We have come to the end of an era. It’s been twenty years (or ten weeks) since the start of the season, and the reign of King Viserys the Peaceful is about to descend into a bloody, fiery war. I’ll give House of The Dragon credit. A lot of the seeds and themes planted early on come to fruition in House of The Dragon’s Episode 10… with some more effective than others.
We open back in Dragonstone, with Lucerys looking at the giant war table/map of the realm. As his fingers trace the lands he will one day rule, His mother Rhaenyra comes in. He’s worried that he won’t live up to Corlys and be worthy of command of the navies, but she tries to reassure him. She was the same age as him when Viserys made her his heir, and she had to grow into her role and responsibility. She knows that he will, too. This is a sweet and tender moment and probably the last one we’ll get for a while. It’s interrupted by Rhaenys’ arrival on her dragon.
Rhaenys tells them of the death of Viserys and the hasty coronation on Aegon. Daemon is furious, convinced that the Hightowers murdered his brother in order to steal the throne (They didn’t, but if Alicent gets to willfully misinterpret Viserys’s dying words, then Daemon gets to blame her for his death). He asks the question that frankly bothered me last week. Namely, why didn’t you burn the false king and the traitors when you had the chance? Rhaenys shrugs, “A war is like to be fought over this treachery, to be sure. But that war is not mine to begin.”
She knows that a war will kill thousands and she isn’t going to instigate it (funny, she didn’t have any compunction about stomping on dozens and dozens of peasants on her dragon last week). Rhaenyra is the one who has to do it, if she wants to. She is the heir, it’s her claim, and her army.
This is all a shock to Rhaenyra, and the stress of this causes her to go into premature labor. It is a bad and bloody thing, and it is the fourth time this season we get to experience the miracle of birth, GoT style. Poor Aemma died in the series premiere from a c-section that was more like a vivisection. Laena died in Episode 6 from suicide by dragon due to the extreme pain of her breech birth that would not come out. Rhaenyra had a “good” birth earlier this season, and now, shunning the help of her midwives, she bears down and pushes out the stillborn premie. The rather heavy-handed metaphor here is that Rhaenyra is made of stronger stuff, strong enough to rule the fractious county,
(Ok, time for a sidebar, Look HotD. I like your dragon show. I really do. Can you please knock it off with the whole “death by childbirth” thing? I fully understand that childbirth would’ve been a terribly risky venture for anyone in that world and that childbirth today can still be extremely harrowing. I understand all that. Please never, ever show another child birth scene on this show. I do not want to see any more women screaming through a traumatic labor. I swear, I will do a kickstarter to get a neo-natal unit to Westeros.)
While her screams of labor echo through the halls, Daemon takes charge and starts to plan for war, counting up allies and dragons, and helpfully reminding the King’s Guard about loyalty (re-pledge yourself to Queen Rhaenyra or turn in your resignation to Caraxes the Dragon who will conduct the exit interview). They quickly come to the conclusion that while Dragonstone is relatively easy to defend, it’s not a great place to launch an invasion from. They have a few declared allies and a bunch of people they hope will join, but cannot count on. Even Rhaenys is cagey about her allegiances, saying that’s up to Corlys. But, the Blacks have one advantage…
And as we saw last week, one dragon can cause a whole lot of damage and cause a whole lot of fear. The Greens (the Hightower side) has three adult dragons. The Blacks (Rhaenyra and Daemon and company) have many more. Plus there are some “unclaimed” dragons on Dragonstone (huh, wonder if that’s where the name comes from…) including the massive Vermithor, the dragon of King Jaherys, the king prior to Viserys. Daemon will later go into the caves and try to coax Vermithor out with some lullabies in high Valyrian. There are also the younger hatchlings that Jacerys and Lucerys have, which could also be helpful.
As Rhaenyra is having a small funeral for her stillborn child, they are interrupted by Erryk, Aegon’s former Kings Guard who helped Rhaenys escape. He kneels before Rhaenyra, pledges his loyalty, and offers her a crown. It’s not the Iron Crown Aegon has, but it is the one her father used to wear. Before we can get too much into celebrating the Black Queen, an alarm is raised. A ship bearing the sign of a green, three-headed dragon is approaching.
It’s Otto. He starts to cross the narrow bridge to Dragonstone and he’s met by Daemon, who is eager to start something. Otto is bearing a message for Princess Rhaenyra, and will only deliver it to her. With that, in an echo of a similar scene in Episode 2, Rhaenyra swoops in on Syrax and lands behind, blocking his retreat (once again, a well timed Dracarys would solve a lot of problems here, but alas).
Otto has an offer for her, straight from Alicent. Renounce her claim to the throne, accept Aegon as ruler, and she and her family will be safe on Dragonstone. Not only that, her extremely, totally legitimate children from her marriage to Laenor will have titles and honors and be the heirs to Driftmark and her children from Daemon will be the King’s cup bearers (also, Otto will never once try to kill her, pinkie swear!). Daemon tells him to shove his offer somewhere unpleasant. Rhaenyra interrupts him…
“King’s Landing will have its answer in the morning.”
Daemon is aghast that Rhaenyra would even consider the offer. They stole her birthright! Rhaenyra is thinking about it, because her father taught her that she would one day be protector of the realm. She has no desire to murder thousands and become Queen of the Ashes.
If renouncing her inheritance and spending her days at Dragonstone in wealth and luxury means the populace will be safe, then it’s worth considering. Besides, they’ll need all the men they can get when the time comes to fight in the vision of Aegon the Conqueror. This puzzles Daemon, so she helpfully starts to explain the whole Song of Ice and Fire deal. This enrages Daemon, who grabs her roughly by the throat, choking her. (Never forget, as charming as Matt Smith is, this character murdered his first wife with a rock back in episode five. Plus, you know, all the incest).
Daemon doesn’t care about dreams. Viserys always had his portents and omens, but House Targaryen are kings because of dragons, not dreams. Rhaenyra realizes that Viserys never told his brother of this dream. If this is a charge passed down from king to king over the years, and Daemon was the heir at one point, then why not tell him? I’m not sure if that will cause a rift between them going forward, but it may bear watching.
Corlys, after his adventures in the narrow seas, has finally recovered from his wounds and blood fevers. Rhaenys is pissed at him. Their kids died and he ran off to have adventures at sea, leaving her alone to pick up the pieces. He admits that was how he coped with loss. Rhaenys nudges him to thrown in with Rhaenyra. She’s the only one advising caution. Every man in the castle is eager to jump into war, but she is showing the maturity and judgment of a leader. Corlys agrees, and informs Rhaenyra that his navies are with her. Not only that, they finally crushed the Triarchy (another word I never want to ever hear again on this show) and this time they stationed a garrison to make sure they don’t come back (cool you learned from your mistakes and all, but man, that certainly seems like one you should’ve figured out the first time around). This means they can effectively blockade all shipments through the narrow sea, and they can starve King’s Landing. Rhaenys herself will take Meleys to help support them.
With a strategy in place, Rhaenys moves to secure Alliances. She orders ravens sent to Winterfell and the Vale and to Storm’s End to secure the loyalties of the Starks, Arryns and Baratheons. But young Lucerys interjects. He and Jacerys should go. Dragons are faster than ravens, and they’ll be more impressive. (Aww, young Lucerys, trying to grow into the responsibility like mom suggested.) There is agreement in the court, and Rhaenyra agrees. But remember, they are going as messengers, not warriors. Don’t start anything. Jace will fly north to the Vale and then to Winterfell. Luce will go to Storm’s End.
After flying through a terrible storm to get to Storm’s End (I guess the name is ironic.), Lucerys lands Arrax and is about to enter the castle when a lightning bolt illuminates the sky. Standing in the courtyard is the massive form of Dhragar, Aemond’s dragon. This is an impressive, frightening shot, making the dragon look like Godzilla eyeing the Tokyo skyline.
Rhaenyra is not the only royal looking to secure alliances. Alicent (or more likely, Otto) has sent Aemond to Storm’s End first to get Barros Baratheon on their side. Barros points out that Aegon has offered Aemond to marry one of his daughters. Who is Lucerys going to marry? Lucerys demurs, saying he is already betrothed. Barros scoffs. So you came empty handed to scold me? Begone! So, not going so well for young Lucerys’ first diplomatic mission.
He’s about to return home with the bad news, when Aemond stops him. He taunts him, calling him Lord Strong, and demands some long overdue justice for his eye. He tosses a dagger at his feet, telling him to be a good lad and poke out his eye. Only one. Aemond won’t be cruel and blind him. Lucerys says no (obviously), which prompts Aemond to call him a coward and advance on him.
I would like to point out that these two characters are supposed to be only two years apart in age. Lucerys is 14 and Aemond is 16. However, Aemond towers over Luc the way Dhragar towers over Arrax. He looks about a decade older, while Luc’s boyish face makes him look even younger. The prospect of these two fighting would be like Jacob DeGrom facing off against little leaguers or Michael Jordan dunking on a church league team. There’s no contest. Still, Lucerys gamely draws his sword. Barros puts a stop to the fight, telling Aemond to knock it off. He’s not going to kill the princess’s son in his house. Barros tells the guards to escort Luc back to his dragon.
As he mounts Arrax, Lucerys notices that the hulking Dhragar is gone. I’m sure he’s just gone for a walk and nothing ominous is about to happen. Oh wait, what is that monstrous shadow soaring over Arrax while they fly away? You guessed it.
Aemond is chasing Luc and Dhragar snaps at their heels. He’s bigger and stronger, so smartly, Lucerys has Arrax dive into the narrow rocks around Storm’s End, using the maneuverability and agility of his dragon to his advantage. And it seems to work! Dhragar can’t dive into the narrow crevasses and it would appear that Luc has gotten away. Except that the impetuous dragon Arrax didn’t like being chased and dives out to strike at Dhragar, in spite of Luc screaming at him not to.
Similarly, Aemond tells Dhragar not to attack, but Dhragar has his own ideas. (Guess these kids aren’t the most skilled of riders yet, huh? Syrax and Caraxes would never disobey Rhaenyra and Daemon.) Arrax soars above the clouds, hoping to lose Dhragar, but to no avail. Dhragar emerges from the cloud cover and chomps Arrax and Lucerys. Aemond looks on in shock as the papery wings of Arrax flutter to the ground far below.
Rhaenyra had said she would not be the one to start a war. Well, the king’s brother just killed her son and his dragon, so war has been declared. There is going to be blood of humans and dragons all over the seven kingdoms.
And we have to wait until 2024 to see it. Awww…
I have to say, considering how much trepidation I had at the start of the season, this show has really delivered. Now that the interminable time jumps have stopped and the characters get more time to grow, this has become a worthy addition to the Game of Thrones canon. I’ve gone from being apathetic about a new Game of Thrones to being an ardent fan, so good job.
Part of that is due to the skill of the actors – Emma D’Arcy, Milly Alcock, Eve Best, Paddy Considine, Rhys Ifans, all just doing tremendous work. Part of it is making me care about a story full of terrible, terrible people. And part of it is the awesomeness of the dragons.
Thanks for joining me on this journey! We shall meet back here in eighteen months, plenty of time for you to work on your Green and Black sigils.
Episode Rating: 4 out of 5 You get docked half a point for yet more visceral labor scenes and half a point for mentioning the goddamn Triarchy again.
Season Rating: 4 out of 5
Who’s the Worst? Aemond, you prat. You just ensured a bloody civil war because you nursed a grudge for a decade and couldn’t control your dragon.
Line of the Week: “I would rather feed my sons to the dragons than have them carry shields and cups for your drunken, usurper cunt of a king… (Alicent) can have her answer now, stuffed in her father’s mouth along with his withered cock.” Daemon, exhibiting his classic skill at diplomacy.