and Silverwing (who belonged to Jaehaerys’ wife Alysanne Targaryen), who still nest in Dragonstone. There are also three more wild dragons that reside on Dragonstone as well.
Daemon believes after taking Harrenhal and surrounding King’s Landing with dragons that they could have all the Greens’ heads on spikes before the fucking moon turns. Before further planning can commence, the new Queen is informed that a ship has just landed at Dragonstone that flies the banner of a three-headed green dragon.
Outside on the bridge leading to the castle at Dragonstone, Daemon and a garrison of soldiers meet with Otto Hightower and his own group of Kingsguard that have accompanied him. Otto informs Daemon that he’s arrived with a message from Queen Alicent that is meant only for Rhaenyra’s ears.
A moment later, Rhaenyra arrives at the meeting on the back of her dragon Syrax with the great beast landing on the other end of the bridge, effectively surrounding Otto Hightower and his men. She dismounts and walks through the crowd before joining her husband and their soldiers on the other side as she receives the message from Alicent and an offer from Otto.
Otto tells the Queen that if she swears allegiance to King Aegon, he will grant her continued rule over Dragonstone with Jacaerys serving as her heir while Lucerys will remain the heir to Driftmark to one day rule over House Velaryon. He tells her that her son Aegon will serve as the King’s squire while Viserys will serve as his cupbearer. Otto also says that the King will pardon any knight or lord who has committed treason by supporting Rhaenyra and her claim to the Iron Throne.
“I would rather feed my sons to the dragons than have them carry shields and cups for your drunken usurper cunt of a king”
Otto proceeds to tell the new Queen that her claim to the Iron Throne ended the day that King Viserys had a son. Whether she likes it or not, that’s just the natural line of succession and eventually all the other lords in Westeros will fall in line.
He also hands her a page from a book that she once read with his daughter Alicent as Otto reminds Rhaenyra the relationship that they shared growing up together. Alicent doesn’t want to harm Rhaenyra and she doesn’t want to see the Seven Kingdoms plunged into a war.
Rhaenyra answers by calling Otto a traitor and ripping off his Hand of the King pin before tossing it off the bridge. But before Daemon can draw blood by beheading Otto Hightower, Rhaenyra orders everybody to stand down.
She tells Otto that Aegon will have her answer within a day.
Back inside, Daemon is still stoking the flames for war while Rhaenyra seems far less certain about that course of action. She eventually clears the room for a chat with her husband as she begins talking about Aegon’s prophecy about a Song of Ice and Fire and how a Targaryen king or queen is expected to unite the realm against a common enemy coming from the north.
Rhaenyra is made to believe that she will be forced to unite the Seven Kingdoms against the White Walkers — little does she know that thread doesn’t actually materialize until more than 200 years later. Still, Rhaenyra takes this responsibility seriously and she doesn’t want to tear Westeros apart by starting a war with her brother.
Rhaenyra also takes this responsibility seriously with the prophecy stating that a Targaryen has to be sitting on the Iron Throne to win this war. She knows her brother Aegon doesn’t have the capacity to rule but perhaps Rhaenyra could find a way to raise enough banners to her cause that the Greens will have no choice but to surrender or risk all of them dying a horrible death.
But as she speaks about the Song of Ice and Fire, Rhaenyra realizes that Viserys never told any of this to his brother. At one time, Daemon was considered the heir to the Iron Throne because his brother had no male children yet Viserys never trusted him enough to consider him worthy to become king one day.
That’s why Viserys never bothered to pass along Aegon’s prophecy because he knew his brother was never going to be worthy of wearing that heavy burden on his shoulders.
Just then, Daemon takes Rhaenyra by the throat to remind her that all this talk of prophecy isn’t going to stop Aegon from stealing the Iron Throne and forcing her to bow down before Otto Hightower and his family name. Daemon is also quick to remind his wife that it wasn’t some vision foretold in a dream that helped Aegon to conquer the Seven Kingdoms — it was his dragons.
“Dreams didn’t make us kings. Dragons did”
The disagreement ends with Daemon leaving the room feeling like he’s gotten nowhere closer to launching the war he wants against the entire Hightower family.
Meanwhile, Lord Corlys Velaryon wakes up from his slumber to find Princess Rhaenys sitting by his bedside. He apologizes to her for leaving for the past six years to wage a war in the Stepstones, which effectively abandoned her while he was out fighting.
Corlys admits that he was at fault for leaving her alone rather than ruling by her side, which is why he wants to just leave Dragonstone and return to Driftmark where they will stay independent from any war being waged between Targaryens.
But Rhaenys is quick to point out that their grandsons are all targets of the Greens now that they’ve stolen the Iron Throne from Rhaenyra. No matter how much Corlys wants to grieve the loss of their son Laenor and whatever hand Rhaenyra had in his demise, Rhaenys knows that she’s the only person not begging for a war right now.
In other words, Rhaenys believes that Rhaenyra may be the only hope the realm has to survive this battle for the Iron Throne. It’s a surprising turn from Rhaenys but perhaps one driven by her own ambition and belief that a woman should have ruled over Westeros long before she was voted out of that opportunity by a council of men.
Back at the table where Rhaenyra holds court, she’s soon joined by Lord Corlys Velaryon, who is curious about her plans to deal with her treasonous brother and his court that means to steal the Iron Throne away from her.
At first it appears that Lord Corlys is measuring Rhaenyra and her capabilities as a leader but he soon discovers that she’s far more capable than perhaps he gave her credit. That’s when Lord Corlys declares that the Hightowers must be dealt with swiftly and violently if need be.
He then declares House Velaryon and the mighty Velaryon fleet for Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen — with full support from his wife. Lord Corlys then reveals the spoils of his war in the Stepstones.
While it nearly cost him his life, Lord Corlys beat back the Triarchy and ultimately secured the Stepstones. Unlike the last time around, Lord Corlys had the foresight to leave a garrison of soldiers behind to ensure the Stepstones wouldn’t fall into the hands of pirates again — and even as they speak, a blockade is being set up to prevent anyone from traveling through the shipping lanes without his explicit permission.
That means almost all shipping traffic has been completely cut off from King’s Landing. Rhaenys then pledges to take her dragon to fly around the gullet to add extra support, which will allow Rhaenyra to control the Narrow Sea as well as the shipping traffic that comes through there.
Lord Bartimos Celtigar — the Lord of Claw Isle and head of House Celtigar — knows that controlling the Narrow Sea and then surrounding King’s Landing will all but force the Greens to surrender. But in order to surround the city, Rhaenyra will need additional troops and that’s going to require agreements from powerful houses belonging to the Starks, the Arryns and the Baratheons.
Before ravens can be sent with messages, Jacaerys voices his opinion that perhaps he and his brothers should ride on dragonback to personally sit with these Lords to gain their allegiances. It would undoubtedly mean more to them that the Queen sent her sons on dragonback to treat with them, which hopefully in turn would guarantee their loyalty.
With that, Rhaenyra declares that her eldest son Jacaerys will fly north — first to the Eyrie to treat with Lady Jeyne Arryn, who controls House Arryn and rules over the Vale of Arryn. As her mother’s cousin, Rhaenyra is confident that Lady Jeyne will support her cause. From there, Jacaerys will fly north to treat with Lord Cregan Stark.
As for Lucerys, he will fly south to treat with Lord Borros Baratheon.
Rhaenyra reminds her sons that they are both going as messengers not soldiers and this isn’t a declaration of war. She just wants to ensure she has the support of these powerful houses after they all pledged their fealty to her as the rightful heir to the Iron Throne just as her father wanted all those years ago. She also means to remind them what happens if they break that oath — a not so subtle message that will surely be passed along when her sons arrive on dragons.
Rhaenyra tells Jacaerys that Lord Cregan Stark is closer to his age than hers and she hopes they can find some sort of common ground together. As for Lord Borros Baratheon, he is blood related to Princess Rhaenys, which she hopes will further the bond he shares with her side of House Targaryen.
The Dance Begins
Both boys mount their dragons and fly off to their destinations while Daemon wanders deep beneath the pits below Dragonstone where he encounters Vermithor — the dragon that once served King Jaehaerys. Daemon wants to finds more dragons to serve Rhaenyra, which will make her power too great to overtake if she’s forced to go to war against the Greens.
While Jacaerys has a longer flight to the Vale of Arryn and then eventually Winterfell, Lucerys has a relatively short trip to Storm’s End to meet with Lord Borros Baratheon.
When he arrives at the castle, Prince Jacaerys walks towards the doors and he hears a great roar in the distance — and that’s when he spots Vhagar nearby, which means Prince Aemond Targaryen has already arrived ahead of him. Still, Jacaerys is there as an envoy of his mother and not to start a fight so he feels he’ll be safe under the protection of House Baratheon.
Once inside, Lucerys spots Aemond but he continues with his mission to hand over the message from his mother. Lord Borros has his maester read the message but he doesn’t seem too impressed.
It seems Prince Aemond arrived and King Aegon offer to marry his brother to one of Lord Borros’ four daughters, which is a massive honor for his house. As for Rhaenyra, she’s offered him nothing other than asking him to stand by an oath that Borros’ father made many years ago.
When Lucerys says he can’t match that offer because he’s already been betroathed to his stepsister Rhaena Targaryen, Lord Borros takes that as a slight because that means Rhaenyra has offered him nothing. He then tells the “boy” to return home and tell his mother than House Baratheon won’t be summoned to stand by some oath that was made years earlier without actually trying to offer them anything in return to back her claim as queen.
Before leaving, Aemond calls to his nephew and says that Lucerys didn’t think he could just attempt to come there and steal away Aegon’s throne without any repercussions did he? Rather than face him in a fight — one that Aemond would surely win — he instead offers Lucerys the chance to repay him for the eye he took all those years ago when they were children.
He tosses Lucerys a knife and instructs the boy to cut out one of his own eyes — he won’t blind him but he plans to take that eye back to his mother as a gift. When Lucerys refuses, Aemond charges at him but Lord Borros puts a stop to it.
Lord Borros will not allow this to happen under his roof, especially since Lucerys arrived there as an envoy to deliver a message. He instructs his knights to return Lucerys to his dragon and see him off to the skies.
Outside a great storm rages on when Lucerys mounts Arrax and takes to the sky while trying to see through pounding rain, thunder and lightning. Before long, Lucerys realizes that he’s not alone in the sky after he sees a massive shadow flying over top of him and a moment later he spots the gigantic Vhagar charging after him.
With Aemond on Vhagar’s back, he taunts his nephew as Lucerys desperately tries to escape while using Arrax’s speed and stealthiness to fly places where a larger dragon could not go. Sadly, it’s an impossible flight to escape such a large dragon that can fly just as fast and far due to its overwhelming size.
But dragons are still animals and despite Lucerys commanding Arrax to fly forward, the beast has a mind of its own, especially as it’s clearly being threatened. So Arrax unleashes a small burst of fire aimed at Vhagar.
That incurs the wrath of the larger dragon, much to the chagrin of Aemond, who flew after Lucerys as a way to taunt his younger nephew just as it was done to him when they were children growing up together in King’s Landing. Now that the dragons have gotten involved, Aemond and Lucerys are no longer the ones in charge.
After absorbing the fire blast, Vhagar exacts its revenge by flying directly at Arrax and literally biting the dragon into multiple pieces, shredding the animal to death and Prince Lucerys along with it. Aemond can only look in terror as he sees Lucerys and the dragon fall to the ground below.
Now this is slightly different from the books because in the original story, Aemond was told to leave Lucerys alone by Lord Borros because he wouldn’t allow any killing to happen under his roof. It was then Borros’ own daughter, who was now set to be married to Aemond, who turned to her future husband and said that Lucerys must have taken his balls along with his eye.
That goads Aemond into going after his nephew with plans to exact his revenge, which he does by using Vhagar to take down both Lucerys and his dragon. In this version, Aemond didn’t mean to kill Lucerys — he was really just tormenting the boy but the dragons were not to be played with and those beasts decided for their riders that this was no game to them.
As a result, Aemond just drew first blood by killing one of Queen Rhaenyra’s children.
Back on Dragonstone as Queen Rhaenyra continues planning and plotting her next move, she receives word from Daemon about what happened to her son. The Queen is grief stricken after learning that Lucerys is dead.
She turns around but her face doesn’t belong to a grieving mother — it’s an enraged Queen who is now ready to go to war to not only avenge her son but strike back against the treasonous bastards who stole the Iron Throne away from her. The Dance of the Dragons has officially begun.
With that, “House of the Dragon” season 1 comes to an end. The show has already been renewed for season 2, although production hasn’t started yet so it’s likely the series won’t return until at least late 2023 or early 2024.