“House of the Dragon” season finale: A song of death and duty


Courtesy of HBO

In the season finale of HBO’s “House of the Dragon,” the newly crowned Queen Rhaenyra prepares for a war that will pit dragon versus dragon and Targaryen versus Targaryen.

Joey Gonzalez, Life Editor

Spoiler warning for the entire first season of “House of the Dragon”

On Sunday Oct. 23, HBO’s critically acclaimed “House of the Dragon” finished its first season, leaving fans wondering and wanting more. As a prequel to “Game of Thrones,” the show is set about 170 years before its events and follows the Targaryen family, who sit on the Iron Throne and rule the seven kingdoms of Westeros. Despite being set in a time of relative peace, the show introduces several potential heirs to the throne, shattering that fragile peace. Through this first season we see the conflict brewing between the two sides: the Blacks and the Greens. The season finale leaves off on the precipice of all-out war, as the two sides prepare to take up arms—and dragons—against one another.   

The final episode opens with first-born child Princess Rhaenyra learning of her father’s death and her half-brother Aegon’s seizure of the Iron Throne. The Hightower family consists of Otto, Aegon’s grandfather; Alicent, former Queen and mother to Aegon; and Aemond, Aegon’s brother. They move quickly after the king’s death to force an ascension to the throne in Rhaenyra’s absence, who had returned to Dragonstone to deliver her child. Alicent even imprisoned Princess Rhaenys, cousin to Viserys, who eventually escapes to Dragonstone with news of the king’s death. Upon her arrival, Princess Rhaenyra learns that not only her father is dead, but that the throne has been stolen from her. Rhaenyra, in her own ascension ceremony, becomes queen of the Seven Kingdoms and maintains her claim to the Iron Throne, despite still being on Dragonstone. Everyone understands that a war is brewing and it is only a matter of time before they are in direct conflict with one another. But the question remains: who is allied with who?

That question serves as the basis for much of the action in the finale, as Rhaenyra attempts to figure out who her allies are. As she just gave birth, unfortunately to a stillborn baby, Rhaenyra cannot fly to the Great Houses, who had all previously sworn fealty to her, to hold them to their promises. Instead, she sends her two sons, Jacaerys and Lucerys, to House Stark, Baratheon and Tully, whose loyalties are unknown to the queen. The two depart from Dragonstone with their respective missions, and one does not return home. After arriving at House Baratheon, Lucerys encounters his uncle Aemond, brother to ‘King Aegon.’ The two have quarreled since they were children, with one fight having resulted in Aemond losing an eye. Lucerys leaves on his dragon without Baratheon’s support and is pursued by his uncle, which at first seems like a game of tag, but quickly escalates into one of life and death. Aemond’s dragon does not obey him and bites Lucerys’ much smaller dragon to pieces, killing both boy and stead.

Back on Dragonstone, Rhaenyra does not yet know of her son’s death. Instead, she contemplates Otto Hightower’s terms of surrender, in which her family is allowed to live and retain their status as high-ranking leaders in Westeros, but must acknowledge Aegon as the rightful king. As she now wears a crown, a physical depiction of the power and responsibility that she has always carried, Rhaenyra understands what all-out war will mean for the seven kingdoms. She controls the strongest fleet in Westeros and her army outnumber the Greens with dragons. Yet, Rhaenyra is hesitant to begin the war, as the last time “dragons flew to war, everything burned.” She struggles with her duty to the seven kingdoms, and whether she should give up the crown for the benefit of all her people. She argues that she cannot let her personal ambition come before her duty to the people that they rule.

The season ends with Rhaenyra being delivered a message, assumedly the news of her son’s death. She clutches her stomach before turning back towards the camera with a fire behind her eyes. She seems ready to abandon her “duty” to the kingdom and to burn it all down. This is where the season ends, with Rhaenyra seemingly deciding to pursue war with the Greens, with the conflict that has been building since the first episode coming to a boil. The show has been renewed for a second season, which will most likely show more of the oncoming war. While we wait for the second season, I recommend re-watching “Game of Thrones,” or perhaps watching it for the first time. If you made it this far and somehow haven’t already watched the show, I definitely recommend grabbing some popcorn and binging it all. Who knows, you might just find your new obsession.