Major spoilers and speculation ahead for HBO’s “House of The Dragon” (2022).
After this season finale, die-hard fans will find it helpful to get themselves a Negroni Sbagliato, with Prosecco in it.
“House of the Dragon,” which serves as a prequel to “Game of Thrones,” is based on the fantasy book “Fire & Blood” by writer George R. R. Martin. The show began its 10-episode debut in August and aired its last episode on Oct. 23, funnily enough on actress Emilia Clarke’s birthday. Clarke is better known by fans as Daenerys Targaryen, the descendant of the main protagonists of “House of the Dragon.”
The show focuses on the Targaryen dynasty, some 200 years before the events of the “Game of Thrones” series, and is centered around a civil war that ends with every main player we see in Season 1 dead. The season is split into different time periods, as the first five episodes set the stage for the growing tensions that will begin to make the House of the Dragon slowly crumble over the years.
The show begins with a teenage Rhaenyra Targaryen, whose younger counterpart was portrayed by Milly Alcock, and then Emma D’Arcy; Rhaenyra is the daughter of King Viserys Targaryen, played by Paddy Considine. Due to the death of her mother and the fact that she is his only child, she becomes heir to the Iron Throne, a much-coveted position by many. Alicent Hightower — played by Emily Carey and then Olivia Cooke — is Rhaenyra’s best friend and the daughter of the hand of the king, and ends up marrying Viserys due to pressure from her father; she ultimately has four children with the king (yes there’s one more!), which creates a succession scuffle that will ultimately lead to the demise of them all.
A great thing about the show is, although it is based on a book, there is a lot of leeway and interpretation that the writers can take since “Fire & Blood” is not written as a normal novel. It is a history book in which things are recounted by unreliable or biased witnesses. The events could have happened, but the mystery of what will happen on screen is still alive and well even for book readers. In the book, Alicent’s character is more of a one-dimensional evil stepmother, but the creative direction of building their friendship to the horrors they will endure later lends a whole new lens through which fans can feel more invested.
In episode six there is a 10-year time jump, and then about another six years in Episode 8, covering about twenty years of new characters being born, characters being slaughtered and a whole lot of treason and medieval shenanigans, with dragons!
Over the course of the first eight episodes, the main players of this conflict can be separated into two sides: the greens and the blacks. The blacks, called so because of the Targaryen house colors, will fight for Rhaenyra to sit on the Iron Throne. The battle against the greens, who want to usurp Rhaenyra and crown Alicent and Viserys’ firstborn son Aegon II, who serves more as a puppet and will really be sitting in the stead for the Hightowers.
Rhaenyra is crowned on Dragonstone in Episode 10, while Aegon is crowned in King’s Landing in Episode 9. Like the Baratheon Lord said while Lucerys (R.I.P. too soon) came to deliver a message from the Queen, everyone in Westeros is also probably wondering, ‘Well, which is it?’ There were peace treaties and compromises being entertained but after Alicent’s second son Aemond’s dragon ate Rhaenyra’s son Lucerys who was leaving on his baby dragon, everything was off the table but war. The show leaves room for interpretation as to if Aemond who was riding Vhagar, the canonically largest dragon there, actually meant to kill Lucerys. The suggested accidental nature of the death makes the important point that the dragons are sentient beings who are not slaves to their riders, while also making all the more tragic what’s to come.
The dance of the dragons now commences and the possibilities are endless for where things will go, especially with some ancestral Starks who will be included next season.
Some viewers find themselves at a loss on who to pledge themselves to and who to condemn, pitting the two female protagonists against each other when the issue really lies in the meddling of others working on the sidelines. “Now the whole internet is doing the exact same thing, even though ‘House of the Dragon’ is supposed to be a cautionary tale,” Cooke said to the New York Times.
The beauty of the Game of Thrones/House of the Dragon universe is that everyone is pretty corrupted in some way or another, so it’s best advised to watch impartially for the people who can be slew any second and pick which war crime you enjoyed watching the most.
“House of the Dragon” is cautionary indeed, as, by the end of the dance, dragons are almost gone for good, amongst other atrocities that happen throughout the rumored four seasons that might fore come — for your own peace of mind, do not google Blood and Cheese or rewatch GOT season 3 episode 4 if you don’t know what happens after episode 10.
Besides the cinematography and design, the finest aspect of the watching experience is certainly the talented cast who bring their all to these performances. The season, although rushed to cover plot points as expeditiously as it could, would not have been so poignant without the charisma of the actors who all play their characters with a gravitas that makes it difficult to loathe them for their offenses. Hopefully next season there is more room for the characters to be more fleshed out as the groundwork has now been laid down.
Without “Euphoria” or “House of the Dragon” Sundays, it is in HBO’s best interest to hurry along with “Succession” Season 4 to keep people subscribing. If there is one thing that will not be forgotten in the wait for Season 2, it is the shot of Emma D’Arcy’s face, at the close of the episode “The Black Queen.”
“Then the storm broke, and the dragons danced.” #HOTDFinale pic.twitter.com/B0pNsc0PxS
— House of the Dragon (@HouseofDragon) October 24, 2022
As Jay-Z once said, nobody wins when the family feuds.